1. BULLETIN:Live Interview With Jon Haidt, Ph.D. Friday April 28,
1. BULLETIN: Interview with Jon Haidt, Ph.D.
Jon Haidt will join us for a teleconference Q&A on his new book, The Happiness Hypothesis and on positive psychology in general.
WHEN: Friday, April 28, 2006
TIME: 12:00 PM Eastern to 1:20 PM Eastern (New York Time)
GLOBAL TIME: 5:00 PM to 6:20 PM UTC/GMT (London Time)
Jonathan Haidt is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. His research examines the emotional basis of morality and the ways that morality varies across cultures, including the cultures of liberals and conservatives. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 and then went to the University of Chicago for additional training in cultural psychology. For a fascinating interview with Jon by Talmer Sommers on the Foundations of Morality, click here.
With Corey Keys, Jon edited Flourishing. In our interview, he'll discuss his new best selling book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.
2. CTH Review of Jon Haidt's The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.
By Ben Dean, Ph.D.
I think it’s a valid assumption that readers of this newsletter are looking to expand their knowledge of positive psychology in ways that will benefit their clients (or students, colleagues, family, employees, etc.) as well as themselves. With that in mind, I want to recommend to you Jon Haidt’s new book, The Happiness Hypothesis. If you’re wondering just when you would have time in your schedule to read it, and whether it would be worth your attention, just consider the dual subtitles: "Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom" and "Why the Meaningful Life is Closer Than You Think." If the content fulfills the promise of the cover (and for me, it does), you will want to make the time.
The content of Jon's book is based on 10 Great Ideas gleaned from classical thought but examined through a contemporary lens, one which takes into account the latest scientific research in biology, psychology, sociology and other related fields. In examining ancient writings from India, China, and the Mediterranean cultures -- as well as more recent works from the past 500 years—he found that many works of wisdom are congruent with the precepts of positive psychology. Where the tenets of these sources diverge, the departures are often as instructive as the parallels. Both sources seek to promote happiness and meaning in life. Jon skillfully sifts the old and new to determine which advice works best today, and his contemporary lens of scientific research provides compelling explanations for why it works.
The contemporary lens could not take a useful look at the human condition without some understanding of the human mind, so it is here that he begins. He describes how the mind is divided into parts that are often in conflict. An effective metaphor used repeatedly throughout the book is that of a rider on the back of an elephant. The rider is our conscious thought -- the reasoning part of our mind -- whereas the elephant is everything else, including our emotions. The rider would like to think that he or she is in control, but a rider cannot force an elephant to do anything against its will. The metaphor illustrates why it is often so difficult for us to make changes in our lives, even when we firmly resolve to do so. We can’t force an elephant. The key is to retrain the elephant. As Jon draws on past wisdom and current research, we learn the most effective means of bringing the elephant into compliance with our thinking.
Let me interject a personal note. I was not sure initially that I would like this book. I read it partly because I knew of Jon’s reputation. In fact, I have found it to be intellectually fascinating and also extremely valuable with lessons I use personally and with my clients. An embarrassingly simple example. I can be incredibly inefficient -- procrastinating, not finishing projects when I know I should, making short term decisions that are in conflict with long term goals. And so the initial rider-elephant metaphor gave me an immediately useful way to frame this human dilemma. And it offers implications for how I can train and work with both my rider and elephant that have been right on target for me.
Look at Chapter One to get a taste for the richness and complexity of this work. The book’s 11 chapters are filled with such jewels.
One of the ancient pieces of wisdom that still works extraordinarily well today is the Golden Rule. The modern term encompassing "Do unto others as…" is reciprocity, which Haidt describes as the most important tool we have for maintaining good relationships. He also reviews a number of other concepts relating to our social lives, including hypocrisy, vengefulness, distorted self-perception, negativity bias, and two edifying phenomena of recent research -- "naïve realism" and the "myth of pure evil." In examining these ideas, we see that it is often the elephant, representing our automatic reactions apart from our rational thought, that leads us into trouble. He acknowledges that the unconscious workings of the human mind may predispose us to behave in ways not always conducive to good relationships and our own well-being. However, a central thesis of his book is that our increasing knowledge of the mind can help us tame our elephant and do those things is likely to give us a winning edge in our pursuit of happiness.
