Second Wave Positive Psychology (PP 2.0), consisting of 2 pillars – Existential Positive Psychology and Indigenous Psychology – emerges to complement Seligman’s Positive Psychology’s limitations.  This special issue illustrates PP 2.0’s contributions to counselling psychology in the following principles and practices: (1) Accepting and confronting the reality that life is full of evil and suffering with existential courage. Making this reality the foundation for building meaningful life, 2) Transforming all negative aspects of life through meaning, (3) Recognizing that everything in life comes in polarity and the importance of dialectics, and (4) Seeking inner harmony, serenity and contentment as the sustainable happiness in good and bad situations.


Positive Psychology (PP), as championed by Seligman (1999; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000), emphasizes the importance of positive emotions and positive traits; it has a lot to offer to counselling psychology – an allied field with its emphasis on client strengths, resilience, and the positive aspects of human functioning (Lopez et al, 2006). PP also implicitly shares the value of individualism and instrumentalism in Western societies.

Regarding the meaning in life, an important topic for counselling psychology, Seligman (2002) defines it this way: “Use your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” (p. 263). Here, he elevates the pursuit of happiness to the high ground of altruism. Later, Seligman (2011) moves PP from the smiley face to a broader conception of wellbeing: “The good life is using your signature strengths every day to produce authentic happiness and abundant gratification.” (Seligman, 2011, p. 20). PP’s research programs are mostly directed to conditions and outcomes of wellbeing when life is in neutral and positive territories.

Seligman’s vision of the good life represents an idealized conception of the human condition. It is extremely appealing because it offers a painless way to living a fulfilling life:

“The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power, or goodness. A life that does this is pregnant with meaning, and if God comes at the end, such a life is sacred” (Seligman, 2011, p. 224).

A more realistic view of the good life can be found in the following quotes from another influential positive psychologist, Robert Emmons, at about the same time as Seligman’s launching of positive psychology:

“The good life is not one that is achieved through momentary pleasures or defensive illusions, but through meeting suffering head on and transforming it into opportunities for meaning, wisdom, and growth, with the ultimate objective being the development of the person into a fully-functioning, mature being. On this formula for happiness, age-old wisdom and modern science are in agreement.” (Emmons, 2003, p. 156)

“To deny that life has its share of disappointments, frustrations, losses, hurts, setbacks, and sadness would be unrealistic and untenable. Life is suffering. No amount of positive thinking exercises will change this truth.” (Emmons, 2013).

In light of these two contrasting visions, it is clear that Seligman’s Pollyanna view leaves out suffering as an inevitable part of living. His prescription for the good life may work only in a perfect world without evil people, and without suffering. But in reality, all people suffer for any of the following reasons:

  • Some people create their own hell with their unfettered desires and evil schemes to hurt others for their own gains and suffer the consequences.
  • Some people are victims of natural disasters, accidents, life circumstances, and fate.
  • Some people are suffering from their inner demons, painful memories, character defects or self-destructive habits.
  • Most people suffer from the social reality of dominance hierarchy, unequal distribution of opportunities, and ever widening income gap.
  • A small group of people suffer for their willingness to sacrifice and die pursuing the narrow and difficult path of truth, justice, and compassion.

 Why is Second Wave Positive Psychology Necessary?

Complementing PP’s focus on neutral and positive territories of life, PP 2.0 recognizes that for most people, life is lived in negative territories. Individuals can be hurt or injured at all levels – personal, interpersonal, and societal. In an authoritarian society, innocent people can be tortured and killed for their beliefs. In a free society, smart people motivated by the single-minded pursuit of personal happiness and success. Aided by the desire for wealth and digital power, they can also destroy many lives, if they are not morally constrained by their conscience and fear of God.

Second Wave Positive Psychology (PP 2.0) as conceptualized by Wong (2011), proposes that the most promising strategy to accomplish the mission of PP is to confront the dark side of human existence and understand the unique experiences and expressions of wellbeing in different cultures. Thus, PP 2.0 emphasizes the existential universal on the one hand, and the indigenous cultural expression on the other.

In sum, PP 2.0 is an umbrella terms for a more nuanced and more balanced approach to PP. More specifically, the two pillars of PP 2.0 are Existential Positive Psychology (Wong, 2009b, 2016a) and Indigenous Psychology (Chang, Downey, Hirsch, & Lin, 2016; Wong, 2013, Wong, 2016b). These two themes are complementary to each other, resulting in a Positive Psychology with greater depth and breadth. The following basic tenets set PP 2.0 apart as distinct from PP.

Accepting that Life is Full of Evil and Suffering

Throughout human history, in everyday news, and from our own personal experience, we know that suffering is an undeniable self-evident reality. We also know that suffering is not something that can be ignored or avoided; it is something that is lurking at every corner or existing just below the surface ready to break into the open and disrupt our lives.  Suffering can rob us of our mental health, if not adequately dealt with, just as pathogens can rob us of our physical health if they are not treated. In their edited volume on interdisciplinary perspectives on suffering. Malpas & Lickiss (2012) conclude that suffering is universal; suffering involves a negative emotion and poses a harm or threat of harm to the body and the mind.

