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SECOND WAVE POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY: Embracing the Dark Side of Life

Updated: Aug 11, 2020


Positive psychology is currently equated with theory and research on the positive aspects of life. But actually positive psychology investigate and researches is some of the most painful and difficult experiences. Itai Ivtzan, Tim Lomas, Kate Hefferon, and Piers Worth take us through a wonderful discover of embracing the dark side of life. This book is all about what is considered the dark side of life emphasizing their role in our positive functioning and transformation as human beings.

Subjects at the heart of positive psychology, such as meaning, resilience, human development, mortality, change, suffering and spirituality. This book engages with the so-called negative matters from a positive psychology angle. It teaches us how the path of personal development can involve experience which, while challenging, CAN LEAD TO GROWTH, HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION.

The second wave of positive psychology is about addressing what Positive psychology initially differentiated itself from "psychology as usual" by strongly emphasizing the 'positive' (thoughts, emotions, traits, etc) where "psychology as usual" is characterizes as focusing mainly on 'negative' mental states and experiences. Positive psychology the second wave-engages with the 'darker side' of life. ACCEPT ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE- Even the challenging, problematic, or negative that are usually rejected can be embraced and increase PP variables such as compassion, joy, meaning resilience and gratitude.

Are you ready to transform the way we perceive difficult experiences and ready to be encourages to embrace and accept challenges fully as a part of genuine positive psychology.


Positive Psychology began as a contrast from 'psychology as usual' typical focus on dysfunction. The critique is that PP contributes to the culture in which there is an expectation to be happy. PP provides interventions that enable people, if they wish, to alleviate their distress and generate wellbeing. It is also vital that PP does not imply that dysphoric states are inherently wrong or bad. It becomes important to welcome emotions into the mind.

Positive Can Be Negative- Have you ever felt pressure to be happy? When you are feeling low, is this feeling compounded by the throughs that you shouldn't feel that way? We could even start to feel bad about feeling bad. DOUBLE ARROW. Qualities generally regarded as positive may be problematic in some ways. Pitfalls to excessive optimism.

Negative Can Be Positive- Pessimism can lead to proactive coping. POSITIVE POWER OF NEGATIVE THINKING. See the clouds in the every silver liner. ANGER- is the opposite of forgiveness. "if you're not angry, you're not paying attention"

TRY ME: MUSIC can be a powerful way to evoke complex emotions, creating mood states that can he hard to categorize as either positive or negative but rather complex blend (complex dialectics of emotional experience)

Dialectics- represent the mind's way of understanding concepts by understanding and appreciating their polar opposites. For example we can't experience love fully without having or experiencing the other dimensions of love, Also, there may be complex other emotions that go with love like, hate, jealousy, anger, frustration.

It becomes important to think about the dialectic nature of existence. If there is is beauty, then ugliness exist. Light only exists because there is darkness.


Lifespan Development:

The 'dark side' of this sections refers to challenging experiences, thoughts, emotions, and behaviours which trigger discomfort in us as our lives develop and change over time.

Erikson's life cycle theory- helps us identify positive and negative polarities that life may involve and understand a 'strength' that may emerge from it. Levinson takes about seasons to articulate phases of life that alternate between stability and transition and change. Vaillant describes social maturation and how defines mechanisms appear as a source of positive aging. McAdams talks about how our identity is based on stories we may construct about ourselves.

Periods of transitions: the tension between potentially positive and negative outcomes.

Discomfort is frequently avoided as it carries an engagement with fear, pain, distress, uncertianty or confusion in the face of what is happening or changing at the time.

See transition as human development through the lens of the 'dark side' while emphasizing the potential positive impact of the process.

Positive Psychology supports lifespan development periods of transitions:

Engaging with challenge and discomfort has great potential for growth, healing, insight and transformation in our journey of development.

Unfolding for growth occurs in the steps or life span development. It is an inevitable part of our growth and development. Our developmental journey is one of unfolding growth which carries us consciously and unconsciously more closely to our uniqueness and individuality.


Concept of meaning and purpose:

Meaning and purpose are closely associated with different variables of wellbeing. Meaning refers to understanding-where we make sense of life and our roles in it. We all carry a series of schemas that are part of our self-concept that help us make sense of ourselves and the world around us. Purpose refers to aspirations that motivate our activities.

The Darkside of meaning in life refers to challenging experiences, thoughts emotions and behaviours relating to meaning and purpose which trigger discomfort in us.

The dark side of authenticity:

The search for meaning can be difficult and challenging. However, engaging with this challenge and the discomfort leads to greater authenticity, growth, and deeper meaning in life. Meaning and purpose walk hand and hand. Awareness means recognizing one's own motives, desires, and values. Authenticity allows us to connect to our own meaning. Dark side is about letting fo of irrelevant values and admitting they are not truly yours ins not easy, but once successful we gain greater awareness and authenticity and clearer meaning in life.

