This President’s Annual Report was part of the International Network on Personal Meaning’s (INPM) official Board of Directors’ report for the 2021 Annual General Meeting. The full report could be accessed here.
When you read the above title, you may ask anxiously: Are you really dying? My answer is: Not yet, but I may die anytime, given that I am a cancer survivor in my 80s.
The title “My last word” is inspired by Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch’s 2007 lecture titled “My last lecture” which has been viewed by more than 20 million people. I hope that more people will be curious about finding out what my last word is.
I will not bore you with an account of my accomplishments for the INPM in 2021 because I have already reported that in a recent article on The Suffering Hypothesis: How the New Science Supports the Ancient Wisdom of Meaningful Suffering (Wong, 2021a).
My Vision for the INPM
My last word is about how to continue my vision for the INPM, a non-profit I started in 1998 to advance Viktor Frankl’s (1946/1985, 1946/1986, Wong 2021b) logotherapy and my vision of developing integrative meaning therapy (Wong, 2010, 2020a) and the existential positive psychology (PP2.0) of suffering (Wong, 2009, 2012, 2019).
As an Asian psychologist, blazing a new trail of integrating existentialism with positive psychology has been an uphill battle (2020b). However, during this pandemic, more and more people began to recognize that we need to understand how to transcend suffering in order to survive and thrive. Signs of this paradigm shift are evident in a special issue on the new science of existential positive psychology (PP2.0) (Wong et al., 2021) and the following 2021 webinars:
- The Surprising New Science of Suffering at the Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program
- Self-Transcendence: The Key to Wellbeing at the University of Hong Kong
- The Meaning of Suffering at the Spirituality and Science Forum
- Flourishing Through Suffering at the Human Flourishing Engineering Institute
It is gratifying that Scott Barry Kaufman referred to me as a “legendary” psychologist in his top-rated Psychology Podcast. Even though I remain an underrated minority psychologist, I am confident that the INPM’s mission will continue after I am gone.
A New Formula of Enduring Happiness and Global Wellbeing
The legacy of my life’s work is that it has provided a missing link in wellbeing research and offers a new formula of sustainable happiness (Wong & Bowers, 2018; Wong et al., under revision) – the missing factor is existential or life intelligence (LQ).
According to this new perspective, LQ is needed to transcend existential suffering (Wong & Yu, 2021), which affects everyone without exceptions. Such inescapable suffering comes from the ultimate concerns (Yalom, 1980) and inherent human frailty and evil (Fowers et al., 2017). Without understanding the secrets of living a deep life (Wong & Worth, 2017; Wong et al., 2021), such inescapable suffering not only impedes flourishing, but also contributes to mental illness and suicide (Soper, 2021).
We need LQ to reduce or transform suffering so that we will not only have less miseries but also more happiness (Wong, 2021c). This new factor explains why some of the happiest individuals are Buddhist monks, such as Matthieu Ricard (Shontell, 2020). This new view is similar to Lok Sang Ho’s (2011) formula of LIFE for enduring happiness.
The ABCs of flourishing through suffering functions like the seven principles of LQ (Wong et al., under revision):
- Accept life as it is with gratitude.
- Believe in creating a better tomorrow with God’s help.
- Committed to loving life, self, others, and nature.
- Discover the meaning of life and meaning of suffering.
- Enjoy life and make the best use of one’s time.
- Fortitude in transcending limitations and obstacles.
- Go deeper by transforming the dark side of life.
The above seven existential competencies are based on the positive psychology research of the West and the enduring wisdom of the East; it is a promising path to living a full life and achieving global wellbeing.
Currently, I am collaborating with other researcher to develop a new economics of happiness and a workbook of how to turn suffering into flourishing with Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program, University of Chicago’s Human Nature and Potentials Lab, and Pan Sutong Shanghai-HK Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.
The Future of the INPM
While I am rather successful in advancing the research mission of the INPM, I have failed to develop a business model to support the mission. For example, my Facebook fundraiser, to support the editing and uploading of videos to the INPM’s YouTube Channel, is a failure but Professor Shu-Mei Chang’s donation of $10,000 CAD saved the day. Our annual financial report indicates our need for a marketing person and a fundraiser on our official Board.
Few people understand a founder’s sorrow. For almost 20 years, I have not been able to attract good people from either the existential camp or the positive psychology camp to become Board members or take over my position as president and CEO of the INPM.
