There appears to be a high level of naivety and a low–level of sophistication shown in many of the concepts. For example, Seligman says that he had to give up looking at the gold standard being happiness because it turned out that life satisfaction is reported by people depending upon how they feel at the moment they are asked the question. [comment: perhaps he should have read Jahoda (1958, pp. 7-8) who differentiated dispositions of personality from transitory behavior in situations: "one has the option of defining mental health in at least two ways: as a relatively constant and enduring function of the personality . . . ; or as a momentary function of personality and situation"]
This naivety may also be seen in the research efforts. For example, here is Seligman's happiness formula: "H = S + C + V where H is your enduring level of happiness, S is your set range, C is the circumstances of your life, and V represents factors under your voluntary control" (Seligman, 2002a, p. 45).
Likewise, Fredrickson and Losada (2005) suggested a simple formula where the ratio of three good thoughts to every negative thought that one experiences would constitute flourishing. The authors then slip into bafflegab when they apply chaotic analysis suggesting that a "of "2.9 bifurcates the complex dynamics of flourishing from the limit cycle of languishing." (And note that a ratio above 2.9 is OK as long as you don't get too high, "the complex dynamics of flourishing first show signs of disintegration at a of positivity ratio of 11.6").
Or perhaps: "So Positive Psychology takes seriously the bright hope that if you find yourself stuck in the parking lot of life, with few and only ephemeral pleasures, with minimal gratifications, and without meaning, there is a road out. This road takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose" (Seligman, 2002, p. xiv).
Woolfolk, R. L. (2002). The power of negative thinking: Truth, melancholia, and the tragic sense of life. , (1), 19–27. doi:10.1037/h0091192. In this brief essay I argue that the contemporary "positive psychology" movement fails to emphasize important aspects of human existence that are essential to human excellence. Through an explication of some historical, cross–cultural, and literary examples, I argue for the importance of a kind of "negative psychology" that is fundamental to an adequate comprehension of the human situation.
The Differentiation Hypothesis of Intelligence Structure
"We know, for example, that national surveys (Campbell, Converse, & Rodgers, in press) show that during the period between 1957 and 1972, when most of the economic and social indicators were moving rapidly upward, the proportion of the population of this country who described themselves as 'very happy' declined steadily, and this decline was most apparent among the part of the population that was most affluent. A recent study (Schneider, 1975) has shown that in a comparison of 13 American cities, the correlation between the objective characteristics of the cities and a measure of life satisfaction reported from surveys of the residents of each city was essentially zero" (Campbell, 1976, p. 118).
Age dedifferentiation hypothesis Evidence from the ..
"The results supported the hypothesis that well–being would increase for all intervention group participants, especially for those in the meaning, engagement, pleasure and combination groups. However, contrary to expectations, the no intervention control group also increased slightly in well–being" (Giannopoulos, & Vella–Brodrick, 2011, p. 102).
Age dedifferentiation hypothesis: ..
"While acknowledging the need to address the negatives, the dominant message of PP (e.g., Fredrickson, 2009; Lyubomirsky, 2008; Peterson, 2006a) still maintains that negatives will go away if people simply focus on enhancing the positives. However, too much emphasis on positive affect as the answer to all ills can be counterproductive because negative emotions, such as a guilt, regret, frustration, and anger, can all motivate us toward positive change. Future research needs to test the hypothesis that the development of character strengths and resilience may benefit from prior experience of having overcome negative conditions" (Wong, 2011, pp. 69–70).
and the differentiation hypothesis
"Psychology should be more humanistic, that is, more concerned with the problems of humanity, and less with the problems of the guild. The sad thing isthat most students come into psychology with humanistic interests. They want to find out about people; they want to understand love, hate, hope, fear, ecstasy, happiness, the meaning of living. But what is so often done for these high hopes and yearnings? Most graduate, and even undergraduate, training turns away from these subjects, which are called fuzzy, unscientific, tender–minded, mystical. (I couldn't find the word 'love' indexed in any of the psychology books on my shelves, even the ones on marriage.) Instead the student is offered dry bones, techniques, precision, and huge mountains of facts which have little relation to the interests which brought him into psychology" (Maslow, 1965a, p. 20).