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To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend Its Horizons


[Invited Chapter in Ken Sheldon, Todd Kashdan, and Mike Steger (eds.) “Integrated psychology: Linking positive psychology and ‘the negative.’ Oxford University Press]

We applaud the scientific attention and practical support that positive psychology has focused on the broad base of the American population: the 94% who do not suffer from serious mental illness. Now we urge the field to accomplish a second shift of attention, again from about 5% to the great majority, but this time from Americans to the rest of the world. Positive psychologists should reflect on the reality that Americans make up less than 5% of the world’s population. And about 85% of the remaining 95% are from less developed countries; about two thirds are not Christian, and almost 60% live in Asia. Most of the happiness and meaning and fulfillment in the world, both now and potentially, exist in the less developed world. An expanded positive psychology should attempt to understand perspectives on the human condition and the good life that have informed East and South Asian world views for millennia and can inform our own as well. In this

paper we promote consideration of three Asian virtues that are not prominent in positive psychology: selflessness, reduced concern for the personal benefits of one’s actions, and non-attachment. We also promote the idea of metaphysical or spiritual growth in adulthood and old age, along a path to a more fulfilled life. This may include giving the calm and peaceful positive emotions a proper place in positive psychology, Finally, we question whether, particularly from an Asian perspective, building on signature strengths is a better theme for a universal positive psychology than creating balance.

To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant, Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin

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But psychologists disagree about the best conceptual or methodological frameworks within which to pursue their aims. In other words. positive psychology represents a reaction to the prevailing world view of clinical psychology. or framework. Behaviorism was most importantly a change in methodology (objective. Seligman. On the other hand. content. and has thereby drained resources from efforts to understand how individuals in the general population can lead more effective. a successful new movement emphasizes a distinct change from its predecessors while still accepting many of their accomplishments. including the fundamental aims of understanding and practical improvement. movements import most of the baggage of their predecessors. it also emphasizes respect for methodological rigor. We do not use baggage in a pejorative sense. and cognitive science adopted much of the methodological sophistication of behaviorism as it turned the focus from behavior to mind. 2002). Such disagreements are part of the normal development of a discipline. satisfying lives (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi. Things that are too revolutionary are hard to adopt. Typically. 2000. To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 3 . not only the small proportion who are seriously compromised. Positive psychology begins with the premise that psychology has focused too narrowly on the “medical model” of dysfunctional. observable responses) in comparison to its predecessors. We intend it to include accumulated knowledge and wisdom as well as errors in approach. abnormal behavior. It widens the focus of its enterprise in order to understand and improve the quality of life of all individuals. Positive psychology appropriately accepts much of the baggage of its predecessors.Most psychologists will agree that the aims of academic psychology are to understand the human mind and behavior and to better the human condition on the basis of improved understanding.

We might discover. after all. In our view. and psychology are not maintained as strictly as they are in the European-American context. secular worldview. 2007). Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 4 . however. positive psychology has opened up new areas for study. Though we believe such a demonstration is highly unlikely. the distinctions among religion. however. In other cultures. only after indigenous norms and concepts of wellbeing have been thoroughly comprehended and demonstrated to be wanting in their own context. serious study of the norms of wholesome living in cultures quite different from America’s current culture. that one of the less promising pieces of baggage that positive psychology has brought on board is the focus of research on Americans as proxies for all the world’s citizens. this leads us to considerations of religion and spirituality. if at all. we accept the possibility of the relevant questions being asked in sound empirical fashion. positive psychology will enhance its constructive incorporation of the methods and psychological principles that it has inherited without diluting the impact of its unique contributions. cultural psychology (well presented in Kitayama and Cohen. It is our view. and introduced promising interventions. that the wiser course is to import rather than export psychological To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. topics which much of positive psychology has eschewed in favor of a traditionally scientific. such as positive emotions. We urge a broadening of positive psychology to include respectful. Inevitably. exporting American norms and concepts of well-being to other parts of the world should be undertaken.In addition to its critical stance. philosophy. If it can nurture a discipline with a more inclusive world view. Here we believe that positive psychology might wish to incorporate the innovations of another new branch of psychology.

