How Psychology Views Human Nature
Article by Lon Woodbury
Positive Psychology focuses on building on a person’s strengths. This “Strength Based” approach is a positive and more uplifting view of human nature looking to build and empower people, rather than define them by their deficits. The positive view of human nature is being implemented in a therapeutic boarding school, where character education is important it is called Positive Youth Development (PYD) discussed on my Internet Talk Radio Show, Monday August 22, 2011.
That mainstream psychology evolved out of abnormal psychology research is something that has been well known for many years. The resulting negative view of human nature was not obvious at first. But as the vocabulary of psychology moved into social discussions, if you listened to your friends, it seemed everybody with a problem suffered from some kind of disorder they had no control over. Even back in the 1950’s, some psychologists claimed that an overwhelming percentage of the population was desperately in need of psychotherapy. One picture of the future I remember hearing then, only half in jest, was that in the future at any one time, half the population would be receiving psychotherapy and the other half providing it. Then a bell would ring and everybody would switch positions.
How we can maintain a free society when the common view is everybody is not in possession of their full faculties is beyond me.
This might be changing. The concept called Positive Psychology has been giving some push back on this view. That is, instead of helping people by treating their deficits and assuming once the person is “fixed,” that person will function better, Positive Psychology focuses on building on a person’s strengths. This “Strength Based” approach is a positive and more uplifting view of human nature. It looks to build and empower people, rather than define them by their deficits.
This positive view of human nature was apparent on my Internet Talk Radio Show, Monday August 22, 2011. On the show, I visited with three professionals who are implementing what they call Positive Youth Development (PYD) in a therapeutic boarding school, where character education is important. PYD is based partly on Positive Psychology and focuses on students healing through staff building on the students’ strengths and by encouraging them to contribute to the community. That is, the students are not seen as patients needing deficits corrected, but as contributing members of the school community who have a value they can contribute to the community, even with the problems and issues that brought them to the school in the first place. Further, the healing is done by helping the students contribute and thus be empowered as human beings.
This view is much more uplifting than encouraging students to be patients who are broken and dependent on a therapist to fix them.
To listen to the full discussion on this topic, go to http://www.latalkradio.com/Lon.php.
For the full archives of all articles published by Woodbury Reports since November 1989, go to Strugglingteens.com.
Lon Woodbury is an educational consultant who began working with Schools and Programs for struggling teens in 1984. Lon earned his B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Idaho. He is a long-time member of the IECA. His practice includes a referral service for parents and professionals, publication of the newsletter Places for Struggling Teens (TM) (print and online), and a directory of the residential schools and programs with the best reputations in the Parent Empowerment Handbook. He can also be found at http://parent-empowerment-blog.com/ and at http://www.strugglingteens.com. For information, call 208-267-5550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.