A major source of suffering comes from human nature’s evil tendencies of exploiting the weak and vulnerable and inflicting cruelty on innocent people for selfish gains. Evil has always been part of human history, from the Holocaust, to the slave trade, from human trafficking, to countless wars and conflicts. The same ruthless story of big-fish-eat-small-fish is played out in endless variations of characters and contexts, from the richest countries to the poorest ones. People continue to inflict pain on others to satisfy their own desires for happiness, wealth, and power.

Evil, in whatever disguise, is still evil. Whether it appears as a shining angel, or speaks the language of justice and compassion, whether it is in your family or in your church, evil always plays the same destructive game of deception, treachery, exploitation, oppression, and taking advantage of others. Just as a tree is known by its fruits, evil is known for bringing suffering and injuries to many innocent people.

Often, evil is the outcome of willful ignorance, when we refuse to learn the difference, between good and evil, right and wrong, and when we refuse to recognize our own limitations, blind spots, and the evil in our hearts. Evil does not disappear when we ignore its existence and focus on going about our daily business or pursuing happiness.  By ignoring its existence, people actually are complicit in allowing evil to grow.

In addition to coping with evil, which has permeated every aspect of our lives, we also have to contend with suffering from natural disasters, sickness, losses from advanced age, and the process of dying. The daily stress from competitions, human conflicts, frustrations, and harassments can consume our positive energy and contribute to our negative emotions. In fact, even the pursuit of happiness is a source of suffering (Wong, 2007). Gruber et al. (2011) has documented that people who are in hot pursuit of happiness tend to be more depressed, miserable, and unhappy.

Research shows that psychological pain, whatever the cause, can be best overcome by directly accepting it (Linehan, 1993), by confronting rather than suppressing it (Cioffi & Holloway, 1993), and by transforming its meaning (López-Solà, Koban, & Wager, 2018). The research aboveshows that it is more adaptive to accept and transform suffering than to avoid it.

In the viewpoint of the research above, it seems unrealistic to only investigate what makes us happy or what is right and good with us in a neutral or positive context. That is why PP 2.0 is concerned with a deeper question: what brings out the best in all people in their strivings for survival and flourishing in challenging situations.

PP 2.0 asserts that it is only through embracing the dark side of human existence and wrestling with ultimate concerns that we can uplift humanity and improve the human condition (Wong, 2016a). PP 2.0 deals with the deepest fears and yearnings of human beings and captures the triumph of the defiant human spirit over the dark abyss of existential pain.

That is why PP 2.0 is necessary to confront and transform suffering through meaning and meaning-focused interventions. Meaningful living and sustainable wellbeing depend on embracing and transforming suffering (Frankl, 1985; Peterson, 2018; Wong, 2018; 2019).

Emphasizing the Dynamic Balance Between Opposites Though Dialectics

A basic tenet of PP is that positive emotions and negative emotions are separate constructs or dimensions. Thus, the lack of negative emotions does not guarantee positive emotions, and the absence of positive emotion does not always mean the presence of negative emotions. PP focuses on doing things to optimize positive emotions without being overly concerned about negative emotions.

Focusing only on the positive has proven to be a very effective strategy in the early stages of development. But as PP matures, it needs to be more balanced and nuanced in order to broaden its empirical base and become more relevant to the suffering masses in chronic, malignant conditions.

PP 2.0 proposes that the best way to build up and maintain positive emotions is to confront, accommodate, or transform negative emotions at the same time, because everything in nature exists in polarity. Whenever there is something positive or good, there is always something negative or bad, and vice versa.

Therefore, optimal character development or happiness does not depend on building up only the positive but depends on navigating the optimal balance between positive and negative for each context. PP 2.0 seeks such a balance through the dialectical interplay between positive and negative in adaptation (Ivtzan, I., Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Worth, P., 2015; Ivtzan & Lomas, 2016; McMahan, et al., 2015; Wong, 2011, 2012).

Incorporating Indigenous Positive Psychology

In addition, indigenous positive psychology emphasizes that what is human universal is experienced and expressed differently in different cultures. Fleming, Manning, and Miller (2019) have documented health and wellbeing in various different cultures and indigenous peoples. Tsai (2007) shows that ideal affect or the emotion that people desire most varies across cultures. Eid & Diener (2001) found evidence for different norms for experiencing emotions in different cultures. Individualistic and collectivistic nations differed most strongly in norms for self-reflective emotions (e.g., pride and guilt), with the former considering prides as a desirable emotion, and the latter considering guilt a desirable emotion. Thus, Chang et. al (2016) proposed that the second call for action for PP is integrating indigenous positive psychology in different ethnical/racial groups with mainstream research.

There is so much that we can learn from some ancient cultures, such as indigenous Chinese psychology.  One important contribution to positive psychology is the Dialectic Principle (Peng & Nisbett, 1999). Wong’s (2012) Dual-system Model argues this Dialectic Principle is essential for achieving a balanced, good life, not by accentuating the positive and avoiding the negative, but by embracing and integrating both positive and negative experiences.