(Peterson & Seligman 2004). Diener & Suh 2000. and his collaborators. let alone American undergraduates. Or at least we may advocate for “psychological free trade” in which the barriers to culturally diverse forms of wholesome living are eliminated. The main message of this paper is that positive psychology should not emulate most of the rest of psychology in its emphasis on Americans. it has also unwisely focused on the less than 5% of the world’s who happen to live in the U. The compendium includes several valuable descriptions of Asian moral and religious thought (see To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. just as the seriously mental ill occupy about six percent of the American population (Kessler et al. a few in positive psychology. but should focus on human nature and its growth potential around the world. Census Bureau. Of course. Perhaps it is instructive to notice that. We are indebted to the insights of Ed Diener. Just as psychology has unwisely focused too closely on the 6% who are seriously mental ill in America.goods. who have attended to the measurement of subjective well being across cultures and explored different contributions to the quality of life represented in diverse cultural values (e.g.. The authors and their collaborators scoured the world’s wisdom literature and psychological information to develop their “aspirational classification” of six virtues with 24 character strengths nested under them. 2010).S. We have also been very fortunate to have Peterson & Seligman’s excellent compendium to work with. 2002). Their work is a reference that will serve the field well for decades. Perhaps the premise of positive psychology should therefore be extended. have already explored outside of the Euro-American world. Americans occupy less than five percent of the world’s population (U. 2005).S. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 5 .A. Oishi & Suh.

Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 6 . and non-attachment to entities or outcomes. Three additional and potentially central virtues or strengths. given its dedication to relying on empirical data whenever possible. First. we will discuss the core idea within positive psychology of building on signature strengths. Second.especially pp. the separation of religious. They are specified most clearly in Asian wisdom/religious doctrines and practices. Although these virtues/strengths are embedded in religious teaching and practice. 40-46). in India especially. Three virtues or strengths that derive from Asian sources are selflessness. reduced or eliminated concern for personal benefit of action. it could hardly be otherwise. however. Finally. the weight and thrust of the work is decidedly western. philosophical. we present three inter-related goals for wholesome living. Inevitably. we will discuss a path (process) for continued personal growth throughout the life span. they find secular expression in the cultures where they are valued. 1999). again from Asian perspectives. In what follows we make three basic points. and psychological vocabularies is To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. (For a general orientation to the relevant Asian philosophy. see Kupperman. which stand in some contrast to general normative directions of positive psychology as we understand them. based largely on South and East Asian religions and cultures. raising some questions about this pillar of the field. but resonances of the ideas are also present in western teachings. We believe that these terms label psychological realities that have real effects in the lives of people who live by them or aspire to them as opposed to those who do not. from these same religions and cultures. Continued improvement of mature adult mind is a more important theme in Asian than in western views of optimal living. As mentioned earlier.

Follette & Linehan. wisdom and compassion are pre-eminent among attainments or realizations of practice. For the Hindu.g Hayes. (e. we are referring to Hinduism and Buddhism. We occasionally contrast these with the Abrahamic tradition comprising Judaism. Positive psychology has To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant.not nearly as rigid as it is in the U. It may be. . Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 7 . and Islam). however. and elsewhere in the west. as is the “small self” that is apprehended as disaggregated into components. The “small self” that is apprehended as one with the Universal Self is embraced in the world. 2004). Christianity. Our emphasis here is somewhat different. meditation retreats and similar spiritual luxuries may offer emotional consequences and cognitive insights with wholesome consequences. (For convenience going forward. glimpsing the truth relating atman and brahman may have consequences for daily life much like those awaiting the Buddhist practitioner who apprehends the dissolution of self into aggregates that are decidedly impermanent. that there are beneficial psychological consequences associated with the traditional practices developed to reveal the metaphysical truth to the practitioner.S. The mental practice leading to this sort of awareness is not available to many— few Asians or westerners leave their homes for the ashram or monastery. and apprehension of selflessness opens the mind to them as two sides of a single coin. when we speak of “Asian” religions. Famously. In the west. irrespective of that doctrinal divide. Hindu and Buddhist teachings diverge over the metaphysics of the self. and numerous clinicians have begun to bring meditation into their therapeutic milieux. Selflessness Apprehending the correct relationship between the perceived self and the world in actuality is at the core of Asian wisdom doctrine and practice. In Buddhist traditions.

