"The man who's trying to do for happiness what Newton did for gravity has found it a scarce commodity in life."
Seligman describes himself as a "walking nimbus cloud" who spent 50 years "enduring mostly wet weather in my soul". Feeling out of place as a chubby 13-year-old Jewish kid at a wealthy college, he hit on the role of therapist as a route to the hearts of unattainable girls. "What a brilliant stroke! I'll bet no other guy ever listened to them ruminate about their insecurities, nightmares and bleakest fantasies."Dr. Seligman, a professor of psychology, is "famous again, this time for creating the field of positive psychology" - the study of happiness. Well worth the read. And what's this?
As a psychology graduate working in animal- behaviour labs, Seligman discovered "learned helplessness" and became a big name. Dogs who experience electric shocks that they cannot avoid by their actions simply give up trying. They will passively endure later shocks that they could easily escape. Seligman went on to apply this to humans, with "learned helplessness" as a model for depression. People who feel battered by unsolvable problems learn to be helpless; they become passive, slower to learn, anxious and sad. This idea revolutionised behavioural psychology and therapy by suggesting the need to challenge depressed people's beliefs and thought patterns, not just their behaviour.
Showing how easy it is to give people an intellectual boost, Isen divided doctors making a tricky diagnosis into three groups: one received candy, one read humanistic statements about medicine, one was a control group. The doctors who had candy displayed the most creative thinking and worked more efficiently."Is it that easy to make doctors happy?