Brunner (1986, 1990) conceptualizes meaning not only from a person-centered perspective, but from cultural anthropology. In honouring his contribution, Shweder (2008, p.62) explains the need to understand how meaning and value are shaped culturally:

“Meanings mediate the connection between stimulus and response; hence, an unmediated stimulus (the pristine thing, in and of itself, as a ‘‘noumena’’) is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a response. Moreover, where there are many human minds living together there are traditions of historically made, normatively endorsed and received meanings; that is to say, across time and space there are and have been many durable and locally credible ways to picture and value the world.”

In sum, PP 2.0 is inherently cross-cultural, existential, and much more complex than the American brand of PP. The aim of PP 2.0 is to bring out the best in humanity, individually and collectively, in spite of suffering and evil. Secondly, PP 2.0 favors the dialectical principle of yin and yang as a more realistic way to enhance positive mental health. Consequently, PP 2.0 does not confine itself to neutral or positive territories; it covers the totality of human experiences and is relevant to under-privileged and suffering people in all cultures.

PP 2.0’s Implications for Counselling Psychology

PP 2.0 has important implications for counselling and therapy by opening up new approaches to human problems. Several important implications for research and applications can be derived from PP 2.0. By providing several examples, this special issue proves that PP 2.0 adds both depth and breadth, along with new perspectives in counselling psychology.

The main argument for PP 2.0 in the special issues is that vulnerability is an inherent condition of being alive. We are always emotionally and physically vulnerable. Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and pain are an inevitable part of our experience. The good news is that embracing our vulnerability to failure and pain may be the best way to discover or create something of value.

The Universality of Suffering: Embrace it With Courage

PP 2.0 turns PP on its head. Instead of avoiding suffering, it argues that embracing suffering is the foundation and building blocks of healing and thriving in the practice of psychology. Although counselling psychology does not focus on psychopathy, suffering remains the main concern. Whether the presenting problem is loneliness, grieving, meaninglessness, or uncertainty about one’s future, our clients are seeking professional help to reduce their psychological pain and increase their wellbeing.

Even though we do not seek out suffering, it is an inextricable aspect of some of the most valuable things we all seek. There is the pain of separation between two individuals passionately in love. There is a deep sorrow within loving parents who grieve the loss of a child. Scaling the mountaintop of achievement in any domain involves rigorous training, personal sacrifices, setbacks, and stretching oneself in spite of pain. Suffering is the price of we pay for being fully human.  It is unfortunate that within the PP community, there remains some resistance to the idea that life is suffering (Wong, in press). As long as there are desires, ignorance, and selfishness, there will be conflicts and sufferings. As long as there is life and consciousnesses, there is suffering. However, out the dirty soil of evil and suffering emerges the noble souls of courage, resilience, and virtues.

PP 2.0 considers all unpleasant and undesirable events and emotions as necessary for personal growth. It does not differentiate between positive psychology and negative psychology; but emphasized that we become better and stronger people by synthesizing both positive and negative experiences. Different schools of psychology have different interpretations of suffering, but they all concur that suffering is an inevitable aspect of living, and mental health depends how we react to this reality.

From the perspective of meaning therapy, the theme of suffering runs through all its interventions:

1) Learning look at life realistically so that we don’t suffer unnecessarily from our negative biases or distorted views.

2) Developing courage and optimism, so that we will not suffering from exaggerated fear, despair and the consequences of giving up.

3) Cultivating inner resources and coping skills, so that we don’t suffer too much stress.

4) Striving towards a worthy life goal, so that we don’t suffer from boredom or meaninglessness.

5) Enduing the pain of change and growth, so that we can live more productive and fulfilling lives.

When we look at the world stage, no country is free from suffering. In counties ravaged by war and dire poverty, life is a living hell, and the massive dislocation of refugees for safety and a better life poses a humanitarian crisis. One cannot imagine how any positive psychology interventions can effectively improve their wellbeing.

Even in affluent North America, suffering remain an inevitable part of life.  No matter how privileged one may be, no one can be immune from the pain and suffering brought on from diseases and injuries, or from psychological pain of from a variety of traumatic experiences, such as loss of a loved one, or the helplessness from feeling trapped in a toxic relationship.

On any ordinary day, no matter how we much we want to employ our character strength to create authentic happiness and a better future, we have to do the hard work of battling with our shadow of repressed painful emotions, the inner negative voices of failure or futility, the natural tendency of inertia, and the vexation from daily hazzles and interpersonal frictions.  It is some kind of suffering that drives people to seek professional help.

From the perspective of PP 2.0, psychologists need to make suffering an ally for positive transformation. The need to encourage clients to be strong and courageous in the face of hardships as an antidote to suffering:

  • Say yes to life and move forward, no matter what;
  • Face an uncertain future and all the mountains before you;
  • Endure the pain and darkness, believing that it will pass;
  • Stand up for what you believe, even if it means death;
  • Fight against injustice and oppression, whatever the cost;
  • Pursue your ideal, no matter how powerful the opposition;
  • Pursue your life goals, fearless of failures or setbacks.

