Home All Interview with Alex Linley: Amplification of Positive Psychology (Part 2 of 2)

Interview with Alex Linley: Amplification of Positive Psychology (Part 2 of 2)

written by Timothy T.C. So 23 June 2008

Timothy So, Msc, es candidato al Doctorado de Psicología en el Departamento de Psiquiatría de la Universidad de Cambridge. Es Investigador Asociado del Cambridge University's Well-being Institute y Psicólogo Ocupacional. Timothy también es responsable de los sitios del PPND tanto en chino tradicional como en el simplificado. Biografía completa.

Sus artículos anteriores en inglés están aquí. Y también puedes encontrar sus otros artículos traducidos al español aquí.

I urge all positive psychologists – especially the younger generation – to investigate this and to build greater communion and understanding between the traditions of thought in the East and the West.

~ Alex Linley

Alex LinleyIn the last article, Alex has illustrated the concept of strength, how it became the mission of CAPP, how to apply the concept to individual and organizations, as well as how strength can improve our lives. In Part 2, we try to learn more from the experience of Alex, on how to promote, apply, and amplify positive psychology in a widened sense.

Timothy So: Let’s move a bit further to the discussion of the broad PP development. What are the major obstacles/difficulties in promotion of PP, and are there any examples in the operation of CAPP at schools and organizations?

Alex Linley: One of the major challenges we often face with the promotion of positive psychology is simply that it is a new idea and that we are asking people to change. As is well-known, people are resistant to change and will try to avoid it. As such, introducing a positive psychology or strengths-based approach that is asking people to change the status quo is always going to come up against resistance. Add to this our inherent negativity bias as human beings, and the picture becomes even more tricky.

That said, we find a huge appetite for the applications of positive psychology, because people in organizations and in schools are increasingly recognizing that what they have done so far has not worked as well as they wanted it to. As a result, they are looking for new approaches that will be more effective. When organizations and schools do start to apply some of the principles of positive psychology and strengths, the results are often demonstrable quite quickly, and this can be a powerful way of overcoming some of those initial obstacles and embedding the change towards a new approach.

Timothy: It is never easy to promote new principles or approaches, but to me the development of PP in Europe is very successful under the efforts of different scholars and practitioners. What is your view about this?

naslov.jpgAlex – It has been wonderful to be involved with the development of positive psychology in Europe. The European Network for Positive Psychology goes from strength to strength, and the fourth European Conference on Positive Psychology is in Croatia in July 2008.

I am also pleased to see the development of more indigenous approaches to positive psychology in European countries, which I believe is a very important step forward: positive psychology should develop its own culturally-informed identity in different countries, and the cultural traditions and variations of Europe provide a great opportunity for this. As but one example, I have recently contributed a Foreword to a volume on positive psychology in Denmark edited by Anders Myszak and Simon Noerby, and I strongly support initiatives such as this, which are helping the appreciation of positive psychology from increasingly diverse cultural perspectives.

Timothy: Yes, I am excited about the upcoming conference in Croatia as well. Besides, You mentioned ‘cultural awareness’, that really excites me as PP is rapidly developing in the past 10 years but mainly in the West. How do you view PP in Asia?

Alex: Extending this theme of positive psychology being understood and studied from diverse cultural perspectives, positive psychology in Asia, in my view, has huge potential. There is certainly the need for some of the major constructs and conceptions of positive psychology to be considered through an Asiatic lens, and fundamentally, I would like to see far more recognition in the West of how many positive psychology ideas and constructs have been around for hundreds and thousands of years in Asia. This is very rarely recognized in any significant way.

For example, I was honored to be invited to deliver a keynote address at what I understand to be the first positive psychology conference in India, in February 2007, organized by my great friends and colleagues Professor Jitendra Mohan and Professor Meena Sehgal of Panjab University, Chandigarh. At this conference, one of the speakers was Professor Ramachandran Rao, a famous Indian thinker, who demonstrated in his presentation the many, many parallels between Indian thought on living a good life and the views espoused by positive psychology.

There is a huge need for more rapprochements such as this, since in the West we are far too easily convinced that we have discovered something for the first time, when actually there is an extensive tradition of Eastern thought that speaks to many of these topics. As a result, I urge all positive psychologists – especially the younger generation – to investigate this and to build greater communion and understanding between the traditions of thought in the East and the West.

Timothy: With my background as an Asian, I am impressed and can’t agree with you more on your urge, thanks Alex. Lastly, to conclude the interview, would you like to share more about some future directions of CAPP to facilitate the development of PP?

Alex: We are totally committed to our mission of Strengthening the World, and will be continuing to do that as widely as we possibly can. This will mean broadening our work with organizations and schools, and increasing our reach and dissemination through our books and through Realise2.

In addition, we are organizing the 2nd Applied Positive Psychology Conference on April 1-3, 2009, at the University of Warwick, UK, and this will showcase all the latest developments in positive psychology and its applications. Our confirmed keynotes so far for this event include Barbara Fredrickson, Jenifer Fox, Anthony Seldon, Nic Marks, Robert Biswas-Diener and myself. Also, Adrian Belic, the film director, will be screening Beyond the Call, which has so far won no less than 37 Best Film awards!

Timothy: It sounds very exciting, I am looking forward to all these activities and I wish CAPP continuing success, and to make positive psychology more applicable and beneficial not only to the academia but also to different professions and lay-men. Thank you very much for your interview.

Timothy’s Note: As a founding member of CAPP, after such an insightful interview, I not only wish everything Alex is doing for Positive Psychology can be a greater success, but also love to contribute myself more and more to the field – to ‘Strengthening the World’ and to contribute to positive psychology across cultures. How about you? I hope you’d also get some inspirations as well.



P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.) (2004). Positive Psychology in Practice. pp. 105-124. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Linley, P. A. (2008). Average to A+: Realising Strengths in Yourself and Others. Coventry, UK: CAPP Press.

Linley, P. A., Willars, J. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). The Strengths Book: Be Confident, Be Successful, and Enjoy Better Relationships by Realising the Best of You. (Added later)

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Jo 25 June 2008 - 10:47 am

My attention was piqued by three points:

a) A strength energizes. It is measured by its effect rather than by its content. This definition may seem tautological, but isn’t that because we are “locked” in to an XY model? If we think in phase states, we see the difficulty lies in our own reductionism?

b) Deficit’s seem to be conflated with deficiencies. A deficit is having less than what is needed. Who defines what is needed? It is the impulse to define what is “right” by people who are somehow privileged that leads to the negativity in psychology. Take away the political right to define without discussion, and deficit’s go away.

c) Do people need to change? I know I need to “grow” a positive, poetic vocabulary. But I see that as no more of a change than exploring an interesting street in a new city.

A positive approach is scary when we used a deficit model and we become like a rabbit staring at headlights – focused on threat to the point of paralysis.

If only we would keep on hopping, we would get to the other side of the road. I think our job as psychologists is to represent the other side of the road and keep the rabbit’s focus on us – if they could just keep on hopping!


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