Comments on
The 12 Steps of Positive Psychology

By Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D.
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The 12 Steps of Positive PsychologyThe positive psychology movement is surely gaining momentum. In a recent discussion with two of my colleagues we joked that positive psychology’s really about a type of recovery from negative thinking.

This got me wondering if a 12-step process might be worth identifying. So guess what…? I think it is.

Here is what I propose for the 12 steps of positive psychology.

10 Comments to
The 12 Steps of Positive Psychology

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  1. As a Christian, I find this interesting. My only contention is that God has to be that power greater than ourselves, not just “positivity.” Also I don’t think God needs my “help” in bringing this about. God is God and can do all things. I do think God needs my willingness to be open to allowing God to work in my life to bring about more positivity. I also don’t think I can replace my defects of character with strengths (step 6). I need God’s help to do that. In my weakness, God’s strength is revealed. But then see, as a believer of Jesus Christ, it really is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me so if I get out of the way, it’s His goodness, positivity, etc., that comes through. A pastor taught me long ago, “God seeks us out and brings us into wholeness.” That’s God’s work…not mine. I must only be open to being led, cooperate, and brought into that wholeness. Thank you for sharing…I’ve often played around with the 12 steps myself to make them more positive, more empowering, and more related to the female experience.

  2. I like your 12 steps but really do not understand what God has to do with it. While positive psychology is gaining momentum it also tries to work evidence based. Bringing your God into the equation is excluding most of the other gods (and lets not forget the people without gods) around.

    External attribution of the solution for our shortcomings is not very empowering.

    • Ah, but as a Christian, there are no other Gods. :)

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I can tell you what went into my thinking about God, the 12 steps, and evidenced-based practice. Aristotle is a good place to begin- his formula for happiness (eudaimonia) involved aligning the soul with virtues. Fast forward to Peterson and Seligman’s work on character strengths and virtues and you find an evidenced -based approach to measuring strengths of character. There are 24 strengths categorized into 6 virtues. One of the six is spirituality and transcendence. In other words spiritual yearning has a direct seat at the table in positive psychology. Not at everyone needs to have God in their life, but the evidence shows that people who do report feeling happier. (there is a link to the character strength survey in the above article.)

    Finally. AA was found to have very good results in the 1995 consumer reports study by Seligman, and was actually ranked as having higher satisfaction than psychotherapy.

    Finally, external attribution for our problems is what was found to be empowering in studies on learned optimism. By viewing setbacks as external and temporary -people were ranked as being more optimistic than those internalizing their difficulties.

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I can tell you what went into my thinking about God, the 12 steps, and evidenced-based practice. Aristotle is a good place to begin- his formula for happiness (eudaimonia) involved aligning the soul with virtues. Fast forward to Peterson and Seligman’s work on character strengths and virtues and you find an evidenced -based approach to measuring strengths of character. There are 24 strengths categorized into 6 virtues. One of the six is spirituality and transcendence. In other words spiritual yearning has a direct seat at the table in positive psychology. Not at everyone needs to have God in their life, but the evidence shows that people who do report feeling happier. (there is a link to the character strength survey in the above article.)

    AA was found to have very good results in the 1995 consumer reports study by Seligman, and was actually ranked as having higher satisfaction than psychotherapy.

    Finally, external attribution for our problems is what was found to be empowering in studies on learned optimism. By viewing setbacks as external and temporary -people were ranked as being more optimistic than those internalizing their difficulties.

  5. I really enjoyed this article…and i believe this article is correct in that it does not have to tell me –if or what priority God should be in my life, since i already know God’s place in my views, and we as individuals choose and decide that for our selves. So i believe any arguing over this is wasted time and should be better spent getting others to understand that we do not need to divide …we need to bring people together, I believe this article helps bring people together….so lets not pick at things which will separate the masses….since then it becomes more political then philosophical….sincerely Patricia Bartholomew

  6. Let go Let GOD believe have faith and allow for his work to be done…..believing and having faith is pure positivity

  7. Interesting. I am a 12 Stepper. Some good concepts there but I feel it is necessary to admit the exact nature of our wrongs to another human being. This makes us accountable for our past actions, we own what we have done. The reference to God in the 12 Step is not about religion, it is about spirituality. We are born spiritual beings so the 12 Steps help restore our spirituality which has been lost to the ism/s. All we need do is believe in a “power greater” – we can use the universe or even our group as a power greater if that is what works for us. There is a lot of positivity in the 12 Steps as they teach people new ways of dealing with their problems, positive ways that are to replace the dysfunctional ways taught in childhood. It is still positive to admit our wrongs – the positivity lies in the process of moving forward and making amends – letting our burdens go so we can be free of them. Before I read your post I was just thinking about how depressed people see nothing positive in life. I was like that for years until the 12 Steps taught me new ways of thinking and behaving. I now see the positive before the negative and for that I am so grateful! Negativity is like a sickness that plagues the mind and sees no light.

  8. Daniel,

    Since positive psychology is an evidence-based field, maybe you could point me to the peer-reviewed journal articles that steps 3, 5, 6, 7, and 11 are based on?

    I think this article would be better titled “7 Steps of positive psychology with 5 of my religious views thrown in for good measure.”

    Warren

  9. Well, actually, now that you’ve asked– the current issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology (yes-there is such a thing) has one of it’s articles a beautifully written and empirically robust study on the effectiveness of God based vs general gratitude. The lead author, David Rosmarin, is at McLean Hospitsal at Harvard Medical School He and his coauthors have done a masterful job at applying an evidened -based approach to religious vs non-religious gratitude. I plan to write about this study down the road because I found it so well done and intriguing, but I will let you in onone of their findings–God does very well in the correlation matrix :-)

  10. Thanks for your thoughtful piece…
    I have been actively involved in a 12-step fellowship for almost 10 years, and, while I am very grateful for the ongoing contribution this program has been to my life, I also value whatever “get’s the job done” – whatever works…Counseling, medication, spiritual fellowship and practice, psychotherapy, “coaching,” psychology,etc… I am learning to examine and appreciate the myriad ways in which these and various other approaches to being “well,” in the broadest sense, are more similar than different…Nothing’s new under the sun, so to speak, and we can all hear the same basic message 1,000 different ways until something finally resonates… I enjoy trying to speak and write about old wisdom in new ways, and, lately, my favorite “new way” to converse about old wisdom is in very plain language… 12-Step parlance, for instance, gets a bit old sometimes. Reading an alternative version is refreshing…Thanks again…
    David Lader :)

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