Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., works on positive psychology, learned helplessness, depression, and optimism and pessimism. He is currently The Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Positive Psychology Network. In 1996, he was elected president of the American Psychological Association.
Since 2000, Dr. Seligman has been promoting the field of positive psychology—a discipline that includes the study of positive emotion, positive character traits, and positive institutions. He trains positive psychologists to make the world a happier place. Dr. Seligman’s best-selling books, translated into 20 languages, include Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness, The Optimistic Child, and What You Can Change…And What You Can’t.
Dr. Seligman holds an A.B. degree in philosophy from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He also holds an honorary Ph.D. from Uppsala University in Sweden and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Massachusetts College of Professional Psychology. Dr. Seligman has received the American Psychological Society’s William James Fellow Award for contribution to basic science, and the James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award for the application of psychological knowledge.
Dr. Seligman has won several other awards for his research and writing and has served in many academic and clinical arenas. His work has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek, and he has been on numerous TV and radio shows. Dr. Seligman has also written columns and lectured around the world.
• The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe that bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe that defeat is just a temporary setback or a challenge, that its causes are just confined to this one case.
• It’s a matter of ABC. When we encounter ADVERSITY, we react by thinking about it. Our thoughts rapidly congeal into BELIEFS. These beliefs may become so habitual we don’t even realize we have them unless we stop to focus on them. And they don’t just sit there idly; they have CONSEQUENCES. The beliefs are the direct cause of what we feel and what we do next. They can spell the difference between dejection and giving up, on the one hand, and well-being and constructive action on the other. The first step is to see the connection between adversity, belief, and consequence. The second step is to see how the ABCs operate every day in your own life.
• The drive to resist compulsion is more important in wild animals than sex, food, or water. …The drive for competence or to resist compulsion is a drive to avoid helplessness.
Dr. Seligman’s basic premise is tied into optimism and pessimism, and the core of his beliefs is that “pessimism is escapable.” His book, Learned Optimism, is clearly the place to start. The idea of the book is very simple—you can learn to be optimistic, and optimism has great benefits.
Learned Optimism teaches readers how to choose optimism, enabling them to gain the freedom to build a life of real rewards and lasting fulfillment. This includes being able “to take charge, resist depression, and make [ourselves] feel better and accomplish more.” All of Dr. Seligman’s other books, 20 in total, build on the foundation of Learned Optimism.
I personally believe that optimism provides us with a power to achieve, and Dr. Seligman’s books and his teachings teach us how to get this power. His theories are different from many others because it is based on hard scientific research.
ADDRESS: Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
Department of Psychology
3815 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6196