This is the necessary first step towards the building of wellbeing and resilience. For years, I have argued that it is not possible to achieve sustainable happiness and wellbeing without considering the dark side of human existence, as it is impossible for physicians and medical scientists to improve physical health without addressing the reality of pathogens and pain (Thin et al., 2017; Wong & Bowers, 2018). Anderson (2014) in his edited book World Suffering and Quality of Life documented that how we react to suffering has important implications to wellbeing.

Post-traumatic growth is already a well-established area of research (Joseph and Linley, 2006; Tedeschi, Shakespeare-Finch, Taku & Calhoun, 2018).  Generally, people who experience post-traumatic growth become stronger with a better sense of resiliency and wisdom, become more compassionate and better in relationships, tend to re-evaluate their priorates, have increased appreciation for life, and undergo positive changes in their spiritual beliefs. The same growth principle can be applied to all kinds of commonplace suffering. That is why it seems more beneficial to treat healing and thriving not as two separate disciplines but as two sides of the same coin.

Past History of Different Psychological Approaches to Transforming Suffering

According to Freud (1946), the id, ego, and superego are in a constant battle with each other: “Consequently, conflict is as much a part of normalcy as it is of pathology.” (Jones and Butman, 1991, p. 72). Any material that threatens ego consciousness are repressed by the unconscious region. We become mentally healthy only when we make the unconscious conscious, through overcoming defense mechanisms. From a psychoanalytical and Jewish perspective, David Bakan (1968) considered suffering as an inherent aspect of ego consciousness, essential for redeeming the soul from evil.

Jung (1981) assumed that suffering is inherent in the design of the psyche, which consists of three parts: the conscious, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious.  The collective unconscious contains various archetypes, such as Persona and Shadow. The Shadow represents the dark site of personality – the chaotic and wild aspects.  It is a painful process to confront one’s Shadow, but it is necessary for personal growth and creativity.

Existential philosophy/psychology has the most to contribute to existential suffering (Cooper, 2016). Camus’ Sisyphus (1955) was condemned by the gods to roll a stone to the top of a mountain with enormous effort only to see it roll back to the bottom, thus symbolizing the absurdity of life. But at the end of the story, Camus wrote that Sisyphus must be happy, because he dared to defy the gods and performed the difficult task willingly and creatively. Thus, Sisyphus was able to transform the hopeless ordeal by virtue of his defiant attitude and meaning making.

Yalom (1980, 1981) considered our awareness of ultimate concerns – death, isolation, freedom and meaninglessness – and its accompanying existential pain the root of psychopathology, because of our defence mechanisms that prevent us from facing the reality of human existence. Existential therapy challenge people to take responsibility to live a meaningful life through creative work and better relationships.

Frankl (1985) considered human beings as homo patients (suffering beings), who are born to endure physical pain (diseases, and injuries), psychological suffering (stress, hardships, mental disorders) and spiritual distress (lack of a meaningful life, moral dilemmas). To the above list, Langle (2008) added the experience of self-alienation – of not being truly oneself.  Meaninglessness is “an existential despair and a spiritual distress rather than an emotional disease or a mental illness” (Frankl, 1977, p. 141).

Suffering not only provides the impetus for the search for meaning, but also makes one stronger. Citing Nietzsche, Frankl emphasized that what does not kill you makes you stronger.  Makeson (1998) pointed out that people need to move from asking “Why do I suffer”, which is an unanswerable mystery of human experience, to asking “for whom and for what do I suffer?”, which enables us to understand suffering fully and facilitates meaning making.

Alan T. Bates (2016) in addressing existential suffering for palliative care points out that this kind of suffering is related to a number of clinical issues, including reduced quality of life, increased anxiety and depression, suicidal ideation, and the desire for hastened death in patients. He suggests that physicians can redirect them from existential suffering to a sense of silver-lining through meaning making:

“Patients with terminal illness know they are not a unique exception to universality, and they often know what is going to kill them (a personalized causality). They are also likely experiencing irreversible physical deterioration (nonfunctionality). They have fallen into the same cave as everyone else, it is getting darker and narrower as time goes by, and they even know what unfortunate companion is pushing them along. Hopefully, they can also realize they are still free to explore some of the cave’s more beautiful features, to draw or write on the walls, to show courage in exploring some of the uncharted alcoves, and to map out some of the more treacherous terrain for others who will follow.”  By the same token, people can benefit learning how to cope with their everyday struggles with stress, disappointments, losses, and betrayal.

The most important paradoxical principle of second wave positive psychology (PP 2.0) is that strength and wholeness come from vulnerabilities. Therefore, what makes us uncomfortable, and what we want to hide or avoid, is exactly what we need to confront and embrace in order to attain healing, growth, and wholeness. This paradoxical insight comes from the best minds of psychoanalytical and existential psychology

Transforming Negatives into Positives Through Meaning

Meaning therapy (Wong, 2016c) employs several interventions to transform negatives into positives. These include reappraisal, reframing a trauma into a larger and meaningful narrative, and re-authoring to transform oneself from a victim to a hero.

In this special issue, Carreno and Perez-Escobar (2019) critiqued the medical model that addiction is a brain disease and calls for a pluralistic approach. They emphasize that addiction may result from failure in self-regulation, relational problems, a lack of meaning, evasion of guilt, an inability to cope with the dark side of life, and maladaptive ways to seek positive emotion.  They propose a meaning-centered approach for addiction recovery.

