Is It Okay That Positive Psychology Gets on Your Nerves?

Is It Okay That Positive Psychology Gets on Your Nerves?
A categorization for all those who roll their eyes at the approach

It seems that many companies are in positive psychology fever. Wherever you listen, problems become challenges and disappointments become learning fields. We look for our parts in uncomfortable situations and strive for meaning and happiness. As consultants, we have solution orientation and a focus on the future in our DNA, but are we allowed to get annoyed by the constant positivity professionally? Or to put it more constructively: in which situations is positive psychology appropriate?

The discussion resulted in 1. a picture to classify possibilities and limits and 2. a declaration of love for positive psychology in a roundabout way.

  1. A picture: The scope of positive psychology

The answer to the title of this article right at the beginning: yes, positive psychology can be annoying, especially when it is misused as whitewashing or prescribed from outside. Have you ever been completely overwhelmed by a life situation, wanted to vent about your hopelessness and then been told what you can learn from the situation? Or that you should look on the bright side?

If you felt made fun of or even a little desperate, you were at the limits of positive psychology. Its methods and interventions are resource-oriented and require receptivity, readiness and willingness in order to be effective. It happens that we feel burdened and at times cannot (or do not want to) fall back on our resources. Even the tenth circular question doesn't help. From the outside, it's true that students learn self-organization through distance learning or that young professionals learn resilience while juggling 1000 tasks and managers learn to set themselves apart in the eye of the shit storm. But in the moment, it just feels awful. It takes time and a step out of the situation to be able to be solution-oriented again. In the worst-case scenario, it may actually be a psychosocial crisis and positive poking around can plunge the affected person even further into crisis. This is not intended to spread fear, but it is important to bear in mind in times of Covid fatigue.

Conclusion for organizations or teams that want to introduce positive psychology: positive psychology should be used in moderation, be authentic and also leave room for problems, otherwise it will end up in the corner of whitewashing. It is also important to be mindful of people who show resistance or are overly annoyed when asked to focus on the positive. In the best case scenario, there is simply a lack of practice with questions such as: "which tasks made you feel alive today?" In the worst case, you are dealing with people who are feeling very stressed and under tension. The aim here is to see how the person can do their job appropriately and not how they can find ultimate fulfillment in it.

Fortunately, however, the psyche has the wonderful trick of resilience up its sleeve and in the vast majority of cases we are dealing with robust people in organizations. Here, positive psychology offers a clear model with many exercises that change our perspective and are actually at lot of fun. At this point we come to our:

  1. Declaration of love to positive psychology

This awaits you in our next blog post. But if you want to find out more, you can listen to our podcast in which our colleague Anna Obkircher explains what positive psychology actually is and can do: Link Podcast.

AUTHOR: Alexandra Hahn

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