In the second stop of my 2016 summer world tour of positive psychology events, I attended the European Conference on Positive Psychology in France from June 28 until July 1.Bonjour. Somehow everything sounds better in French.
The conference leadership very appropriately chose the lovely city of Angers, France to host the eighth European Conference on Positive Psychology (ECPP). Despite what its name might otherwise imply in English, Angers has been voted the “happiest city in France.” It was certainly easy for conference attendees to be happy in Angers. The Centre des Congrès, where the ECPP was held, is a gorgeous hall situated in a tranquil city park complete with swathes of bamboo and wild flowers, playgrounds, and swans in reflecting ponds. Courtesy of corporate sponsor Cointreau, we were served wine not just at evening programs, but at lunch and end-of-day receptions, too.
A special thanks goes to chairman Charles Martin-Krumm, President of the French and French Speaking Association on Positive Psychology and Christine Senailles, project manager, for their outstanding hospitality towards the 800 people who traveled from all over the world to attend the conference. Many traveled from as far as Australia, the country with the largest delegation in the audience.
Red Cape, Green Cape
My teacher, mentor, and friend, James Pawelski, Senior Scholar at the Positive Psychology Center of the University of Pennsylvania, delivered an opening keynote presentation, What is Positive Psychology? The Importance of Theory for Research & Practice. Pawelski is a master teacher, philosopher, and presenter who made positive psychology theory and interventions come alive for the audience by extracting relevant messages from many sources ranging from Aristotle to William James (Pawelski’s muse) to a modern superhero of his own invention.Always one to include dramatic moments in his scholarly talks, Pawelski whipped a green cape around his shoulders as he explored ways that certain positive psychology interventions enhance the flourishing of recipients. He flipped it over to show the red cape on the other side as he illustrated interventions that instead mitigate suffering.
Pawelski skillfully engaged the 800-person crowd in a lively Socratic discussion on the perceived benefits and drawbacks of each cape’s approach. It was amazing to watch as he established the same level of connection that I enjoyed with my MAPP classmates with an audience twenty times the size.
To learn the correct answer for which is the best cape for the enhancement of well-being, watch the IPPA slideshow of a similar presentation by Pawelski. The thought experiment about choosing your cape color starts around minute 22:30.
HeroismLater, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura shared findings from the upcoming Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership. Looking the part of a Nordic Lord or beloved character from Harry Potter, Csikszentmihalyi assured the audience, “You don’t have to ride on a horse with a sabre in hand” to be heroic.
Jeanne gave a wonderful talk, The Impact of Heroism on Late-life Moral Exemplars: Narratives of Positive Change. She cited many ways that heroic narratives affect positive change in those who listen to or read them. For example, she referenced Haidt’s work on feelings of elevation as well as evidence from Goethals and Alison concerning the positive impact on the self of hearing a story about a hero undergoing change.
Laura Graham’s talk, The Impact of Heroism on the Elevated Observer, concluded that “witnessing an act of moral beauty results in a warmth in the chest, a tear in the eye and a feeling of being uplifted,” which is exactly how I felt during Graham’s session.
The Michael Phelps of Positive Psychology
Dr. Peggy Kern was at it again. I think of her as the the Michael Phelps of Positive Psychology speakers. She led more workshops and panel presentations than anyone else at the conference. It was wonderful to see Peggy present with so many of her colleagues from the University of Melbourne School of Education.Shake Your Body
I was thrilled to co-present Shake Your Body: Exhilarating Movement Across the Lifespan with Dr. Elaine O’Brien, my MAPP colleague and inspiring friend. We were fortunate to follow Linda Ugelow, a skillful dancer and motivational coach whose workshop, Embodied Experience: Improving Well-being Through Expressive Movement, brought the entire crowd to its feet, forming a strong, positive intimacy and trust that cascaded into our session.
Make Positive Psychology TangibleIlona Boniwell served as the conference’s closing keynote presenter. Throughout Positive Education Making Positive Psychology Tangible, Bonwell powerfully integrated theory with examples of positive psychology curricula, games, and workbooks for students, families, and educators.
The conference closed with a magnificent celebration held in the most memorable venue: the resplendent Greniers Saint-Jean, a breath-taking 12th Century Hospital with 50-foot ceilings suspended by soaring wooden beams. Conference-goers dressed in festive attire, and the band was sensational. We all danced and enjoyed a delicious authentic French meal. What a wonderful end to an ebullient conference.
Allison, S. (2016). The initiation of Heroism Science. Heroism Science, 1.
Buksbaum, L. (2016). First Stop on a Positive Psychology Summer 2016 World Tour (#CPPA2016). Positive Psychology News.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2016). Heroism, civil disobedience, and socio-cultural change. In S. T. Allison, G. R. Goethals, and R. M. Kramer (Eds.), Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership. New York: Routledge.
O’Brien, E. (2016) Move2Love and Vibrancy: Community Dance/Fitness. Women & Therapy, 39(1-2), 171-185. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02703149.2016.1116329.