In human history, we are going from knowledge to omniscience, from potence to omnipotence, from ethics and religion to righteousness. So, in my view, God comes at the end of this long process. This may not happen in our lifetimes or even in the lifetime of our species.
Sexual performance problems, such as impotence and frigidity, are 70 to 90 percent changeable. But a homosexual who wants to be a heterosexual - that's close to unchangeable. And a transsexual - say a man who believes he's really a woman in a man's body - is completely unchangeable; you'd have to change the body to conform to the psyche.
The belief that we can rely on shortcuts to happiness, joy, rapture, comfort, and ecstasy, rather than be entitled to these feelings by the exercise of personal strengths and virtues, leads to legions of people who, in the middle of great wealth, are starving spiritually.
Positive psychology is not remotely intended to replace therapy or pharmacology. So when depressed, anxious or in panic or post-traumatic stress disorder, I am all for therapies that will work. Positive psychology is another arrow in the quiver of public policy and psychology through which we can raise wellbeing above zero.
Suppose you could be hooked up to a hypothetical 'experience machine' that, for the rest of your life, would stimulate your brain and give you any positive feelings you desire. Most people to whom I offer this imaginary choice refuse the machine. It is not just positive feelings we want: we want to be entitled to our positive feelings.
P is positive emotion, E is engagement, R is relationships, M is meaning and A is accomplishment. Those are the five elements of what free people chose to do. Pretty much everything else is in service of one of or more of these goals. That's the human dashboard.
I'm all for past influences; the question is whether they are deterministic. Freud and the behaviorists argue that what we are at any given moment is billiard balls whose past determines our future course. That doesn't take into account that we are forever generating internal representations of positive futures and choosing among them.
It used to be that whenever I introduced myself to people and told them I was a psychologist, they would shrink away from me. Because, quite rightly, the impression the American public has of psychologists is, 'You want to know what's wrong with me.'
Some find that very optimistic people have benign illusions about themselves. These people may think they have more control, or more skill, than they actually do. Others have found that optimistic people have a good handle on reality. The jury is still out.
Optimistic people generally feel that good things will last a long time and will have a beneficial effect on everything they do. And they think that bad things are isolated: They won't last too long and won't affect other parts of life.
I've been bothered about time generally and our tripartite division of time into past, present, and future. I think I know what the past is, and I think I know what future is, but I'm really not comfortable with the notion of present.
It's my belief that, since the end of the Second World War, psychology has moved too far away from its original roots, which were to make the lives of all people more fulfilling and productive, and too much toward the important, but not all-important, area of curing mental illness.
If the point of the inner-child movement is to cure adult problems, it doesn't work. Reliving childhood traumas gives you a nice afterglow, but it lasts only for hours or days. There is no evidence it changes adult problems.
On the relationship side, if you teach people to respond actively and constructively when someone they care about has a victory, it increases love and friendship and decreases the probability of depression.
I have spent most of my life working with mental illness. I have been president of the world's largest association of mental-illness workers, and I am all for more funding for mental-health care and research - but not in the vain hope that it will curb violence.
There are physical characteristics which are inherited. These include things like good looks, high intelligence, physical coordination. These attributes contribute to success in life, and success in life is a determinant of optimism.
One of the things psychologists used to say was that if you are depressed, anxious or angry, you couldn't be happy. Those were at opposite ends of a continuum. I believe that you can be suffering or have a mental illness and be happy - just not in the same moment that you're sad.
Psychology is much bigger than just medicine, or fixing unhealthy things. It's about education, work, marriage - it's even about sports. What I want to do is see psychologists working to help people build strengths in all these domains.
There is an interesting scientific dispute about realism and optimism. Some find that very optimistic people have benign illusions about themselves. These people may think they have more control, or more skill, than they actually do. Others have found that optimistic people have a good handle on reality. The jury is still out.
I believe psychology has done very well in working out how to understand and treat disease. But I think that is literally half-baked. If all you do is work to fix problems, to alleviate suffering, then by definition you are working to get people to zero, to neutral.
The goal of a life free of dysphoria is a snare and a delusion. A better goal is of good commerce with the world. Authentic happiness, astonishingly, can occur even in the presence of authentic sadness.
I have never worked on interrogation; I have never seen an interrogation, and I have only a passing knowledge of the literature on interrogation. With that qualification, my opinion is that the point of interrogation is to get at the truth, not to get at what the interrogator wants to hear.
The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power or goodness.