Lomas (2019) offers a comprehensive overview of empirical research on anger as a moral emotion in response to perceived transgression; he proposes that in counselling situations, some clients’ anger can be endowed with positive meaning through reframing it as a moral emotion.

Based on the principles of PP 2.0, Thoma (2019) describes how we can transform emotional suffering into flourishing through the Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy’s descriptive phenomenology of affective states. Armstrong et al. (2018) describes a program they have developed to meet the unique needs of gifted school children – The D.R.E.A.M (Developing Resilience through Emotions, Attitudes, and Meaning) Program – grounded in rational emotive attachment logotherapy.

Jans-Beken and Wong (2019) define existential gratitude as having an appreciation towards life itself and counting one’s blessings even in times of trouble. They present the initial validity data of the Existential Gratitude Survey, which captures the existential, spiritual dimension of dispositional gratitude. They also include a description of the existential gratitude exercise (Three Blessings) (Wong, 2016a) to transform the negative reaction to trauma to positive meaning – an exercise recognized by Ryff (2016) as innovative meaning intervention.

Emphasizing the Dynamic Balance through the Dialectical and Paradoxical Principles

According to the paradoxical principle, our strength comes from facing and overcoming our vulnerabilities. We are never as vulnerable as when we fall in love or pursue a dream, yet “love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness” – a quote commonly attributed to Freud.  Similarly, our mental health comes from naming and confronting our existential triad of shame, guilt, and fear (Wong, 2018) as the foundation for our wellbeing.

According to PP 2.0, long-term wellbeing for individuals and institutions can be best achieved by embracing and transforming the dark side of human existence. Thus, we will more likely live authentically and fully when we are willing to confront our own mortality (Wong & Tomer, 2011) and make the best use of our limited time on earth (Wong, 2016a). Similarly, we will more likely succeed in creating virtuous positive organizations by taking appropriate measures to weed out and prevent toxic elements like bullying (Wong, Ivtzan, & Lomas, 2017).

We cannot be truly optimistic without considering the dark reality, and we cannot be truly happy without taking into account all the things that make us unhappy. This paradoxical principle is inescapable; the positive cannot be isolated from its negative—but rather must recognize and accommodate it—because everything exists in polarity and human nature is holistic or unitary. Thus, for optimism to be stable, it needs to confront the negative reality, as proposed by Frankl in his concept of tragic optimism (Frankl, 1985; Wong, 2009b).

Leung’s paper (this issue) has shown the importance of accepting suffering by fortifying one’s mind with courage and tragic optimism in overcoming traumas. Such mental toughness better prepares one for the battles ahead than the false expectation that life is like a cakewalk or a joyride in Disneyland.

Furthermore, we do not know happiness without the experience of sadness; you become stronger by overcoming pain, more optimistic by daring to hope in hopeless situations. Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Fundamental to this paradoxical view of life is the belief that everything in nature exists in polarity. As Li et al. (this issue) has shown, positive and negative psychological processes are intricately linked.

Accommodating the ironies and paradoxes of life is also important for mental health, because it teaches people the important virtue of being prudent in all things, thus avoiding the excesses of too much or too little in favour of the golden mean, as shown by Niemiec (this issue) in his consideration of the proper use of character strengths in coping with life suffering.

By thinking of the opposite, one will not stay in despair and depression for long in adversity, because it provides both the reason and motivation to improve one’s condition. Likewise, one will not be over the top in success, because one considers the possibility of falling.

Newitt, Worth, and Smith (this issue), in their synthesis of narrative identity literature, suggest that polarity might play an important role in creating complex meanings of life. Meaning-making is seen as a dynamic equilibrium between polarities in experiences.

Flora (this issue) investigates how the dialectic process of “positive” and “negative” captures the complexity of wellbeing and other psychological processes in psychotherapy. Jans-Beken (this issue) demonstrates the dialectic dynamics for alleviating clinical symptoms and enhancing subjective wellbeing. Leontiev (this issue) presents evidence that loneliness can be best understood by embracing both the negative and positive aspects of being alone.

Indigenous Psychology

Hwang (this issue) contributes to the integration between humanistic psychology and positive psychology through his mandala model of self, as influenced by Daoism. In a similar vein, Cohen and Bai (this issue) present a case study using Daoism’s concept of qi-infused creativity to demonstrate the possibility of integrating and transforming negative experiences in the service of moving towards a holistic self.

Zhang (this issue) provides a Yangming theory of mind as a framework consistent with Wong’s meaning therapy. He then explains the important implications of Wong’s PURE model of meaning in life and Wong’s dual-system model for the Chinese community’s mental health service.

Mature Happiness

PP 2.0 proposes that sustainable happiness and wellbeing depends on embracing the reality of suffering and cultivating inner harmony and serenity. The best proof of the validity of this view is the Buddhist psychology of happiness, which is based on the basic Buddhist tenets that life is suffering and happiness is based on relieving suffering.

