Thursday, October 06, 2005

"The man who's trying to do for happiness what Newton did for gravity has found it a scarce commodity in life."

Times Online:
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."

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.
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?
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?


Blogger Kim said...

I work with a doctor who is visibly happier when given chocolate. He's a great guy, anyway so I make sure he get's lots of chocolate!

5:26 AM  
Blogger Cindy said...

I hope my children never find out. How finely did Isen's study differentiate between positive emotions and elevated blood sugar?

Fascinating article. Thanks.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's great to see Seligman get some exposure in Psychiatry. What I like most about his approach is the perspective of a "spectrum" of psychological well being -- some people are very unhappy, but at the other end, some people are unusually successful in their interpersonal relationships. Studying members from the second group would probably really improve psychiatric treatment. CBT and IPT currently seem to be "cooked up" dogmas that have little in the way of epidemiological underpinnings.

11:16 AM  

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