temperance. To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. humility. These ideas about selflessness are related to. This sense of selflessness is certainly more than just kindness or altruism. It is widening one’s focus of consciousness leading to heightened concern for others and their wellbeing. The emphasis is on doing things because they are right. related principle is subordination or abandonment of concern for the personal benefits of one’s actions. the prominent idea in cultural psychology of the independent Euro-American self and the interdependent East Asian self (Markus & Kitayama. but to not be particularly concerned with the personal consequences of one’s actions. 2009). 2004). Wisdom is joined to knowledge as a virtue comprising five different character strengths (Peterson & Seligman. and because they lead to improvement of the relevant society. Incidentally. The point is to be engaged in the present and animated by improvement of the moral worth of the self and the welfare of the community. 1991). we wonder whether it creates a guide to wholesome living as simple as a calm focus on the self as composed of aggregates or part of a larger entity. and a sense of being an integral part of a larger entity—or at least not one among many mutually impenetrable monads.listed gratitude. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 8 . and humanity. such behavior will also increase the moral worth of the doer (Menon. and kindness (including compassion) as character strengths arising respectively under the virtues of transcendence. Without at all disputing the historical and analytic accuracy of the virtue-character strength classification. Subordinating personal benefit A second. because they are one’s sacred and socially appropriate duties. but not the same as.

1985). doing one’s duty. This teaching has penetrated deeply into modern Indian life and. and being neutral to opposites. indeed.” They continue that this definition “means the same thing” as “a technique for performing actions in a manner that the soul is not bound by the effects of the action. Perhaps the most interesting of their findings was the prevalence among Indian executives of a commitment to hard work accompanied by a relative lack of concern for personal achievement. is a core goal of Hindu teaching with a doctrinal foundation in the Bhagavad-Gita (Rama. a phrase that arises in scripture. Madhu & Krishnan (2005) rely on the Bhagavad-Gita and Tilak’s (1915/2000) interpretation of it to define karma yoga as “a technique for intelligently performing actions. The use of karma yoga in current Indian organizational psychology is seen in the work of Venkat Krishnan and colleagues. Some of their language demonstrates the blending of religious. into Indian organizational psychology. Thus. we interpret as meaning emotional equipoise across situations. who call karma yoga “the core of the Indian philosophy of work” (Madhu & Krishnan 2005) .” Being neutral to opposites. philosophical and psychological domains that is non-existent in the west. nishkama karma in Sanskrit and Hindi. It is one component of a cluster of wholesome characteristics which together constitute karma yoga. This group’s work is interesting for several reasons.” Mulla & Krishnan (2006) state further that karma yoga describes three essential characteristics: “performing action without attachment.Action without concern or desire for benefit. The authors developed a survey for Indian executives that measured selfreported absence of desire for reward and sense of duty but not emotional equipoise. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 9 . The notion that one would work hard but be relatively unconcerned about the personal benefits thereof is not one found in American business To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant.

and thus to “let go” of attachment. as webs of messy attachments. Traditional Buddhist teaching calls for the practitioner to break the wheel of causality between craving and grasping. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 10 . but grasping/attaching can be controlled.circles or in American life more generally. culturally-aware fashion. anasakti in Sanskrit) carries a sense of letting events go past without negative reactions. Craving may be an indelible part of our biological heritage. the issue of “personal benefits” is complex. It is related to nishkama karma (see above) but not identical to it. While nishkama karma addresses the correct relationship between action and reward.g. Mulla & Krishnan (2006) observe that the normative separation between hard work and concern for reward led earlier western observers of Indian workplaces to dismiss the Indians as incapable of operating in a modern business environment. Moreover. Be that as it may. see Rahula (1959)). non-attachment (e. The current rise of Indian commercial successes puts the lie to that misconception even without bringing the characteristics of karma yoga into the discussion. The Vendanta tradition speaks of being in the world but not being of it. it is not obvious to us that it is entirely wholesome if the sense of duty is narrowly defined by employees as what is good for the company. are used to describe the To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. Metaphors of entanglement. It covers territory that in the original languages is covered by numerous terms that are connected but not identical in their referents. Here seems to be a particularly rich area for organizational and positive psychologists to do good work in a nuanced. For example. (For a trustworthy introduction to traditional Buddhism. Non-attachment The English term non-attachment is both accurate and deceptively complicated as a pointer to a psychological reality that is revered in Asian religious traditions.

