I strongly disapprove of torture and have never and would never provide assistance in its process.
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.
The best therapists can do with sadness, anger, and anxiety is to help patients live in the more comfortable part of their set range.
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.
I don't think anyone's found a way of eliminating thoughts of danger and loss. It's rather that, when they're unrealistic, you become an acrobat at marshaling evidence against them.
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.
One of my worries about America is the epidemic of depression we've been in. One of the possibilities about that is that the 'I' gets bigger and bigger, and the 'we' gets smaller and smaller.
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.'
What humans want is not just happiness. They want justice; they want meaning.
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.
Life satisfaction essentially measures cheerful moods, so it is not entitled to a central place in any theory that aims to be more than a happiology.
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.
It is the combination of reasonable talent and the ability to keep going in the face of defeat that leads to success.
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.
I don't mind being wrong, and I don't mind changing my mind.
I think we pursue positive relationships whether or not they bring us engagement or happiness.
I believe it is within our capacity that by the year 2051 that 51 percent of the human population will be flourishing. That is my charge.
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.
Rather than giving people an inflated view of themselves, we need to give them concrete reasons to feel good about themselves.
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.
The dirty little secret of both clinical psychology and biological psychiatry is that they have completely given up on the notion of cure.
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.
The word 'happiness' always bothered me, partly because it was scientifically unwieldy and meant a lot of different things to different people, and also because it's subjective.
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.
It's no surprise that optimistic athletes, managers and teams do better. What's interesting is where they do better. It's in coming back from defeat and acting in the clutch.
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.
You can have meaning, accomplishment, engagement and good relationships, even if you are dull on the positive affect side.
I'm trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.
One of my signature strengths is the love of learning, and by teaching, I have built it into the fabric of my life. I try to do some of it every day.
Perhaps the single most robust fact across many surveys is that married people are happier than anyone else.
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.
We have children to pursue other elements of well-being. We want meaning in life. We want relationships.
When we take time to notice the things that go right - it means we're getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day.
If you were an optimistic teen, then you'll be an optimist at 80. People's reactions to bad events are highly stable over a half century or more.
Well-being cannot exist just in your own head. Well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment.
High taxes on guns and strong restrictions on their availability are the only realistic hope for avoiding many more Sandy Hooks.
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.
Positive emotion alienated from the exercise of character leads to emptiness, to inauthenticity, to depression, and, as we age, to the gnawing realization that we are fidgeting until we die.
Creativity is bound up in our ability to find new ways around old problems.