Seligman’s (2011) PERMA model is limited by its failure to address existential suffering, which can undermine our best efforts to achieve flourishing. Wong’s model is developed from the framework of existential positive psychology (PP 2.0):
- Existential anxieties and negative emotions are an inescapable aspect of life. The pursuit and expectation of positive emotions only leads to disappointment and unhappiness.
- Sometimes, reality requires us to do things that we don’t particularly enjoy, either for making a living or fulfilling some moral obligation of social responsivity, such caring of a sick parent, or fighting against discrimination. Sometimes, reality, such as lockdown or hospitalization, can also prevent us from engaging in our favorite activities. Also, doing nothing or wu-wei in self-reflection or appreciation of life can contribute to wellbeing without instrumental action.
- Maintaining good relationships requires mutual dependence, vulnerability, sacrifice, and loyalty. Relationships cannot be maintained for long if we use others as instruments for our own happiness. A common Western value is making friends only with those who can contribute to our happiness or success. Such an individualistic and instrumental view makes genuine or authentic relationships impossible.
- All purposes or life goals are not equal. Some misguided ambitions, such as pursuing money, fame, power, or even for the common good, can be destructive for the self and society. A life purpose can be misguided when it ideologically or egotistically motivated at the expense of ethical and moral considerations.
- Accomplishment can lead to either arrogance or envy and disappointment. Also, chronic disabilities or marginalization may prevent one from any measurable accomplishment. A better criterion may be whether we are dong what is constitutively and naturally good with all our heart and effort, given our external and internal limitations.
Therefore, my Self-transcendence model of flourishing based on existential positive psychology (Wong, 2020, 2021) is based on:
- Having the existential courage to embrace all emotions and learn to maintain inner peace and contentment.
- Assuming the responsibility to do what is right and good in spite of limitations and opposition by doing what we can, with what we have, at where we are and with creativity and faith in a better future.
- Seeking genuine connections with our true self, with others, and with God.
- Pursuing our calling or future goal with passion and perseverance. When our life goals are constitutively and naturally good, such goal strivings are intrinsically and objectively meaningful, significant, and fulfilling.
- Accomplishment that is no longer just measured by worldly success in terms of recognition and monetary reward, but by a different set of metrics, such as human decency, making a difference in someone’s life, and growing each year to bear good fruits.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Free Press.
Wong, P. T. P. (2020). President’s Column: 7 Reasons Why the New Normal May Be Good for You. Positive Living Newsletter. http://www.drpaulwong.com/7-reasons-why-the-new-normal-may-be-good-for-you/
Wong, P. T. P. (2021). Existential Positive Psychology (PP 2.0) and global wellbeing: Why it is Necessary During the Age of COVID-19. IJEPP, 10(1), 1-16.
Wong, P. T. P. (2021). Two Different Models of Human Flourishing: Seligman’s PERMA Model Versus Wong’s Self-transcendence Model. Dr. Paul T. P. Wong. http://www.drpaulwong.com/two-different-models-of-human-flourishing-seligmans-perma-model-versus-wongs-self-transcendence-model/