Matthieu Ricard (2008), a Buddhist monk known as the happiest person in the world, demonstrates that happiness is a deep state of wellbeing despite the inevitability of suffering; such mature happiness can be cultivated through practicing moderation in all things, as well as meditation. Similarly, Wong and Bowers (2018) has described how one can overcome suffering and negative emotions through transcending the dark side of life and spiritual cultivation. Bowers (this issue) furthers this line of research by presenting a transpersonal perspective of cultivating mature happiness through spiritual development and transcendental experience.


Life is full of evil and suffering. Deep down, we are all inherently vulnerable to being injured physically and psychologically in a world full of dangers and risks. Our core psychological vulnerability is our fear of making the wrong decision, trusting the wrong person, choosing the wrong career, or being inadequate for the task, resulting in failure and shame. Such feelings reflect both realistic worries and existential anxiety of being thrown into a chaotic world (Heidegger, 1996).

PP 2.0 points out that, paradoxically, it is this deep-seated sense of inadequacy that drives us to reach out to others, to God, and to the path of developing our potentials to pursue something worthwhile. A counselling psychology informed by PP 2.0 will consider suffering and vulnerability as stepping stones for personal growth, but it takes courage, faith, and a dialectical mindset to achieve an adaptive, balanced life and mature happiness in a chaotic and dangerous world.

The various articles in this special issue illustrate how future research and interventions from the perspective of PP 2.0 can vastly deepen and enrich counselling practices. They also highlight the fact that human emotions are complex and positive mental health depends on our ability to embrace ambivalent emotions and transform negative emotions into positive ones. It is fitting to conclude this editorial with this quote:

“PP 2.0 teaches that suffering is the bedrock for everything good in life.  Its biggest insight is that one cannot enjoy wellbeing without overcoming the toxins in one’s life; one can’t grow without enduring the pain of pruning; and one can’t live meaningfully without coming to terms with fear of death. Those who view life as an endless battle are more likely to survive and thrive than those who view life as an endless party. A great life can be achieved only by those who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices for a better future. Look for pleasant surprises of hope and joy in all the dark places!” (Wong, 2018, p.10)


Wong, P. T. P. (2019, July 31). Second wave Positive Psychology’s (PP. 2.0) Contribution to Counselling Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.drpaulwong.com/second-wave-positive-psychologys-contribution-to-counselling-psychology/


  1. Anderson, R. E. (Ed.). (2014). World Suffering and Quality of Life. New York, NY: Springer.
  2. Armstrong, L.L., Desson, S., St. John, E., & Watt, E.(2018). The D.R.E.A.M. program: developing resilience through emotions, attitudes, & meaning (gifted edition) – a second wave positive psychology approach [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2018.1559798
  3. Bakan, D. (1968). Disease, Pain and Sacrifice Toward a Psychology of Suffering. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  4. Bates, A. T. (2016). Addressing Existential Suffering. British Columbia Medical Journal, 58(5), 268-273. Retrieved from https://www.bcmj.org/articles/addressing-existential-suffering
  5. Bowers, V. (in press). Transpersonal Psychology and Mature Happiness in the Context of Counseling. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Abstract retrieved from https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ccpq?PARAMS=xik_KvVjV2E8E3q5jbyKjYf4bED9JtZ6kF43kAGVMhX2bWsU72jH3b9892cFeTf1DYjmB3ru1htByM9bLpkjrnrh4xGLWhirUMvJDHSNdR5ZrbaMmK9hyfuLU4q7V8vyKna6pRAU62yDKQkyFXjRuYwAbtDnEVLRvtTr3N7Q1UHKcRQM3Mi2QEGtsN1Vc6fejhyMQTtXrrB4vWoMZKc8iZXuKBm1e4DZN7hMgMtVnJrsSvHUn218SrgKsav38n14S5d5YYstsLM9d7MWk4Dedjhm9TAU7uE5eJJg1YzDv63n9JQD7ohxx6
  6. Brunner, J. S. (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  7. Brunner, J. S. (1990). Acts of Meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  8. Camus, A. (1955). The Myth of Sisyphus. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
  9. Carreno, D. F., & Pérez-Escobar, J. A. (2019). Addiction in existential positive psychology (EPP, PP 2.0): from a critique of the brain disease model towards a meaning-centered approach [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2019.1604494
  10. Chang, E.C., Downey, C. A., Hirsch, J. K. & Lin, N. J. (Eds.). (2016). Positive Psychology in Racial and Ethnic Groups: Theory, Research, and Practice (Cultural, Racial, and Ethnic Psychology). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.
  11. Cioffi, D., & Holloway, J. (1993). Delayed costs of suppressed pain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(2), 274-282. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.64.2.274
  12. Cohen, A., & Bai, H. (2019) Eastern wisdom, inner work, and aging: a contribution in second wave positive psychology [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2019.1624253
  13. Cooper, M. (2016). Existential Therapies (2nd). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  14. Eid, M., & Diener, E. (2001). Norms for experiencing emotions in different cultures: Inter- and intranational differences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(5), 869-885. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.81.5.869
  15. Emmons, R. (2013). How Gratitude can help you through Hard Times. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_can_help_you_through_hard_times
  16. Emmons, R. A. (2003). Personal goals, life meaning, and virtue: Wellsprings of a positive life. In C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 105-128). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10594-005
  17. Fleming, C., Manning, M., & Miller, A. (Eds.). (2019). Routledge Handbook of Indigenous Wellbeing. New York, NY: Routledge.
  18. Flora, K. (2019).Second wave of positive psychology: beyond the dichotomy of positive and negative and the consequences in the practice of psychotherapy [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2019.1573165
  19. Frankl, V. E. (1977). The unconscious God – Psychotherapy and theology. London, England: Hodder and Stoughton.
  20. Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s Search for Meaning. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.
  21. Freud, A. (1946). The ego and the mechanisms of defense. New York, NY: International Universities Press, Inc.
  22. Gruber, J., Mauss, I. B., & Tamir, M. (2011). A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3), 222-233. Doi:10.1177/1745691611406927
  23. Heidegger, M. (1996). Being and Time: A Translation of “Sein und Zeit”. (Stambaugh, J., Trans.), (7th ed.). Albany, New York: SUNY Press.

