Published on Monday, August 26, 2013 - 1:00pm
Are certain individuals imbued with particular biological constructs that predispose them to their own unique baseline of happiness? If so, as a result, are they fated to the inevitability of a life of perpetual despair, or are they destined to the upper reaches of unlimited elation and euphoria? These scientifically based enigmatic questions, among other philosophical and ideological substructures, are what Martin E.P. Seligman earnestly attempts to cast his flash light of scientific theory on, in his award-winning book Authentic Happiness.
In Authentic Happiness, Seligman ardently challenges the bedrock 20th-century psychological doctrine postulated by the more prolific psychology enthusiasts of that time, namely Sigmund Freud's theories of what Seligman calls “Rotten to the Core” psychology. He boldly attempts to piece together a psychological construct theory of a new-age ideal by accentuating traits of positivism, cooperation and natural virtue and asking the reader to “trust in the goodness of man.”
In hopes of separating his Positive Psychological theory from its arch rival, Negativist Psychological theory, Seligman tries to separate the oft-desired “normal life” from oscillating states of pleasure and pain to what he describes as the glee of the “extraordinary life”: A life teeming with optimism and hope and governed by a higher purpose. Seligman says it is not merely enough to haplessly tread water in the ocean of life, but that true aspirations of advancement along the happiness trail can only be ascertained through ascension of the highest mountains.
In his book, Seligman unveils and continues to open the canopy of his positivist science, showing the reader the how and why of his signature theories in "Positive Psychology," in an attempt to show how individuals can learn to live within the upper limits of their range of happiness, and why this is tantamount to their progress in life, for reasons not related to the more hedonistic Freudian theories of the past.
However, what many may find surprising in Authentic Happiness is that Seligman challenges the reader to a duel, a task that will invariably rely on the reader's ability to look within themselves for their own unique reasons for wanting happiness and, with sword in hand, do battle within themselves for the coveted psychological prize offered through the competing ideologies of pleasure versus gratification.
Authentic Happiness skillfully engineers a psychological wheel in which all spokes align themselves with the reader in hopes that they will devise for themselves an educated guess on whether pleasure or gratification is most important in their lives. And in so deciding on this unique juxtaposition, making a choice as to how they will live it in a more harmonious fashion.
Authentic Happiness, utilizing all of Seligman’s clever scientific ingenuity asks the reader, in no uncertain terms:
Is the prevention and fixing of psychological catastrophe such as mental illness more important than opening up the mind to accentuate its lofty psychological equivalent of shooting for the stars?
Will you dare to dream and live life to its fullest? Seligman’s Authentic Happiness asks all of us just that question.