According to the teachings of Buddha and some of the Stoic philosophers, our pursuit of happiness is part of the problem. From their perspective, happiness requires acceptance and a disassociation from things in the external world. On this particular point, the findings of modern research diverge from the ancient teaching. Although an emphasis on inner tranquility can be helpful as an antidote to the turbulent world around us, Haidt observes that "Buddha and Epictetus may have taken things too far. Some things are worth striving for, and happiness comes in part from outside of yourself, if you know where to look.” Jon proceeds to tell us exactly where to look, as well as where it is useless to look. He discusses a number of intriguing concepts relating to the enhancement of our personal lives (many of which have been introduced in past issues of this newsletter) such as flow, inconspicuous consumption, gratification, the progress principle, the hedonic treadmill, posttraumatic growth, and the happiness formula. Here he gives his take on the things that we can do to increase the happiness in our lives, and points out that externals do matter.
Jon finally moves on to address the monumental question of the meaning of life. To fairly present his answer in a brief book review is not possible, so I will simply observe that everything in the book carries us gradually toward the answer. By understanding our divided mind -- by learning how rider and elephant can work together in harmony -- we can strengthen our relationships, engage more fully in our work, and move ever closer to happiness and meaning.
3. New: Chris Peterson, Ph.D. Q&A Call -- Freeflowing, wide ranging, now online!
To hear Chris Peterson's March 22nd Q&A interview on Positive Psychology in general -- click here. In this interview, Chris responds to all questions about Positive Psychology, his January invited lecture on the VIA Survey of Signature Strengths, and such topics as (the peculiarly American) NCAA Basketball Tournament. Please note this call starts slowly for the first 90 seconds as people come on the line. When Chris begins interacting with the callers, it takes off. However, you can speed through the beginning of the call. In the center of the screen you'll see a graphic with a slide that moves from left to right. You can put your cursor on the "slide" and move it to the right, moving quickly through parts of the call.
To hear Chris' original 80-minute invited lecture, (recorded live January 20, 2006) call 1-405-244-4000 Box 223. This lecture is available 24/7/365. It is currently not online. There is no charge for this call other than the normal long distance charges. Available 24/7.
About Chris Peterson, Ph.D.
Christopher Peterson is Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan, where he has been the Director of Clinical Psychology Training and has held the Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship, an award given to honor teaching. On two occasions, a course he has taught was named the "best university course" at the University of Michigan.
Chris has a long-standing interest in personality and adaptation. He is the author of more than 200 publications, and he is listed by ISI as among the world's most cited psychologists and psychiatrists during the past twenty years. Chris co-authored with Martin E. P. Seligman the already-classic book; Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (2004; Oxford University Press & American Psychological Association). His latest book, A Primer in Positive Psychology,will be published in May.
4. Upcoming Training and Speaking Schedule
Ben Dean, Ph.D.
Ben is a psychologist, coach, and the founder of MentorCoach LLC. He speaks on coaching and positive psychology throughout the US. MORE.
Spring MentorCoach Training Schedule
Spring 31-Week MentorCoach Training Programs beginning (via teleconference) on:
April 27, 2006 at 8:00 pm Eastern (New York Time) 1:00 am GMT
Spring Short Master Coaching Classes
MentorCoach has upcoming master classes in:
CTH Speaking Schedule
Interview with Robert Biswas-Diener Friday, November 18, 2005
Listen by Telephone
You can listen to a tape of the interview with Robert by telephone, anytime, day or night (24/7) by calling 1-212-990-6658. To fast forward through this in 15 second intervals, press *3 (star three). The tape recording begins very slowly as I welcome callers for three minutes before introducing Robert. But about three minutes in, it begins. This is a free call except for your long distance charges to New York City.
For instructions on how to control the tape playback, click here.
All content © 2006 Ben Dean, Ph.D., MCC,
Editor, "Coaching Toward Happiness" eNewsletter
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