All these are questions that are still unanswered.
The reality is that we are just coming our of a century dominated by the Freudian (mis)conception that the goal of our interventions should be to help patients transform their “misery into common unhappiness” and, at the best, provide them “with a mental life that has been restored to health [so they] will be better armed against that unhappiness” (Breuer & Freud, 1895/1955, p. 305). So, it's so much more refreshing to see that there is a new school of thinking proposing that happiness is common and achievable, while unhappiness is neither common nor normal.
This might seem like a purely academical point but is it really? Consider this question: while agreeing that depression equals unhappiness what is the best intervention?
A. An intervention that would "fix" unhappiness?
B. An intervention that would promote happiness?
My answer would actually be C. Both.
We now know that the brain circuits responsible for feeling unhappy are not the same with the brain circuits responsible for feeling happy. If that is the case then A and B interventions actually engage different brain circuits and by using both we are pulling in more resources that the brain can use.
While this is true most of our present day interventions, including both psychotherapy and medications, fall under the A category.
Here is where I see that value of positive psychology. Building on the shoulders of Maslow's self actualization theory, positive psychology finally got it right: when it comes to happiness learning how to be happy might just be a better strategy than learning how not to be unhappy.
© Copyright Adrian Preda, M.D.