Languishing The term captured the zeitgeist in April 2021 when organizational psychologist Adam Grant was locked in a closet New York the title of which is a name for the mauris of lust: it is called languishing.
“The neglected child languishes in the middle of the mind. There is a void between the depressed and the flourishing — the absence of well-being,” wrote Grant, of the University of Pennsylvania.
The idea struck a chord with readers, and Dona’s ode to the languishing continues to become the newspaper’s read article of the year. Even I, generally distrustful of things, felt the idea was a fallacy. I thought to myself, that explains a lot.
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But I began to question my gut reaction to the Grant piece after stumbling across several articles in the December bloom. SSM Police — all part of a series spearheaded by medical anthropologist Sarah Willen.
The study of how and why people flourish is an anchor subfield of psychology, known as positive psychology, and includes related research into happiness, well-being, and resilience. In this research, the most flourishing is related to a better state of mind being well-being, where one is happy, content with life and has a sense of purpose.
Positive psychologists tend to believe that someone can flourish if they work hard enough, says Willen, of the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Therefore, he says, these researchers tend to flourish systemic barriers, such as those related to race or gender.
Positive psychologists “assume that people have a good measure of what they can do in life,” Willen says. But his own research, and that of others, shows that social forces limit control to many people.
In one article in “ SSM Police series, Willen zooms in on Grant’s column to argue that the weak formation speaks to the distinguished few, and illustrates how the elite and powerful often capture the narrative in historical moments, while erasing the life experience of people at the bottom of the social pole.
The rise of positive psychology
Positive psychology is a relatively young field. In the late 1990s, when University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman assumed the presidency of the American Psychological Association, he attempted to shift the field’s traditional focus on mental illness and focus instead on mental well-being. Since that time, positive psychology has emerged as the main research paradigm in mental health, Willen writes in his introduction to the mental health series.
The field has received immense public and private investments: the Templeton Foundation, for example, has currently founded the Global Blooms Study, a $43.4 million project at Harvard University that will look to flourish over time among 240,000 participants from 22 countries.
Meanwhile, the study of human flowers and its effects penetrated even beyond the researches of psychology. The concept now often shows up in research on preventive medicine and physical health, and in K-12 schools through what is known as positive science, where the concept goes, positive schools and positive teachers who “transmit hope, confidence, hope and meaning. the future … are the support to produce more well-being in culture.
But some researchers remain skeptical of positive psychology. In fact, one field strongly emphasizes the individual level, not the social—changes in helping people flourish, as they practice gratitude and volunteerism. That risks reducing interest in flourishing to simple self-help tricks, Willen says. Yet this vision of individualized flourishing fosters an incredibly powerful and useful contribution to their energy, Willen and others say.
“Positive psychology is a billion-dollar industry, and marketing positivity like they do is incredibly lucrative and culturally seductive,” says Oksana Yakushko, a practicing psychologist in Santa Barbara, Calif.
But, he says, the field is ignorant of many things. “I worry about the socio-political implications of selling this positive psychology idea in a world where people are constantly abused, hurt and oppressed because they are not white, rich, strong, Western, heterosexual, etc.”
What does it mean to flourish?
With the positive psychology of capturing money and attention, Willen began thinking a few years ago about how to push back against the movement. Decades of research into public health have made it clear that life is at least as much about a person’s environment and circumstances as it is about individual attributes. “There are times in life when you feel like saying something is just right. It feels really fun.” [to] bring a perspective from another discipline.
So from 2018 to 2019, Willen and his team conducted a qualitative study of flowering in Cleveland. Their 167-person pool of participants reflected the economic and racial diversity of the state. The team asked how people perceived themselves through a series of open-ended questions that began to blossom: “Do you want to be someone who thrives here in life? Why or why not?”
About half of the participants said they had flourished, the team reported in December SSM-Mentis. But the researchers also identified racial and economic disparities in those responses.
Sixty-seven percent of candidate respondents felt they had flourished, compared with 48 percent of black respondents. Similarly, 88 percent of respondents with incomes above $100,000 reported thriving compared to 46 percent of respondents with incomes below $30,000.