focused action is the norm. It would not be wise to jump quickly to the conclusion that the “wisdom of the East” should trump the values of the western religious and Enlightenment traditions. But it is also unwise to ignore the depths of these great traditions in searching for the virtues. There is no nihilism hiding in the shadows of non-attachment. Calm. The practitioner’s intent is to achieve liberation from endless cycles of birth and death. The translation into English of important texts and practice manuals has a very short history. Given the seriousness of the stakes.normal human condition of samsara. the methods of achieving the goal could be very demanding. character strengths. To the extent that the non-attached actor and her act merge (the dancer becomes the dance). Positive psychology should embrace this search and play a leading role in it To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. To conclude this section. we repeat that there are lofty virtues/strengths in the Asian wisdom literature and practice that emphasize de-centering of the self. It is only recently in the history of these religions. relinquishing concern with personal benefit arising from effort. more than a single lifetime might be required to arrive at the appropriate states of mind (or no-mind). and acceptance of life without wasteful emotional response. and approaches to the sacred that they provide. the connection to the idea of flow (Csíkszentmihályi. notwithstanding the apparent flood of popular literature now available. These goals originated among individuals living lives of great renunciation. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 11 . 1990) is obvious and appropriate. for example the last 800 years in the case of Buddhism in Japan. Dispassion or non-attachment is not to be confused with disengagement or apathy. that laypeople had more than supporting roles in the practices that had become normative among monks and nuns.

This process is seen as substantially complete in early adulthood. One feature of the adult path promoted in East and South Asian traditions has to do with emotion. This would mean that while presence of positive emotions like excitement. adulthood and maturity are conceived principally as the consequence of prior growth in understanding.Adult development toward an ideal synthesis In Western traditions. Something related to this type of development in adulthood appears in the view of mature adult development espoused by Erick Eriksson (1950). peace is listed as one of nine basic emotions (Bharata. To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. Hejmadi. the Natyasastra. in his eight stages of development. 1956. Davidson & Rozin. in the Hindu tradition especially. thrill and enthusiasm may give a sense of wellbeing to individuals of a particular culture. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 12 . the idea of major transformations of the mature adult holds a special prominence in the cultures and religions of East and South Asia. the cultivation of wisdom. Ideals of stimulation and excitement contrast with ideals of peace. serenity and equanimity on the contrary may come to be experienced as indices of well-being in other cultures. there are prescribed “paths” along which the mature man is encouraged to move. 2000). compassion. However. In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. away from material success and achievement toward renunciation and spiritual attainment. In a classic and ancient Indian taxonomy of emotions. the absence of these very emotions and presence of calmness. Tsai’s findings suggest that American and East Asian cultures differ in their valuation of high-arousal positive affective states and low-arousal positive affective states. contentment. Recent work by Tsai (2007) on ideal affect illustrates the importance of a path of emotional development. resources and wisdom. By contrast. and equanimity remains an aspiration throughout life.

adjustment to norms may be relatively more important than positive emotions in determining well being in East Asians. in which material concerns are left behind in favor of a steadfast effort to connect the individual self/soul with the world in its entirety. 1985).and humility. equanimity as legitimate indices of subjective well-being. This calls for designing of better outcome measures that acknowledge calmness. predicts subjective well being as measured by standard positive psychology measures (Diener. but the ideal remains as an aspiration and inducement to live one’s earlier life stages so as to To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. 2010) when she administered the Positive and Negative Affectivity Scale to a sample of yogic practitioners in India. Freudian and other views envision a pretty level adult pathway in managing basic biological urges and meshing successfully with real world and cultural demands from the college years onward. One of the authors of this paper experienced a similar difficulty in her work (Talwar. Although these practitioners appeared certainly better adjusted and “wholesome”. Emmons. development is treated as essentially terminating at about the point where the American focus of research is. Practical difficulties prevent many men from fulfilling this ideal. peacefulness. the undergraduate years. As Suh. all of which induce gratitude. the popular Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) may be limited as a fundamental measure in psychology. Perhaps in the West and Western psychology. Diener. Talwar has collected data in India suggesting that adherence to some of the principles of wholesomeness discussed above. the path from middle age into old age #and senescence# should be a major spiritual quest. Larsen & Griffins. as measured by an instrument developed by Bhushan & Jha (2005). In the Hindu tradition in particular. Oishi and Triandis (2001) have noted. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 13 . In this respect. their subjective well-being scores were not very high.

