The very brief history of positive psychology || Psychology


I want to write a little bit about the positive psychology. I will make it short as it can be. Firstly, I will talk a little about what was happening with psychology after World War II. Then, I want to tell you about Abraham Maslow whose the hierarchy of needs is one of the most popular theory when it comes to the positive side of humans. In the end, I will write about the person who is said to be a father of positive psychology. 

Before World War II psychology had three main aims: curing mental illness, making the lives of people more productive and fulfilling and identifying and nurturing high talents. Unfortunately, after the war, the last two aims were forgotten. The profession of clinical psychology became more popular and a lot of psychologists realized that they can make a living out of helping people with mental illness. Also, in 1947 the National Institute of Mental Health was founded and they were giving grants to those whose research was about pathology (Seligman, 2002). At one point it was something great. We found out a lot about different mental illnesses. At the same time it the clinical psychology became the one which was somehow „the right one.” Pathology became more important to learn and research about than the positive side of the humans. 

Abraham Maslow was the humanistic psychologist and created the hierarchy of needs mostly represented as the pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.There are only 5 needs: the physiological needs, the safety needs, the belonging and love needs, the esteem needs, the need of self-actualization. He said that every human endeavor to self-actualization. And he does that through satisfying the needs that are lower in the pyramid. All needs are congenital and each person cannot get to the higher one until all the below are fulfilled. Maslow said that people who are self-actualizing have some common traits, for example, those people are emphatic, creative and self-accepting (Schultz, Shultz, 2008).

Humanistic psychology draws attention that psychologists should research the best and the worst human attributes. They also say that psychologists should concentrate on the positive features the same as on the negative ones. These aims of humanistic psychology were again remembered by Martin Seligman on the symposium about optimism and hope in 1998. He told that because psychology centers on all what is negative psychologists became blind to the positive development of human. He was surprised that positive things as courage, health, and joy of spirit are considered to be something defensive or even false. When negative features as anxiety, anger or sadness are considered authentic. His appeal to focus more on the positive side of human nature was enthusiastically received. After that, a lot of books and articles were written (Schultz, Shultz, 2008). Martin Seligman became a father of positive psychology. Thanks to his words the world started once again to see what is positive in people. 

Let me know in the comments what you think about this. If you know anything else also please write, I’d love to find something new out.



  • Seligman, M. E. (2002). Positive psychology, positive prevention, and positive therapy. Handbook of positive psychology, 2(2002), 3-12.
  • Shultz, D. P., Schultz, S. E. (2008). A History of Modern Psychology. Eight Edition. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego.

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