Human Strengths

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At times we can easily become fixated on what is wrong with ourselves and others, and can forget about what is right with us. With some 300 disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the study of Psychology and Psychiatry are not immune to this phenomenon of negativity, tending to focus on misery and how to get rid of it. Realising that we are getting caught up in our own shortcomings, it may be helpful to shift our perspective to the human strengths, virtues, and personal fulfilment.

At times, strengths seem to be inborn and temperamental, at other times strengths seem to be forged through adversity, while some strengths are cultivated through conscious effort. There also appears to be consistency across cultures about many of the character virtues which are held in high regard in communities at home and abroad. According to the founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, there are 6 universal virtues which emerge consistently from philosophy and historical surveys:

  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Humanity
  • Justice
  • Temperence
  • Transcendence

Attached to each of these virtues are a number of character strengths. For example, the strengths of wisdom are creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, and perspective. An individual may demonstrate 1 or 2 of those strengths and certain situations provide the conditions for the strength to be demonstrated. For example, courage may be displayed where some danger or adversity is faced, but not during times of safety and ease.

I also see fulfilment our innate human needs as a source of strength. Humanistic Psychologist Abraham Maslow detailed a hierarchy of needs beginning with a broad base of basic needs (i.e. food, water, shelter) and extending to the top of the hierarchy with what he termed as “self- actualisation”.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

From Maslow’s perspective, self-actualisation occurs when basic bodily and ego needs have been fulfilled and one realises their full potential. From Carl Rogers’ perspective, self-actualisation is more of an ongoing process of exploring, maintaining, and enhancing our self-concept through self-reflection and reinterpretation which can help us to heal and grow.

If you would like to learn more about your own strengths and self-concept, you can make an appointment at one of the two locations listed on the welcome page of my website

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