Humanism and Positive Psychology

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One of the primary purposes of this blog is to help people lead more meaningful lives outside of religion or superstition. So I have always kind of wondered why there isn’t a branch of psychology, or perhaps sociology, that focuses what helps people live more meaningful lives. It turns out there is such a branch called humanistic psychology:

Humanistic psychology (humanism) is grounded in the belief that people are innately good. This type of psychology holds that morality, ethical values, and good intentions are the driving forces of behavior, while adverse social or psychological experiences can be attributed to deviations from natural tendencies.

Humanism incorporates a variety of therapeutic techniques, including Rogerian (person-centered) therapy, and often emphasizes a goal of self-actualization. (source)

Humanistic psychology originated in the 1950’s after a growing group of psychologists began to view the two most popular fields of psychology at the time, behaviorism and psychoanalysis, as having serious limitations. Abraham Maslow and Clark Moustakas spearheaded a campaign to start a professional organization dedicated to humanistic psychology. In 1961 they founded The American Association for Humanistic Psychology which states as its mission:

In it’s first iteration, AHP and Humanistic Psychology, in general, focused almost exclusively on the growth of the individual. While we believe that principle continues to be necessary, in the words of one of our founders, it is no longer sufficient. We also recognize the importance of change and growth in relationships, families, communities, societies, and in a global context.

As a result of this progress, AHP is re-envisioning its purpose and responsibility to its members and supporters. It is now time to reach further into the awareness of individuals and communities, and to reach higher into the sphere of translating new knowledge, policy, and practice into humanistic terms. The impact of humanistic psychology will be strengthened through the use of social media and other technologies that will allow AHP to increase its visibility and accessibility to the public; helping them to integrate humanistic ideas into their lives on multiple levels.

This approach will also provide a platform for the creation of online learning communities designed to enrich the humanistic work of groups and communities, professional networks, and government organizations. Our primary focus will be in bringing together new knowledge and practices from a variety of emerging fields (science, policy, education, politics, the arts, therapeutic/healing practices, community and cultural growth, and personal and spiritual growth), and translating those new ideas through the lens of Humanistic Psychology.

Full Vision Statement

Humanistic psychology, while certainly not perfect shares goals similar to our own and so we are happy to have found it. A full examination can be found here.

There is a really great variation of humanistic psychology called Positive Psychology. Founded primarily by Martin Seligman, during his tenure as president of the American Psychological Association and supported by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi and Christopher Peterson.

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. (source)

Seligman outlined an approach he calls P.E.R.M.A.

Positive Emotion: Developing an optimistic view of life.

Engagement: Engagement in activities that encourage learning,  and personal growth

Relationships:  Building and maintaining relationships with people that support, encourage and love.

Meaning: Developing meaning and purpose.

Accomplishments: Setting and achieving goals.

A More Detailed Look

Humanistic and positive psychology share goals too similar to our own not to include them in Humanist resource page and other lists around the site. Another great resource in our effort to help people move away from religion and superstition.

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