This presentation provides a new perspective on flourishing based on the second wave of positive psychology (PP 2.0) (Wong, 2011). It first emphasizes the importance of the contextual principle of well-being. More specifically, this principle posits that, in order to have a full understanding or account of well-being, it is essential to provide (a) the broadest possible context of the human condition, with its dark side and existential issues, and (b) specific circumstances, such as peace and prosperity or war-torn areas and poverty. Statements about well-being are not very meaningful or helpful without any reference to contextual factors. In this paper, the context is one of political turbulences, terrorist threats, and existential anxieties. 

The second emphasis is on meaning-focused coping, which includes re-appraisal, reframing problems into larger meaningful situations, tragic optimism, and existentially-oriented ABCDE coping (Acceptance, Belief, Commitment, Discovery, and Enjoyment/Evaluation) (Wong, 2012).  

Thirdly, this presentation introduces a new model for flourishing in suffering. This model consists of six components: Courage, Acceptance, Self-transcendence, Meaning, Appreciation, and Compassion (CasMac). This model complements Seligman’s (2011) PERMA model. It is predicted that CasMac is more relevant to adversities, while PERMA is more relevant to peace and prosperity. 

Finally, this presentation argues that we need a new construct of happiness or well-being—noetic or mature happiness—to complement hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, which are dominant in Western psychology. Mature happiness is characterised by inner harmony, acceptance, gratitude, contentment, and having peace with oneself, others, and the world. Such happiness is the outcome of self-cultivation with respect to spiritual and psychological maturity, and is more relevant to collectivist societies and suffering people.  

This is high time to investigate empirically this calm-oriented wellbeing experienced and sought after by millions of people in Asia. I believe that mature happiness is also relevant to the West to the extent that it may be related to a reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression. Here is my preliminary Mature Happiness Checklist: 

  1. Do you have peace in your heart? (Yes/No) 
  2. Do you feel comfortable in your own skin? (Yes/No) 
  3. Are you troubled by inner conflicts? (Yes/No) 
  4. Does your conscience bother you? (Yes/No) 
  5. Are you worried about your future? (Yes/No) 
  6. Do you feel at peace with yourself, others, and the world? (Yes/No) 
  7. Are you able to relax, whatever may come? (Yes/No) 
  8. Do you feel content, no matter where you are? (Yes/No) 
  9. Are you able to give thanks at all times? (Yes/No) 
  10. Have you let go of all your cares and burdens? (Yes/No) 

In conclusion, I point out that life is a difficult journey and risky adventure that ends in death. One needs to be armed with mental toughness and spiritual maturity as captured by CasMac in order to flourish.

References

  1. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Free Press. 
  2. Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69-81. 
  3. Wong, P. T. P. (2012). From logotherapy to meaning-centered counseling and therapy. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 619-647). New York, NY: Routledge. 

Cite

Wong, P. T. P. (2017, October 5). Meaning and flourishing in suffering. Invited talk presented at Fo Guang University, Yilan, Taiwan.