  24. Hwang, K. K.(2018). A psychodynamic model of Self-nature [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2018.1553147
  25. Ivtzan, I., & Lomas, T. (2016). Second wave positive psychology: Exploring the positive-negative dialectics of wellbeing. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(4), 1-16. Doi:10.1007/s10902-015-9668-y
  26. Ivtzan, I., Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Worth, P. (2015). Second wave positive psychology: Embracing the dark side of life. London, UK: Routledge.
  27. Jans-Beken, L. (2019). The Dialectic Dynamics Between Trait Gratitude Subjective Wellbeing and Psychopathology Across 30 Weeks [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09515070.2019.1638228 
  28. Jans-Beken, L., & Wong, P. T. P. (2019). Development of the Existential Gratitude Survey (EGS) as Distinct from Dispositional Gratitude [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/xh4jb
  29. Jones, S. L., & Butman, R.E. (1991). Modern psychotherapies: A comprehensive Christian Psyche. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  30. Joseph, S. & Linley, P. A. (2006). Growth following adversity: Theoretical perspectives and implications for clinical practice. Clinical Psychology Review, 26(8), 1041-1053. Doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2005.12.006
  31. Jung, C. G. (1981). The collected works of C. G. Jung: The structure and dynamics of the Psyche. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  32. Längle, A. (2008). Suffering—an Existential Challenge: Understanding, and coping with suffering from an existential-analytic perspective. International Journal of Existential Psychology & Psychotherapy, 2(1), Retrieved from http://journal.existentialpsychology.org/index.php/ExPsy/article/view/115
  33. Leontiev, D. (In press) The Dialectics of Aloneness: Positive vs. Negative Meaning and Differential Assessment [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly.
  34. Leung, M. M. (2019) Tragic optimism: an integrative meaning-centred approach to trauma treatment [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2019.1633497
  35. Li, P. F. J., Wong, J. Y., & Chao, C. L. (2019).Happiness and meaning in life: Unique, differential, and indirect associations with mental health [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 10.1080/09515070.2019.1604493
  36. Lomas, T.(2019). Anger as a moral emotion: A “bird’s eye“ systematic review [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2019.1589421
  37. Lopez, S. J., Magyar-Moe, J. L., Petersen, S. E., Ryder, J. A., Krieshok, T. S., O’Byrne, K. K., Lichtenberg, J. W. & Fry, N. A. (2006). Counseling Psychology’s Focus on Positive Aspects of Human Functioning. The Counselling Psychologist, 34(2), 205-227. Doi:10.1177/0011000005283393
  38. López-Solà, M., Koban, L., & Wager, T. D. (2018). Transforming pain with prosocial meaning: an fMRI study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 80(9), 814-825. Doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000609
  39. Makelson, J. (1998). The psychology of suffering. Folia Med Cracov. 39(3-4), 59-66. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10816956
  40. Malpas, J., & Lickiss, N. (Eds.). (2012). Perspectives on Human Suffering. New York, NY: Springer.
  41. McMahan, E. A., Choi, I., Kwon, Y., Choi, J., Fuller, J., & Josh, P. (2015). Some implications of believing that happiness involves the absence of pain: Negative hedonic beliefs exacerbate the effects of stress on wellbeing. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(6), 1-25. Doi:10.1007/s10902-015-9707-8
  42. Nathan, T. (In press) Transforming Emotional Suffering into Flourishing: Metatherapeutic Processing of Positive Affect as a Trans-Theoretical Vehicle for Change [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly.
  43. Newitt, L., Worth, P., & Smith, M. (2019) Narrative identity: from the inside out [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2019.1624506
  44. Niemiec, R. M. (2019) Finding the golden mean: the overuse, underuse, and optimal use of character strengths [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 1080/09515070.2019.1617674
  45. Peng, K., & Nisbett, R. E. (1999). Culture, dialectics, and reasoning about contradiction. American Psychologist, 54(9), 741-754. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.54.9.741
  46. Peterson, J. B. (2018). 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Toronto, ON: Vintage Canada.
  47. Richard, M. (2008). Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group.
  48. Ryff. C. (2016). Preface. In Russo-Netzer, P., Schulenberg, S. E., & Batthyány, A. (Eds.), Clinical perspectives on meaning: Positive and existential psychotherapy, 323-342. New York, NY: Springer.

