Essay: Positive psychology

Positive psychology is defined as the study of the circumstances and processes that add to the thriving or ideal functioning of individuals, groups, and organisations (Gable & Haidt, 2005). The three basic areas of research and practice positive psychology is concentrated on are positive emotions, positive traits and positive institutions. Positive emotions comprises of satisfaction with the past, existing happiness and expectation for the future. Besides positive emotions, there are also positive traits which focuses on qualities of an individual such as courage, flexibility, sympathy or empathy, and originality. Last of all is positive institutions, such as public organisations, which can gain advantage from focusing on the instruments industrialised in positive psychology research.
The movie ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (TFIOS) is a story of a teenage girl named Hazel Grace Lancaster who suffers from stage 4 thyroid cancer and is seen carrying an oxygen tank throughout the movie. Hazel attends a support group at a church where she bumps into Augustus Waters, a friend of Isaac, whom she later found out was a cancer survivor himself. They both take a liking to each other and Hazel introduces her favourite book to Augustus and tells him of her dreams of meeting the author of the book, Van Houten. Augustus gets in touch with Van Houten’s assistant who then extends an invitation to them to visit him in Amsterdam. Since Hazel had used her wish already, Augustus shares his wish with Hazel and they travel to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten. While they are there, they realise that Van Houten is not the person they expected him to be. Nevertheless, they enjoy their remaining time in Amsterdam. Augustus then informs Hazel that his cancer has returned. Even then, they tried not to let the news dampen their time together and carried on with their lives as usual. Augustus Waters passed away shortly after his pre-funeral where Van Houten appears and passes a letter to Hazel. Hazel initially did not want to read the letter but was convinced otherwise by Isaac. The letter turned out to be a eulogy for Hazel written by Augustus who expresses his admiration for her and hopes that she is happy with the choices she made in life as he liked his.
The first element of positive psychology that can clearly be seen in the movie TFIOS is mindfulness and positive thinking. A psychological state of consciousness, a practice that endorses this consciousness, a mode of processing information, and a characterological attribute is referred to as mindfulness (Brown et al., 2007; Germer, Siegel, & Fulton, 2005; Kostanski & Hassed, 2008; Siegel, 2007b). For example, Hazel is mindful and tries not to get too close to people because she is aware of the impact her cancer has on her family and the people around her. (TFIOS, 00:46:29). Mindfulness is important as it is said to change how we react to severe psychological problems and everyday trials like chronic depression (Segal, Williams & Teasdale, 2002) and psychotic delusions (Bach & Hayes, 2002). Besides that, Patrick is the leader of the support group that Hazel attends, he is an optimistic person and a cancer survivor and tries to instil hope in the teenagers that they could end up cancer free like him one day. In the nun study, Danner et al. found that nuns that project more optimistic emotions lived longer than nuns who did not (Danner et al., 2001). Not only that, Hazel’s mother is also perceived as an optimistic person as she always has a positive attitude around Hazel. Harker and Keltner (2000) found that young women who expressed optimism tended to have more positive outcomes when they grew older.
The next element of positive psychology that is portrayed in the movie TFIOS is positive relationships. For example, Augustus loves Hazel very much and said that he will find a way to stay alive and annoy Hazel for a long time. Intimate relationships in life are important as it is associated with improved physical wellbeing in a person (Lillard & Waite, 1995). Next, Hazel has a good relationship with her parents and is willing to go to the support group just to please her parents (TFIOS, 00:05:47). Feldman et al. found that the mechanism shaping a person’s interactive skills and their character was through day-to-day exchanges or nurturance of parents (Feldman et al., 1998). Not only that, Isaac cares deeply for Augustus and said ‘I don’t want to see a world without Augustus Waters.’ at Augustus’s ‘pre-funeral’ (TFIOS, 01:48:07). Peer relationships are also important as Laible et al. (2000) proposed that peers established trust amongst other peers and reduced attachment with their parents which leads to peer attachment being more significant compared to attachment to parents in later teenage years.
The last element of positive psychology that can be seen in the movie TFIOS is strengths and virtue. Strength are methods of thinking, feeling, and performing that come naturally and effortlessly to a person and that aids in high operation and performance (Linley & Harrington, 2006). As an example, Hazel is not afraid of her cancer and has accepted the fact that she is going to die sooner or later. Individuals using their strengths have been found to describe better dynamism and individual and psychological wellbeing (Govindji & Linley, 2007). Besides that, Hazel was also very determined to climb the stairs at the Anne Frank house even though it strains her lungs (TFIOS, 01:16:07). Individuals who use their strength also possess more advancement in the direction of their objectives (Linley et al., 2010). Lastly, Hazel’s mother converted her experience of taking care of a child with cancer into a strength by taking classes in social work to help other families (TFIOS, 01:45:47). Individuals that use their strength also have heightened resilience after demanding or taxing happenings (Peterson & Seligman, 2003).

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