Batchelor. the positive psychology movement. 1997. Some modern Buddhist commentators have begun to spell out the meaning and the problems associated with the metaphor (e. Magid. you will also find some that are deeply characteristic of you. It is what a person is advised to do as a result of examining his or her profile of virtues and strengths that may be debatable on cultural grounds. has begun to address the idea of development in mature adults. Indeed.g. As Seligman says (2002). 1973). Is it a good idea to build on signature strengths? The excellent taxonomy of human virtues assembled in positive psychology (Peterson and Seligman. and one of my purposes is to distinguish these from strengths that are less a part of able to realize the aspiration at the appropriate time. In some significant ways. the path metaphor can become a problem in its own right. 2004. 2008. a core idea in the practice of positive psychology is to use the VIA to identify one’s “signature strengths” and to organize one’s life around building on these strengths. As metaphor and lived reality. “When you read about these strengths. This is certainly a pro-social cultural tradition. I call the former your signature strengths. Corless. 2004) is the basis for the idea of determining how an individual measures up on these virtues (the VIA scale). This scale and procedure are important contributions to self knowledge. There is no doubt that the metaphor of path is central to religious teaching both Asian and western. the spiritual developmental path deserves serious respect and consideration by the positive psychology community. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 14 . a mind more appreciative of the blessings it has had the fortune to encounter. with its research and interventions. whereas others are not. a “path” to a more open mind. Trungpa. Thus. I do not believe that you should devote overly much effort to correcting your To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant.

furthermore. some. on the one hand. and virtues with associated character strengths. Ability: the superstar ideal. whereas others. if any. Rather. We consider this to be a reasonable life plan. 160). on the other hand. 13). occupy a central moral position.” (p. even in a western context. It seems that we may need to be careful to distinguish positive personal characteristics with moral content from those without moral content We can quickly introduce our concern about the advice to build on one’s strengths by observing that it opposes the aphorism that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. like the wisdom cluster. income and fame are To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. but we are much less certain that it is an optimal life plan. have at most a weak moral component. just as the aphorism may apply in some life domains and not others. And further. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 15 . lies in that aphorism? We address this question below. Let us begin with the talent or ability domain. like the humanity and love cluster. Seligman (2002) and others in positive psychology appropriately distinguish between talents. so the norm of accentuating one’s signature strengths at the expense of ameliorating one’s weaknesses may also have limited application. because of the ubiquity of what we will call the superstar ideal.weaknesses. Further. What wisdom.” (p. Among the virtues. “…I believe in building the good life around polishing and developing your strengths. Moreover. In much of the world influenced by western mass media and the values they project. I believe that the highest success in living and the deepest emotional satisfaction comes from building and using your signature strengths. income and fame are understood to derive from being exceptionally good at something. particularly in a western context. and then using them to buffer against your weaknesses and the trials that weakness brings.

creating a PowerPoint presentation . Michael Jordan’s failure at baseball is illustrative. The rewards and esteem they receive don’t depend on their being capable “all-round. especially in the west. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 16 . but we note that the critique we propose is aligned with concerns that we are becoming. Michael Jordan is rich and famous because he was a phenomenal basketball player. 1995). but it doesn’t matter. Michael and Meryl may or may not be skilled at caring for children.” There is no Oscar category or Hall of Fame niche for the jack-of-all-trades who is master of none. The income that results from the great strength allows them to manage the rest of their lives to compensate for shortcomings. what you are best at is what matters most. or fixing a leaky faucet. There is more recent evidence To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. It is even rare for an individual to achieve “world-class” status in two professions or other areas of accomplishment. Triandis. In the domain of ability. To put the point briefly. it seems to us that we are already at risk of over-emphasizing the development of single skills—at the expense of balance. 1991. That we honor our superstars comes as no news. Meryl Streep is a phenomenal actress. The question is whether the model that applies to superstars should be the cultural norm. a “winner-takeall” society (Frank & Cook.taken to equal success. or have become. We cannot expand on the point here. Individuals who build on a single talent strength have become culture-heroes by making sacrifices to elevate their performances to remarkable heights. They typically have built on an initial endowment that is beyond ordinary. Does an emphasis on equanimity and balance lead to more wholesome outcomes? Psychologists have discussed the distinction between harmony and agency for at least two decades (Markus & Kitayama. They can hire people with other strengths as needed. 1996).

