Positive Psychology: Dismissing the Dark Side?

Positive psychology has been gaining quite a bit of momentum over the past decade or so, with more mental health professionals tuning into its tenets, and several international events cropping up to help grow the field. There’s little doubt that the area has vast potential to teach both professionals and their clients much in terms of a different approach to life, but there is also some contention over whether positive psychology is too dismissive of what some would term the “dark side.” As with many things in life, positive psychology is experiencing a call to become more balanced, and both proponents and critics are awaiting the outcome.

One call in particular has been made recently by Dale Floody of Wisconsin, a Viterbo University professor who believes that positive psychology has a lot to offer –as long as it remains true to reality. Noting that optimism and a proactive approach to life can be extraordinarily beneficial for people from all walks of life, Floody also sees the potential for the realistic handling of life’s less glorious moments to be of value. In his book published this spring, Balanced Positive Psychology: Where the Grass is Greener, Floody touches on a variety of topics within the greater topic of psychology itself and examines both how positive psychology has the potential to enhance lives and individual experiences, as well as how taking the negative into account can afford a more genuine outlook.

As positive psychology strives to make a firm place for itself among the many approaches being practiced and discussed today, the need for more consideration of negative emotions and experiences is bound to present a challenge. For the many professionals and clients who are working with positive psychology to create a greater well-being, there is hope that the challenge will be met with vigor and skill.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Doc Wagner

    Doc Wagner

    July 13th, 2009 at 7:13 AM

    The irony in healing is that we often need to visit those darker places of pain, shame, guilt, fear, worthlessness, etc., in order to heal and overcome. The idea that we can somehow break free of our negative thoughts, beliefs, and somatic reactions via affirmation, without ever tending to those vulnerable places is one of the greatest mistakes a healer can make. No matter how positive one’s thinking is, if such a person does not care for and grieve the part of them from the past that has suffered or been wounded or experienced some injustice, they will continue to be plagued by the wound…that is a clear of a fact as I can see based on my forty years of experience as a therapist. It’s about time someone helped to reign in positive psychology and restore some balance.

  • miker


    July 13th, 2009 at 7:25 AM

    Bravo and well said Dr. Wagner! I second that.

  • Samuel


    July 13th, 2009 at 4:46 PM

    The negative aspects that had been focused on before positive psychology came to the fore were not in balance either. Mental health problems have carried an undeserved stigma for too long. Could that association with so much negativity be why?

    Psychology needs to redress the balance in more areas than simply positive psychology.

  • FrancisW.


    July 13th, 2009 at 6:13 PM

    The article makes a valid point. Doc Wagner is right. Until you’re willing to look at yourself warts and all healing is far away. Perceiving everything in the garden as rosy doesn’t work. Face the thorny overgrown parts too.

  • Austin


    July 14th, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    negative nellies are never going to be convinced though

  • uy


    October 3rd, 2012 at 6:08 AM

    @ doc wagner: thank you doc that is indeed true, and its reassuring to hear it from a someone who has 40yrs experience in the field. a lot of pop psychology self help bestsellers focussed on positive thinking have been written by those who have little or no experience (or professional qualifications) in the field of psychology, therapy or counselling

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