Positive psychology: the science of well-being.
Seligman spent almost as long struggling out of the mode of traditional psychology. Like most psychologists of his generation, he began his career looking not at well-being but pathology. He co-authored the standard abnormal-psychology text that’s used in colleges around the country (for the 101 course of the same name, fondly called “Nuts and Sluts” when I was at school), and he did his most revolutionary work on helplessness in dogs, discovering that those who received electric shocks in a high-walled pen (from which they could not escape) probably wouldn’t try to escape once they were moved to a low-walled pen, even though they could. This phenomenon, which he called “learned helplessness,” earned him an enduring place in the field. It was a heartbreaking, pathbreaking finding, one suggesting how easy it is for living things to become prisoners of their own habits, virtual shut-ins of their own minds.
But today, Seligman is not interested in dogs that lay helpless in their pens. He’s interested in the ones that tried to escape. “Lying awake at night,” he says in his introduction to Authentic Happiness, written in 2002, “you probably ponder, as I have, how to go from plus two to plus seven in your life, not just how to go from minus five to minus three.” Going from minus five to minus three was in fact the goal of Freud, who famously declared that converting “hysterical misery into common unhappiness” was the goal of psychoanalysis. (Woody Allen, similarly, divides life into the miserable and the horrible.) “If you are such a person,” Seligman continues, “you have probably found the field of psychology to be a puzzling disappointment.”
I took the test
the article mentions and scored a three. That feels about right. I'm very happy in my current life, but I'm also incredibly pessimistic about the future of the human race and I don't especially look forward to my own inevitable decline, either. (via MetaFilter