Given the prevailing tribal mentality, our integrative transdisciplinary approach is still not perceived as a good career move. My last word is to plea for visionary leaders who believe in our mission to step forward so that I can pass on the torch to them. Please respond to my call before it is too late.
- Fowers, B. J., Richardson, F. C., & Slife, B. D. (2017). Frailty, suffering, and vice: Flourishing in the face of human limitations. American Psychological Association.
- Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning. Washington Square Press. (Originally published in 1946)
- Frankl, V. E. (1986). The doctor and the soul: From psychotherapy to logotherapy. Second Vintage Books. (Originally published in 1946)
- Ho, L. S. (2011). Human spirituality and happiness: A tribute to life and the source of inspirations, the source of hope, the source of joy. AuthorHouse UK.
- Shontell, A. (2020, September 20). A 69-year-old monk who scientists call the ‘world’s happiest man’ says the secret to being happy takes just 15 minutes a day. The Independent UK. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/a-69yearold-monk-who-scientists-call-the-world-s-happiest-man-says-the-secret-to-being-happy-takes-just-15-minutes-a-day-a7869166.html
- Soper, C. A. (2021). The evolution of life worth living: Why we choose to live. C. A. Soper.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2009). Existential positive psychology. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Encyclopedia of positive psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 361-368). Wiley Blackwell.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2010). Meaning therapy: An integrative and positive existential psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy: On the Cutting Edge of Modern Developments in Psychotherapy, 40(2), 85–93. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-009-9132-6
- Wong, P. T. P. (Ed.). (2012). The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed.). Routledge.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2019, November 21). Why and How I Developed the Positive Psychology of Suffering. Dr. Paul T. P. Wong. http://www.drpaulwong.com/why-and-how-i-developed-the-positive-psychology-of-suffering/
- Wong, P. T. P. (2020a). Existential Positive Psychology and Integrative Meaning Therapy. International Review of Psychiatry. Doi:10.1080/09540261.2020.1814703
- Wong, P. T. P. (2020b). The Unheard Cry of a Successful Asian Psychologist. The Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2020.1820430
- Wong, P. T. P. (2021a). The Suffering Hypothesis: How the New Science Supports the Ancient Wisdom of Meaningful Suffering [President’s Column]. Positive Living Newsletter. http://www.drpaulwong.com/the-suffering-hypothesis-how-the-new-science-supports-the-ancient-wisdom-of-meaningful-suffering
- Wong, P. T. P. (2021b). The Frankl cure for the 21st century: Why self-transcendence is the key to mental health and flourishing. The International Forum for Logotherapy, 41(2), 33-50. Doi: 10.31234/osf.io/tbx3f
- Wong, P. T. P. (2021c). Existential Positive Psychology (PP2.0) and global wellbeing: Why it is Necessary During the Age of COVID-19. International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology, 10(1), 1-16. https://www.meaning.ca/ijepp-article/vol10-no1/what-is-existential-positive-psychology-pp-2-0-why-is-it-necessary-for-mental-health-during-the-pandemic/
- Wong, P. T. P., & Bowers, V. (2018). Mature happiness and global wellbeing in difficult times. In N. R. Silton (Ed.), Scientific concepts behind happiness, kindness, and empathy in contemporary society (pp. 112-134). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
- Wong, P. T. P., & Worth, P. (2017). The deep-and-wide hypothesis in giftedness and creativity [Special issue]. Psychology and Education, 54(3/4). http://www.psychologyandeducation.net/pae/category/volume-54-no-3-4-2017/
- Wong, P. T. P., & Yu, T. T. F. (2021). Existential suffering in palliative care: An existential positive psychology perspective. Medicina, 57(9), 924. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina57090924
- Wong, P. T. P., Cowden, R. G., & van Zyl, L. E. (under revision). The seven principles of flourishing through suffering: Shifting the paradigm of positive psychology. Frontiers.
- Wong, P. T. P., Mayer, C.-H., & Arslan, G. (Eds.). (2021). Special Issue: COVID-19 and Existential Positive Psychology (PP 2.0): The new science of self-transcendence [Special Issue]. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/14988/covid-19-and-existential-positive-psychology-pp20-the-new-science-of-self-transcendence
- Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. Basic Books.