Psychology of Positive Emotions

Professor Barbara Fredrickson presented Positive Psychology Applications for Individuals, Team and Organisations.

Barbara is an eminent psychologist who has done an enormous amount of the research around positive emotions. Her research has uncovered the value of positive emotions, which is broaden and build. They increase awareness and expand our ideas about possible actions and over time they help us build and become better versions of ourselves.

This was missed by science for a long time since the link to survival when compared to negative emotions was harder to see. Science therefore considered their study frivolous, and in terms of positive emotions did not venture much away from evolution/survival-obvious topics like food and sex.

Of course ignoring negative emotions or signals compromises your survival, while ignoring the positive usually only leads to a missed opportunity – so our negative bias is understandable in evolutionary terms.

Still, our minds open and close with the availability of positive emotions.

For more see:

I just want to refer to a discussion with a Korean colleague. He observed that in Asia, the approach to learning is holistic, while Westerners love to chop stuff up into little study-able chunks. He also noted that in Asia, students entirely trust the teacher, and follow without question. This coincides with my Aikido experience, in that challenging the Sensei on Tatami verges on the suicidal. Westerners on the other hand, love to argue, debate and constantly clamor for proof.

Interestingly, much of modern psychology is starting to give scientific backing to ideas and practices that are found in Eastern (and Western – but that is still too controversial) religious and meditative tradition. This is wonderful, and a good sign that the much needed marriage of East and West is ongoing. 

I must say that as a long time practitioner of Aikido and meditation, and a Sensei myself, I tend toward the Eastern approach “Just do it, and then you will see if it works won’t you?” Aikido is as far as I am concerned an empirical pursuit. The prospect of broken limbs or having a sharp pointy thing stuck in your body if you do it wrong does tend to motivate one towards doing it right. It is a constant feedback loop of “have this thought / do this movement”, and experience the result. Seeking to prove whether Aikido and some of it’s concepts are “true” in a scientific sense (truth being a tricky question anyway for anyone with a grounding in the philosophy of science) does not in any way lead you to doing better Aikido.

In fact it would be rather like conducting a statistical analysis of poetry in an attempt to appreciate its meaning.

Still, the research done by the scientists in the field of positive psychology is of incredible value, in giving us a clear idea of the benefits of prioritising positivity in our personal and professional lives and in our organisations and pursuing practices such as meditation.

I must say that Barbara’s extraordinary passion, and her joy in the life-affirming information her work has uncovered, are an absolute delight.

Book link:

Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. Barbara Fredrickson, 2009.

Talks on Positive emotions – links:

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