Have you ever wondered about life and why things are the way they are? At one point in your life, you start to question who you are and what you want to become. In addition, you want to enjoy the things that you do and be happy. In order to achieve the desired goals, you will need to work your way through difficulties and struggles. This concept is known as existential positive psychology (EPP).
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Existential psychology concerns with the human existence and how flexible we are in the struggle for happiness during hardship. Positive psychology focuses on what is good and right with people (read more about positive psychology’s history here). Existential positive psychology (EPP) represents a natural mixture between existential psychology and positive psychology. EPP is an extension of positive psychology as EPP emphasizes on human abilities to flourish and change positively.
Existential positive psychology focuses on human quest for existential understanding and how to overcome existential anxieties to live a good life. Wong (EPP) discusses the 6 ultimate questions on this subject.
Who am I?
It is all about identities. In order to figure out who we are, we need to have a clear sense of self-knowledge.
How can I be happy?
We are usually on the quest for happiness. We look for things that make us happy and enjoy life.
What should I do with my life?
There are many choices in life. Sometimes we will ask ourselves whether the choice we chose was correct and if we would be happy picking the other choice.
How do I make the right choices?
There is no immediate sign telling you if you have made the right choices.
Where do I belong?
Sometimes we need a sense of belonging to a group or community. Otherwise, we feel alone and left out.
What is the point of striving when life is so short?
Some people might wonder why we work so hard for many things when we are going to die eventually. The point is to enjoy life, not what we get out of it.
Anxieties and Existential Positive Psychology
EPP emphasizes that humans grow psychologically and spiritually through struggle and fortitude. Grasping life entirely as it is – including apprehensions and concerns – is necessary in improving our lives’ qualities. Wong stated that there are six anxieties: death, freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, personal identity and pursuit of happiness. Facing these anxieties is crucial for human growth, as it facilitates the significance of our existences.
Meaning Management Theory: Life vs. Death
One specific example of EPP is about Meaning Management Theory (MMT) and death acceptance. MMT concerns with managing “various meaning-related processes to meet our basic needs for survival and happiness”. Many people are afraid of death and this can create addition existential anxieties.
Depending on how we act towards death, death anxiety can generate either a negative or positive effect. As stated in “MMT”, people who have near death experiences show “a major positive transformation to what they call a more love life”. Since death is the most certain thing in life, we should use it as a reminder of our own mortality instead of preventing it. MMT is useful in facilitating death acceptance, as this is an inevitable truth.
Existential Positive Psychology is about how human overcome struggle and strive for happiness. If we look at life positively, we will be able to have a meaningful life and make the most out of it. Even though this concept is useful for us to achieve a happy life and embrace our existences, there is a lack of research in this topic.
Watch Yannick Jacob’s UEL lecture on this topic below:
References and further reading
Wong, P. T. P. (2010). What is Existential Positive Psychology? International Journal of Existential Psychology & Psychotherapy, 3(1).
Wong, P. T. P. (2008). Meaning management theory and death acceptance. In A. Tomer,
Grafton, & P. T. P. Wong (Eds.), Existential and spiritual issues in death attitudes, (pp. 65-87). New York, NY: Erlbaum.