The Words of Sun Jin Moon (daughter of Sun Myung Moon and Hak Ja Han)

The Basic Premises of Positive Psychology

Sun Jin Moon
December 29, 2009

In previous articles we have introduced the field of positive psychology as taught by Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, emphasizing the importance of creating an upward spiral or momentum of positive well-being to be happier. To reiterate, the following are three reasons why positive psychology is a relevant tool for creating happiness.

First, positive psychology focuses on what works because what we focus on creates our reality. The type of questions that we focus on changes the dynamic of the answers. For instance, in trying to solve the problem of teenage school truancy in underprivileged areas of the United States, rather than asking the simple questions of "How do we keep students in school or prevent school violence? " we can ask, "How do we cultivate the seed of greatness, virtue, and strength in each student?" By focusing our questions on everyday problems on the basis of the salutogenic -- or health -- model we can tap into the source of health, success, and well-being, and we can become more active agents as opposed to passive victims.

Second, positive psychology contends that happiness does not spontaneously arise if unhappiness is removed. Using the analogy of dining, if we get rid of indigestion, that does not guarantee that we will enjoy the meal. So, rather than focusing on weaknesses, by focusing on strengths, we can become active agents in building our competencies and passions. Positive psychology focuses on pursuing happiness and passion as sources of health and well-being rather than focusing on running away from pain, deficiencies, or unhappiness.

Third, by cultivating our spiritual, emotional, and physical capacities through personal growth, self-actualization, and passions, we can deal with our weaknesses, anxieties, and negative emotions, since no life is devoid of pain. Simply, positive psychology contends that people become ill if they do not pursue health and meaning in their lives. Cultivating capacity gives us the resources and mind-set to make us more resilient and capable of handling many difficulties of life. Prevention of illness results from amplifying and cultivating our strengths that build courage, passion, future-mindedness, hope, honesty, capacity for flow, optimism, virtue, love, and insight. With these, we create a stronger spiritual or emotional "immune system" to transform the way we view the world and deal with inevitable challenges.

In order to build a foundation and set the framework or context for later discussions on the details of positive psychology and this field of study, we offer five basic questions to consider. We will discuss the relevance of each one in more detail in future articles. The five basic questions are as follows:

Do we want to see "bridge building" versus division between academia and "Main Street?"

Is change possible, or is change illusive?

Do internal factors such as genetics determine happiness, or is happiness a primary function of the external environment?

Should human nature be obeyed, or should human nature be perfected?

Should happiness be a primary or secondary pursuit?

By focusing on these questions based on scientific research, we should be given more knowledge and context to make better decisions for our lives, making them as enriching and meaningful as possible.

Written by Sun Jin Moon, graduate of Harvard University with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. Sun Jin Moon has written this article with a focus on promoting the topic of Positive Psychology in order for others to learn more about this field and be able to use it in their lives.