Martin E.P. Seligman Quotes
“Alcoholics are, in truth, failures, and their failure is a simple failure of will. They have made bad choices, and they continue to do so every day. By calling them victims of a disease, we magically shift the burden of the problem from choice and personal control, where it belongs, to an impersonal force—disease.”
“I used to think that the topic of positive psychology was happiness, that the gold standard for measuring happiness was life satisfaction, and that the goal of positive psychology was to increase life satisfaction. I now think that the topic of positive psychology is well-being, that the gold standard for measuring well-being is flourishing, and that the goal of positive psychology is to increase flourishing. This theory, which I call well-being theory, is very different from authentic happiness theory, and the difference requires explanation.”
“Depression is now ten times as prevalent as it was in 1960, and it strikes at a much younger age. The mean age of a person’s first episode of depression forty years ago was 29.5, while today it is 14.5 years. This is a paradox, since every objective indicator of well-being—purchasing power, amount of education, availability of music, and nutrition—has been going north, while every indicator of subjective well-being has been going south. How is this epidemic to be explained?”
“It turns out, however, that how much life satisfaction people report is itself determined by how good we feel at the very moment we are asked the question. Averaged over many people, the mood you are in determines more than 70 percent of how much life satisfaction you report and how well you judge your life to be going at that moment determines less than 30 percent.”
“YOU SHOULD NOW be well on your way to using disputation, the prime technique for learned optimism, in your daily life. You first saw the ABC link—that specific beliefs lead to dejection and passivity. Emotions and actions do not usually follow adversity directly. Rather they issue directly from your beliefs about adversity. This means that if you change your mental response to adversity, you can cope with setbacks much better. The main tool for changing your interpretations of adversity is disputation. Practice disputing your automatic interpretations all the time from now on. Anytime you find yourself down or anxious or angry, ask what you are saying to yourself. Sometimes the beliefs will turn out to be accurate; when this is so, concentrate on the ways you can alter the situation and prevent adversity from becoming disaster. But usually your negative beliefs are distortions. Challenge them. Don’t let them run your emotional life. Unlike dieting, learned optimism is easy to maintain once you start. Once you get into the habit of disputing negative beliefs, your daily life will run much better, and you will feel much happier.”
“Some people can put their troubles neatly into a box and go about their lives even when one important aspect of it—their job, for example, or their love life—is suffering. Others bleed all over everything. They catastrophize. When one thread of their lives snaps, the whole fabric unravels. It comes down to this: People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when a failure strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one part of their lives yet march stalwartly on in the others.”
“In the struggle to cure syphilis in the first decade of the century, Paul Ehrlich concocted a drug, 606, that worked by poisoning Treponema pallidum, the spirochete that causes syphilis. It was called 606 because before it Ehrlich concocted 605 other drugs, none of which worked. Ehrlich, presumably, experienced 605 defeats but persisted.”
“TRANSCENDING Escher got it right. Men step down and yet rise up, the hand is drawn by the hand it draws, and a woman is poised on her very own shoulders. Without you and me this universe is simple, run with the regularity of a prison. Galaxies spin along stipulated arcs, stars collapse at the specified hour, crows u-turn south and monkeys rut on schedule. But we, whom the cosmos shaped for a billion years to fit this place, we know it failed. For we can reshape, reach an arm through the bars and, Escher-like, pull ourselves out. And while whales feeding on mackerel are confined forever in the sea, we climb the waves, look down from clouds. —From Look Down from Clouds (Marvin Levine, 1997)”
“After a heated dispute, we each undertook an assignment for the next class: to engage in one pleasurable activity and one philanthropic activity, and write about both. The results were life-changing. The afterglow of the “pleasurable” activity (hanging out with friends, or watching a movie, or eating a hot fudge sundae) paled in comparison with the effects of the kind action. When our philanthropic acts were spontaneous and called upon personal strengths, the whole day went better. One junior told about her nephew phoning for help with his third-grade arithmetic. After an hour of tutoring him, she was astonished to discover that “for the rest of the day, I could listen better, I was mellower, and people liked me much more than usual.” The exercise of kindness is a gratification, in contrast to a pleasure. As a gratification, it calls on your strengths to rise to an occasion and meet a challenge. Kindness is not accompanied by a separable stream of positive emotion like joy; rather, it consists in total engagement and in the loss of self-consciousness. Time stops.”
Martin E.P. Seligman
- Date of birth: August 12, 1942
- Born: in Albany, The United States.
- Description: Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology. He was previously the Director of the Clinical Training Program in the department. Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association by the widest margin in its history and served in that capacity during the 1998 term. He is the founding editor-in-chief of Prevention and Treatment Magazine (the APA electronic journal), and is on the board of advisers of Parents.
Seligman has written about positive psychology topics such as The Optimistic Child, Child's Play, Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness," and in 2011, "Flourish."