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4/22/04


Home______Martin Seligman & Happiness

As Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at University of Pennsylvania, Seligman has undertaken the development of a new approach to psychology. He acknowledges the great contributions of clinical psychology in relieving suffering. The DSM, or Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a psychologist's bible, gives evidence of this. The therapist can consult its pages for various patient symptoms and turn to a classification that professionals on both sides of the Atlantic agree upon. Prozac and a host of other drug psycho therapies have also gone far to relieve patient symptoms. These and various advances have reduced human suffering to foster individuals who can cope with their lives.

Still, Seligman believes more must be done. He acknowledges the progress while noting that ninety percent of psychological science relates to the disease model of therapy. He asks, What about happiness?

To make his point, Seligman notes outcomes of the disease model. One is that psychologists study victims and pathology. This leads to a belief that mental illness is a weight that can almost overwhelm character, responsibility, and related matters. People become victims of their disease with no way out except for the interventions of therapists. Another outcome is that non-victims have had little attention paid to them. That is, they are assumed to have little need for study by psychologists. As a result, efforts were expended to make people less miserable, without attention to making them happier.

As he began to think about this, Seligman asked himself a question, " Who never gets helpless? More

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