The team’s findings in response to another question – “what is the general need to flourish?” — highlighted how the participants’ understanding of flourishing was often disrupted by positive psychology.
Positive psychologists tend to define someone as flourishing if they report having high relationships and emotions, meaning and purpose in life, self-acceptance or esteem in their life and in their life activities in general. Among the participants in Willen’s study, these kinds of relationships and feeling good about themselves were important to flourish, but they rarely demonstrated meaning and purpose.
Most importantly, study participants mention two aspects of flourishing that rarely figure in positive psychological definitions of the term: Stable income and strong social determinants of health. This includes access to food, housing, education and safe neighborhoods, while also experiencing low levels of discrimination.
If policymakers’ goal is to help as many people as possible flourish, then projects should focus on reducing inequality and reducing well-being on a systemic basis rather than more individualized measures, Willen says.
Is privilege flourishing or languishing?
The disagreement between anthropologists and positive psychologists is largely one worldview, says Harvard University epidemiologist Tyler VanderWeele, who leads the Tempton-funded Global Bloom Study. While Willen and his team argue that one’s environment can limit one’s happiness or flourishing, VanderWeele sees that world as overcoming oneself.
Financial stability is one of the six elements of flourishing that VanderWeele and colleagues measure in their global concept study. But for him, that humor is not more important than the other humors, which include happiness, health of mind and body, meaning and purpose, character and close social relationships.
“We must be concerned about structural conditions, financial support and ensuring opportunities for everyone to flourish and the support they need. … [but] I don’t think there’s any other reason to imagine that it’s good,” said VanderWeele, who co-opted the solution to the series in the same event. SSM Police.
Focusing too much on factors outside of an individual’s control, such as racism or poverty, VanderWeele says, can lead to depression. Focusing on the smaller things, such as turning in your job or liking it or getting more involved in the community by joining a religious group or volunteering, meanwhile hands that power over to the people.
This is not a debate between peers, Willen counters. With so much momentum behind their movement, positive psychologists took up the narrative. And the view of self-help should flourish, he said.
After the article Adam Grant appeared in the Times, Willen witnessed how ideas from positive psychology—failing in this case—take on a life of their own as they enter public control.
That bird’s eye view came about thanks to the Pandemic Journaling Project — an initiative Willen and other researchers launched in May 2020 to get people from all walks of life to document how they’re coping with this historic moment. Through those periodicals, scholars noticed that people were languishing in their opinion – and who didn’t know. I mean, the entrants who named alids were very white, wealthy and educated – a narrow group, which also relates to the reader. TimesWillen says.
Prasta will use his experience as arguably the most important moment to challenge the debates about how people experience crisis, Willen says. And then he uses them to write about how all men can overcome the blahs.
He urged the giving of the gifts and the flowing of the people. “Flow is that fleeting absorption in a momentary challenge or bond, where the sense of time, place and self dissolves,” he writes. Such a flow can arise through shows and movies on Netflix, word games and, more broadly, a continuous pursuit of time.
But what was the luxury of such remedies for the sick, asks Willen. And who has experienced something more obscure, something closer to pain, in work, in health, and in other fields?
Grant states that Willen creates a “false dichotomy” between personal and systemic solutions to flourishing. Simpler intervention methods serve as crucial stopping measures in challenging times, Dona adds. “It would be very cruel to tell readers who are struggling through the pandemic to just wait for social policies to change.”
But most people don’t even realize how individualized solutions to flourishing overshadow more systemic solutions, Willen says. Bringing that enforcement to public attention is vital. “Unless we step back and ask ourselves whose voice is missing,” says Willen, “we risk a conforming history of the internal.”
His words remind me of the adage: History is written by the victors. The thought was echoed on the Pandemic Journaling Project’s website. “Mostly history is written by the powerful,” read the introductory words. “Since the history of COVID-19 is written, let’s do what doesn’t happen.” I will certainly keep this reminder in mind this year as I try to balance reporting on positive psychology, pandemics and other social issues.
#Pandemic #fatigue #reality #privilege