by: Brittany A. Smith
Positive psychology is a new trend in the world of psychology, one that began in the early 1990′s and is getting a great deal of attention. Positive Psychology focuses on the positive aspects of individual’s lives. Generally men and women view happiness differently. Consequently, that means that different ideas and actions have different meanings for each gender.
Psychology has looked into and been focused on mental illness since World War II. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania wanted to look at what made people happy. The postulation is that the meaning an individual places on a task is the underlying feeling associated with that task. This of course will vary from person to person but seems to be universal when discussing supposed gender tasks.
Take for example the idea that men are better providers than women. This of course has been argued over the past several decades by women’s activist groups. These women’s groups cite that women are able to provide for their families just as well as men. The alternate question that is now being asked is if women are happier providing for their families outside of their homes. Similarly another question is if men are happier providing the nurturing care to their children.
In terms of our gender roles, men and women have inherent needs that drive us to perform tasks that give our lives meaning. Generally and historically speaking women are the caregivers of society as men are the providers and protectors. In World War II when a gross majority of men were called to arms, women were asked to work outside of their homes to support the United States and the men of this country. More and more after this time period, the female population grew in the work force and began operating outside inherent natural structures.
Mental illness has continued to grow and more people have become unhappy. Positive psychology looks at the past experiences that have created feelings of happiness. It is fair to say that if a woman has feelings of happiness caring for children and taking care of a home, she should continue those activities that provide her with that happiness. Similarly, if a man finds positive feelings in working outside of the home earning a living for his family, then to continue those feelings he needs to continue to perform those same tasks.
If individuals continue to perform the same external tasks that created feelings of satisfaction, we illicit the continuous feelings of happiness. Instead of relying on external validation as most are apt to do, Seligman suggests that the key to happiness is internal validation. Seligman’s suggestion is for men and women to internally validate our own actions rather than following the rules of societal normalcy for happiness.
That is to say that man can perform the tasks that make them feel useful and appreciated without having to succumb to being a house husband. In the same way, women are able to perform tasks that support their innate need for nurturing and feel good about those actions without consideration for what society dictates.
Argosy University offers a wide selection of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in a variety of psychology concentrations at 19 locations across the nation.
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