Cancer is a dreaded disease. A cancer prognosis could change one’s life in many ways. This keynote was a personal account of how I developed and tested existential positive psychology (or PP 2.0) as a resilient way to cope with cancer and suffering. After discussing the inadequacies of positive psychology (PP 1.0) as usual in coping with the horrors of human existence, and the need for PP 2.0, I proposed 12 basic rules of resilience based on time-tested wisdoms and psychological research. These principles are as follows: (1) Courage to face reality; (2) Faith in self, others and God; (3) Knowing yourself and your purpose in life; (4) Self-transcendence; (5) An appreciative attitude; (6) Compassion; (7) A growth mindset; (8) A dialectic view of life; (9) The dual-system model of coping; (10) A double vision; (11) Effective coping; and (12) Acceptance and surrendering.

Cancer is a fitting metaphor for the evil and suffering of life, because it brings pain and death to everyone, even innocent children and adults who practice a healthy lifestyle. Cancer symbolizes the inherent fragility and brevity of human life—the undeniable universal fact that no matter what we do to protect ourselves, we can all be injured physically and psychologically by toxic and violent people, broken relationships, traumatic events, pathogens, accidents, loss, aging, illness, and death.

Thus, the challenge confronting us is how we can survive, thrive, and be happy given the horrible burden of living. I proposed existential positive psychology (EPP) (Wong, 2009b, 2016a) or second wave positive psychology (PP 2.0) (Wong, 2011) precisely because of my conviction that we need a realistic and helpful answer to the tragic human condition.

Coping with the most aggressive type of prostate cancer (Gleason Score 9) allowed me to experientially test and validate the key principles of PP 2.0. This paper explains how these principles can help people live life to the fullest, even while struggling in the presence of the Grim Reaper…

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Wong, P. T. P. (2018, August 3). Living with cancer: A case for PP 2.0. Keynote presented at the 10th Biennial International Meaning Conference of the International Network on Personal Meaning, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.