Different ways to look at meaning:

Search for meaning vs presence of meaning. What is the impact of searching for meaning? Is it beneficial? or Harmful? Can motivate us to search and grow. Can also be deficit biased

Potential sources of meaning: Relationships, Intimacy, self-transcendence, achievement, self-acceptance, fairness/respect, religion, spirituality.

QUESTION: To deepen your own personal reflection on meaning and engage with your 'dark side' of meaning. 1. What is the personal meaning and purpose of your life? 2. What are your personal sources of meaning in life?

MIndmap Info

MindMeister: Online Mind Mapping and Brainstorming (link)



We will inevitably encounter difficult times in life. This section is about individuals capacity to stay strong in the face of adversity, bounce back after trauma and even thrive along side suffering.

Resilience is a difficult concept to define. Some resilience factors are positive coping, positive affect, positive thinking, realism, behavioural control. CBT Cognitive Behaviour Psychology- builds resilience.

"For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" Shakespeare QUESTION: What do you think of this statement? Do you have personal experience that support or contradict this statement?

How Positive Psychology facilitates resilience:

EXERCISE: ACTIVATING EVENTS are everyday occurrences that really get to you (push buttons) and they can demonstrate CONSEQUENCES (feelings and behaviours) that are out of proportion to the event itself. A-C Consider what is going on in the middle. A BELEIF is causing the maladaptive reaction. How can you change or create an alternative interpretation.

Potential for growth after adversity: PTG

Focusing on transformational growth is about bouncing back or standing strong in the face of adversity by confronting the dark side. Trauma and adversity can be considered the 'dark side'.

PTG is about Personal strength, relating to others, new possibilities in life, appreciation of life and spirituality. PP shows there is a possibility of learning and growth and maintain equilibrium in the face of adversity, bounce back from difficult times and even report benefits and positive change from suffering.

QUESTION/REFLECTION: If you were to create your own resilience programme for your chosen population, what would it look like? (What would it include? How long would it be? what format would it take? What would the outcome be?)


Benefits of contemplating our mortality:

QUESTION: Have you ever experienced an event that has shaped or altered the way you look at your own mortality? What impact did it have?

Death contemplation for optimal functioning:

Death acceptance or the impermanence of life and that all things change and come to an end, allows for opportunities to enhance the wellbeing of and daily happiness.

Mortality awareness links to well-being:

If you were approaching your imminent demise, what would your top five regrets be?


Difference among compassion, empathy, and sympathy:

Compassion- the ability to empathetically recognize emotions in others, emotional experiencing sympathetic distress, the will to reduce others suffering (motivational), empathetically recognize emotions in others, emotional experiencing sympathetic distress, the will to reduce others suffering.

Compassion embraces the dark side of life (suffering):

Being compassionate- by opening oneself up to the 'dark side' of life and allowing oneself to be moved by the suffering of another person, and experience change in oneself as a result.

Cultivating compassion for self-transcendence and psychospiritual development:

Opening their hearts to the suffering of others cultivates compassion and allows for growth and self-transcendence. Allowing themselves to be touched and moved by this dimension of the 'dark side' of life. Other regarding qualities including compassion, loving kindness, sympathetic joy all show profound consequences.


Define and elaborating the concept of spirituality:

The 'dark side' is engagement with yourself. This can cause discomfort. The moment of observing, seeing yourself without masks or avoidances could be difficult.

Spirituality plays a major role in the lives of many individuals. Spirituality is linked to such concepts as well-being, relationships, meaning, self-awareness, and self growth. Self-transcendence is prominent in FLOW STATE- loss of sense of self. In a state of flow the concept of self slips below the threshold of awareness. Leading to a more deeper, more enjoyable and productive relationship with the moment. Mediation is another example.

Explore the 'dark side' of self-awareness:

Engaging with difficult observations, and the negative emotions it might trigger could lead to wonderful growth and positive change. When attention is directed inward, self-awareness refers to our engagement with our own internal experience. The 'Dark side' of self-awareness could be our own judgemental engagement.. that can lead to intense discomfort is sometimes easier to avoid, reject, and escape. The best thing we can do is use self acceptance and self compassion when investigating self-awareness. ALSO- when discussing the importance of self-awareness remember the distinction between reflection and rumination.

Self-acceptance and self-compassion:

Self acceptance and south compassion transforms self-awareness. We all have certain areas in our life that are frequently subject to Self- judgement and self-criticism. QUESTION/REFLECTION- What areas of your life prompt self judgment? What expectations do you have of yourself that lead to this reaction?


Our single greatest creation is our own life. The quest of the hero is the journey towards our individuality, uniqueness and wholeness, meeting all of what life may ask of us. The story of the hero's journey shows us wisdom of how this has been accomplished over time.

CONCEPTS OF HERO'S JOURNEY: The process of adventure or the call to change. The support of a mentor. Commit to the journey of change. Sit in and accept the unknown. Face the challenges of your quest. See life as a cycle of creation. Receive guidance and support. Embark on your life journey that is about expanding humankind, rather than man alone.

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