  49. Selgiman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  50. Seligman, M. E. P. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive Psychology: An Introduction. American Psychologist. 55(1): 5–14. Doi:10.1037/0003-066x.55.1.5.
  51. Seligman, M. E. P. (1999). The APA 1998 Annual Report. American Psychologist, 54(8), 537-568. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.54.8.537
  52. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and wellbeing. New York, NY: Free Press.
  53. Shweder, R. A. (2008). The Cultural Psychology of Suffering: The Many Meanings of Health in Orissa, India (and Elsewhere). Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology, 2008, 36(1), 60-77. Doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1352.2008.00004.x
  54. Tedeschi, R. G., Shakespeare-Finch, J., Taku, K. & Calhoun, L. G. (2018). Posttraumatic Growth: Theory, Research, and Applications. New York, N.Y: Routledge.
  55. Thin, N., Tarragona, M., Wong, P. T. P., Jarden, R., Bartholomaeus, J., & Jarden, A. (2017). [Review of the book The pursuit of human well-being: The untold global history, by R. J. Estes & M. J. Sirgy]. International Journal of Wellbeing, 7(1), 84-92. Retrieved from https://internationaljournalofwellbeing.org/index.php/ijow/article/view/636
  56. Tsai, J. L. (2007). Ideal Affect: Cultural Causes and Behavioural Consequences. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(3), 242-259. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-6916.2007.00043.x
  57. 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.
  58. Wong, P. T. P. (2007). Perils and promises in the pursuit of happiness. [Review of the book In search of happiness: Understanding an endangered state of mind. J. F. Schumaker]. PsycCRITIQUES, 52(49). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0010040
  59. Wong, P. T. P. (2009a). Viktor Frankl: Prophet of hope for the 21st century. In A. Batthyany, & J. Levinson (Eds.), Existential psychotherapy of meaning: Handbook of logotherapy and existential analysis. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen.
  60. Wong, P. T. P. (2009b). Positive existential psychotherapy and pathways to death acceptance[Review of the book Staring at the sun: Overcoming the terror of death, by I. D. Yalom]. PsycCRITIQUES, 54(8). Retrieved from  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014829
  61. Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69-81. Doi:10.1037/a0022511
  62. Wong, P. T. P. (2012). Toward a dual-systems model of what makes life worth living. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 3-22). New York, NY: Routledge.
  63. Wong, P. T. P. (2013). Positive psychology. In K. Keith (Ed.), Encyclopedia of cross-cultural psychology (pp. 1021-1026). Oxford, UK: Wiley Blackwell).
  64. Wong, P. T. P. (2016). Integrative meaning therapy: From logotherapy to existential positive interventions. In P. Russo-Netzer, S. E. Schulenberg, & A. Batthyány (Eds.), Clinical perspectives on meaning: Positive and existential psychotherapy(pp. 323-342). New York, NY: Springer.
  65. Wong, P. T. P. (2016a). Existential Positive Psychology. Existential Positive Psychology. International Journal Of Existential Psychology And Psychotherapy, 6(1), 7. Retrieved from http://journal.existentialpsychology.org/index.php/ExPsy/article/view/179
  66. Wong, P. T. P. (2016b). Chinese positive psychology revisited. International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 6(1), 7. Retrieved from http://www.drpaulwong.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Chinese-Positive-Psychology-Revisited-2016-Mar-1.pdf
  67. Wong, P. T. P. (2018). Inspirations for difficult times. INPM Press, Toronto.
  68. Wong, P. T. P. (2019). Assessing Jordan B. Peterson’s Contribution to the Psychology of Wellbeing: A Book Review of 12 Rules for Life. International Journal of Wellbeing, 9(1), 83-102. Doi:10.5502/ijw.v9i1.829
  69. Wong, P. T. P. (in press). The maturing of positive psychology and the emerging PP 2.0 [Book review of Positive Psychology (3rd ed.) by William Compton and Edward Hoffman]. International Journal on Wellbeing.
  70. Wong, P. T. P., & Tomer, A. (2011). Beyond terror and denial: The positive psychology of death acceptanceDeath Studies, 35(2), 99-106.
  71. Wong, P. T. P., Ivtzan, I., & Lomas, T. (2017). Good work: A meaning-centred approach. In L. G. Oades, M. F. Steger, A. Delle Fave, & J. Passmore (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell handbook of the psychology of positivity and strengths-based approaches at work(pp. 233-247). West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell.
  72. Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  73. Yalom, I. D. (1981). Love’s executioner and other tales of psychotherapy. New York, NY: Basic Books.
  74. Zhang, R. (2019) Quest for a pathway to human’s good life in the Chinese cultural context [Abstract]. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, Doi: 10.1080/09515070.2019.1634002


Wong, P. T. P. (2019, July 31). Second wave positive psychology’s (PP 2.0) contribution to counselling psychology. Retrieved from http://www.drpaulwong.com/second-wave-positive-psychologys-contribution-to-counselling-psychology/