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  • Writer's pictureFiona Feeley

Positive Psychology: Effective or just marketable?

We’ve become an anxious, egoic culture propped up by addiction, denial and avoidance that masks a complete lack of self-acceptance and low self-worth. We live in a consumer society that manipulates our underlying desire to feel better, to escape existential dread, to be accepted and approved of. We’ve become convinced us that we need to be successful as opposed to living a wholehearted, meaningful life. We are conditioned into believing that every experience needs to be spectacular, that we need to gleam positivity. We have forgotten that we are human beings, not human doings. As a result, we are left deflated and inadequate, wondering why all our efforts only bring relatively short-lived happiness. Ironically this malaise is being exploited by the consumer/social media lifestyle that contributes so heavily to its existence. We are told we can buy our ways to feeling more fulfilled. If the answer is not marketable, then it’s just not the answer.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the application of positive psychology as a fast-track to the life of your dreams. People want to feel better, to ‘live their best life’ and are willing to part with substantial money to do so. Now I’m not denying the virtues of positive psychology concepts and the remarkable impact it can make to a person’s overall wellbeing. However, it’s marketability and ease of application has given it far more credibility than it deserves. Vulnerable, unhappy people are sold an attractive, simplistic, gift wrapped solution for a complex problem and are then left feeling disillusioned when something still doesn’t feel ‘quite right’.

The problem is we have become disconnected from our whole selves. From birth, we have a desire for acceptance and attachment. It’s essential for our survival and leaves us vulnerable to a need to feel approval. The consumer world we live in has identified and capitalised on this need, and has designed a superficial ideology of what a successful, happy life should look like based on what can be sold. Never-ending happiness and success are promoted as being an easily achievable reality if we live a certain way. As a result, we follow the trajectory given to us. We shut down our ability to get in touch with the sides of our personality which are essential yet assumed undesirable such as selfishness, anger, anxiety, narcissism and egotistical thinking. We deny aspects of ourselves to our partners, families, the world and most of all, to ourselves and then wonder why we feel this overwhelming void. Instead of tuning into the truth of how we feel, we numb our senses and unaddressed emotions, with mindless addictions and distractions. We are dissatisfied with our lives yet tolerant, and console ourselves with the thought of the next big thing or destination, convincing ourselves that we will be happy once we get there. We put all of our focus into instant gratification and the superficial but visible results dangled in front of us.

Ironically the only things we truly require to feel whole are so very basic...and surprise, surprise not that expensive. Once we can release our attachment to what we feel will gain us approval, we can start to lean into our true selves, finding our sense of purpose and our peace of mind. We can connect with people on an deep, meaningful level. We can compassionately acknowledge our deepest fears, insecurities and darkest feelings and identify the driving force they can have over our need for acceptance by others. We can explore ways of accepting every aspect of ourselves, creating a loving and kind place for both our strengths and weaknesses. From there, we can wholeheartedly appreciate where we are and create the life we truly desire, free from expectation.

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