Transpersonal and positive psychology

Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology whose purpose was summed up in 2000 by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: “We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities.”[1] Positive psychologists seek “to find and nurture genius and talent”, and “to make normal life more fulfilling”,[2] not simply to treat mental illness. The emerging field of Positive Psychology is intended to complement, not to replace traditional psychology. By scientifically studying what has gone right, rather than wrong in both individuals and societies, Positive Psychology hopes to achieve a renaissance of sorts. This approach has created a lot of interest around the subject, and around 2002, college courses on positive psychology taught by Martin Seligman, Michael Frisch, and others arrived. Little attention was given by the general public until 2006 when using the same framework, a course at Harvard University became particularly popular.[3]

Several humanistic psychologists—such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Erich Fromm—developed theories and practices that involved human happiness. Recently the theories of human flourishing developed by these humanistic psychologists have found empirical support from studies by positive psychologists. Positive psychology has also moved ahead in a number of new directions.

Current researchers in positive psychology include Martin Seligman,[2] Ed Diener,[2] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,[2] Christopher Peterson,[2] Carol Dweck,Barbara Fredrickson,[2] Sonja Lyubomirsky,[4][5] Kennon Sheldon,[6]Jonathan Haidt, Shelley Taylor, C. R. Snyder,[2] Robert Biswas-Diener,[7]Albert Bandura, Charles S. Carver, Robert Emmons, Michael McCullough, and Phil Zimbardo. Each of these scientists has published influential and well-cited articles. Furthermore, these scientists are considered producers of high quality work outside of the positive psychology guild who publish in mainstream, top-tier psychology journals. This is important as positive psychology, in the end, is another topic in psychological science”.

(Wikipedia definition)

“Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The Positive Psychology Center promotes research, training, education, and the dissemination of Positive Psychology. This field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

Positive Psychology

Goals of Positive Psychology

Positive Psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions.

Understanding positive emotions entails the study of contentment with the past, happiness in the present, and hope for the future.

Understanding positive individual traits consists of the study of the strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom.

Understanding positive institutions entails the study of the strengths that foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance.

Some of the goals of Positive Psychology are to build a science that supports:

  • Families and schools that allow children to flourish
  • Workplaces that foster satisfaction and high productivity
  • Communities that encourage civic engagement
  • Therapists who identify and nurture their patients’ strengths
  • The teaching of Positive Psychology
  • Dissemination of Positive Psychology interventions in organizations & communities”

(Definition taken from the University of Pennsylvania positive psychology centre website)

For further information on the subject I recommend you visit the website for the Centre for Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) here you will find interesting information about personal strengths and how positive psychology can work for you. Also the strengths website full of resources tips and tools to promote a positive sense of self “Strengths 2020-realising the best of you”Recommended reading:

From the founders of positive psychology

Flow- the classic work on how to achieve happiness” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

ISBN: 0-71265759-2

The New York Times best seller “Authentic happiness” Martin Seligman

ISBN: 1-85788-329-2


Positive Psychology in a nutshell” by Iona Boniwell is an excellent short introduction to Positive psychology.

ISBN: 0-9548387-8-5

The strengths book” by Alex Linley, Janet Willars, and Robert Biswas-Diener. “Reveals the sixty strengths that make us who we are”

ISBN: 978-1-906366-09-4

Recommended reading:

Transpersonal Psychology

Introduction- something to think about (excerpts taken from the LJMU MSc course)

What is Transpersonal?

What is Transpersonal psychology?

“The word transpersonal means: beyond (or through) the personal. It refers to experiences in which there is an expansion of our ordinary limiting sense of self and a feeling of connection to a larger, more meaningful reality.

Religious or spiritual experience is often seen as central to the transpersonal agenda, although the transpersonal can also be about extending our concern for (or our sense of identification with) other people, humankind, life, the planet, or nature”. (British Psychological Association Transpersonal Association website homepage)

“Despite being influenced by religious ideas and practices, transpersonal psychology is essentially an applied science and not a religion or spiritual ideology. It is also rather different from most traditional approaches to the psychology of religion.

Transpersonal psychology, for example, includes a concern with “non-religious” phenomena such as dreaming and the “flow” experience. It is also distinct in its primary emphasis on experience (rather than beliefs, attitudes or social behaviours) and its insistence that the psychologist must participate in (rather than simply observe) the process of spiritual-transformation.

In this way personal spiritual experience and practice serve to inform ground and enrich the transpersonal psychologist’s research.

Transpersonal psychology is also to be distinguished from parapsychology and psychical research, although they share many important interests (e.g., in lucid dreaming, out-of-body and near-death experiences, reincarnation, mediumistic phenomena and telepathy). The primary emphasis in parapsychology and psychical research is upon seeking objective evidence for the reality of paranormal phenomena, whereas transpersonal psychology is more interested in the subjective meaning that these experiences have for the individual, and in their capacity for promoting psychological and spiritual transformation”. (M Daniels- introduction to course module)

Key figures: Jung, Assagioli, Wilber, Maslow


Websites: The Transpersonal section of the British Psychological society  for The Alister Hardy Society- The Alister Hardy Society

The Society supports the work of the Alister Hardy Trust and provides a focal point for people interested in the nature and study of spiritual, religious and psychic experiences.




Daniels, M. (2005). Shadow, Self, Spirit: Essays in Transpersonal Psychology. Imprint Academic.

Scotton, B. W., Chinen, A. B., & Battista, J. R. (eds.) (1996). Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. Basic Books.

Walsh, R. & Vaughan, F. (eds.). (1993). Paths Beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision. Tarcher/Perigee. Assagioli, R. (2000).Psychosynthesis: A Collection of Basic Writings. The Synthesis Center.

Firman, J. & Gila, A. (1997). The Primal Wound: A Transpersonal View of Trauma, Addiction and Growth. State University of New York (SUNY)

James, W. (1997). The Varieties of Religious Experience. Touchstone Books.

Jung, C.G. (1989). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Vintage Books.

The compassionate mind” Professor Paul Gilbert