East Asians are more inclined to emphasize selfimprovement in abilities or talents arenas where they see themselves as unaccomplished (Heine et al. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 17 . This may be in part because the virtues that make up character are more dependent on one another than the other virtues. Cultural institutions have moved in this direction. but rather his or her world record performance. We are not interested in the average 100 meter time of the world champion. or talents. Oishi & Diener. We acknowledge that our caveat about building on one’s strong abilities may represent a nostalgic nod to human history. But as we move from talents to virtues. Of course. We are not interested in the average quality of Mozart’s 41 symphonies. and especially those virtues that fall within the moral domain (“character”). 2002). in the domain of morality and judgments of character. 2001. but in the great late ones. the likelihood that East Asians will continue with the original task is inversely related to how well they have done on this task.that in comparison to Euro-Americans. and cultures have generally evolved to support more specialization. the advantages of specialization may well trump the advantages of versatility. Individuals may need to forgo repairing weak links in their chains of coordinate abilities.. the focus is on successes. To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. In the ability domain. on peak performance. being versatile was really important in our evolutionary history. It seems that increasing population density favors increased personal specialization. But as it normally plays out. which comprise increasing proportions of the world’s population. In urban environments. When given the option of continuing a task or switching to another. witness for example the decline of repertory theaters and the scarcity of doctors practicing general medicine. a good case can be made that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

wisdom. those in charge are often tempted to abuse their power.. a person who is “strong” on the virtue of honesty. at least in part.. concentration. The eight faculties in this classification are faith. of course. energy. that faculty may come to exercise unbridled control over the entire personality.As in the macrocosm of human society so in the microcosm of the human mind. Traditional Buddhism is unambiguous in emphasizing the importance of balance in the virtues. This is true even though each of the faculties is a positive trait. Most legal systems are disinclined to discount offenses if the offender also has a record of morally admirable acts. For example. This is a prime domain of negativity dominance (Rozin and Royzman. Thus. mindfulness. in terms of signature strengths.. This is. one incident of cheating. one crime of any sort can spoil our assessment of the character of an otherwise virtuous person.. An authoritative commentator on the ancient text says "if a single faculty is developed exclusively while the others.moral failings play a potent role.. 2001). joy. at the expense of focal excellence in abilities may be unwise. is an empirical question.. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 18 .are neglected or deliberately suppressed. mind. the Theravada Abhidhamma warns that emphasizing some faculties at the expense of keeping balance among them is negative and potentially dangerous. but failing in kindness might be considered to be less worthy than someone with a modest level of both virtues.. and vitality. and also because one takes them to be diagnostic of a strong tendency to commit other moral errors. and one that will no doubt vary by culture. because immoral actions are thought to be relatively rare. but balance in character may be critically important. One marital infidelity.the final result is bad: balance is disturbed and an obstacle sets in to continuous and harmonious To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. This. Balance.

This larger world comprises the great majority of humanity and offers different perspectives on the good life and how to live it. Furthermore.development" (Nyaponika. pushes toward balance. we note that many of the interventions developed by positive psychologists are oriented to adult development. It is not clear to us that the canonical list of virtues within positive psychology gives unambiguous guidance about the importance of seeking balance in one’s moral characteristics. in some or all domains of life. and increasing the meaningfulness of life in the journey from early adulthood to full maturity. 1965). To Celebrate Positive Psychology and Extend its Horizons Gordon Bermant. might promote building on strength. temperance (with components strengths of self control. Conclusion We celebrate the reorientation that positive psychology has produced in psychology and applaud many of the specific advances made by this new movement. We urge positive psychologists to pay more attention to the non Euro-American world. for example. The critical issue is whether balance. should be considered a major virtue at a level equivalent. prudence/discretion/caution and humility/modesty). to courage or temperance. Charu Talwar and Paul Rozin Page 19 . another. For example courage.

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