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Confronting Reality beyond Positive Illusions

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Confronting Reality beyond Positive Illusions

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Positive illusion has been postulated to contribute to mental well-being, the ability to care and the capacity for productive and creative work. Proponents of positive illusions maintain that mild, and not delusional, levels of distortion are essential for mental health and do not detract from adaptive behaviours bound to objective reality. Opponents note that a distorted appraisal of reality and negative events could lead to misjudgment, risk-taking action, and perhaps longer-term negative consequences. Inline with more contemporary approaches to well-being, such as acceptance and mindfulness, we will propose a theoretical framework to establish appropriate parameters between actual reality vs. realistic appraisal. Moreover, we will argue that the missing link in the well-being research is the external and holistic measurement of optimal functioning; a dependent variable that psychology has tended to steer omit. We contend that while positive illusion contributes to mental health, an illusion-free appraisal can contribute to further well-being through courageous objectivity, and growth mindsets resulting in closer alignment to models of fully-functioning, measured by both external and internal criteria. This was presented at the 2016 International Conference on Well-being in Singapore.

Positive illusion has been postulated to contribute to mental well-being, the ability to care and the capacity for productive and creative work. Proponents of positive illusions maintain that mild, and not delusional, levels of distortion are essential for mental health and do not detract from adaptive behaviours bound to objective reality. Opponents note that a distorted appraisal of reality and negative events could lead to misjudgment, risk-taking action, and perhaps longer-term negative consequences. Inline with more contemporary approaches to well-being, such as acceptance and mindfulness, we will propose a theoretical framework to establish appropriate parameters between actual reality vs. realistic appraisal. Moreover, we will argue that the missing link in the well-being research is the external and holistic measurement of optimal functioning; a dependent variable that psychology has tended to steer omit. We contend that while positive illusion contributes to mental health, an illusion-free appraisal can contribute to further well-being through courageous objectivity, and growth mindsets resulting in closer alignment to models of fully-functioning, measured by both external and internal criteria. This was presented at the 2016 International Conference on Well-being in Singapore.

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Confronting Reality beyond Positive Illusions

  1. 1. Confronting Reality Beyond Positive Illusions Objective Appraisals for a Growth Mindset and Positive Mental Wellbeing Dr. Paul Englert 31 October 2016 2016 International Conference on Well-being (Singapore)
  2. 2. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore THE CONTEXT: A Scientist-Practitioner Pracademic My role as an executive psychologist THE PROBLEM: How to integrate therapeutic models into a simple framework of wellbeing The conversation with my colleague
  3. 3. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore 1. The Replication Crisis 2. Poor Construct Definition 3. Excessive Reliance on Quantification 4. A Widening Scientist-Practitioner Gap The Four Horsemen for Psychology
  4. 4. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore The Replication Crisis
  5. 5. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore Nomological network framework Grounded theory Poor Construct Definition “Satisfaction with life, positive affect, and absence of negative affect” (Diener et. al., 1985) “Self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, personal growth” (Ryff, 1989) “Broad range concept affected in a complex way by the persons’ physical health, psychological state, level of independence, social relationships and their relationship to salient features of their environment” (WHOQOL Group, 1998)
  6. 6. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore • If it’s not measured, it simply does not exist. • Reliance on population and mean-based statistics as opposed to the understanding of the individual. Excessive Reliance on Quantification
  7. 7. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water just yet! The Widening Scientist-Practitioner Gap
  8. 8. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore Practical Models for the Scientist-Practitioner 5 virtues of psychology in practice: Ethics Evidence-based Continual research Scientific method Community
  9. 9. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore An Operational Definition for Executive Coaches Wellbeing Low High Connection to reality Low High Wellbeing
  10. 10. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore The Underlying Premises • Wellbeing cannot be divorced from external reality • The continuum of wellbeing should allow for value judgments based on external achievement as well as internal states • Wellbeing is contingent upon the individual, both in terms of capacity and ideology • Wellbeing is a journey and a destination • Supra-wellbeing as well as pseudo-wellbeing need to be discussed and differentiated in the literature
  11. 11. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore • Low wellbeing Low connection to reality • Absence of positive thinking about one’s situation that is not connected to reality • At the heart of Albert Ellis’ work Delusional Depression
  12. 12. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore • Low wellbeing Connected to reality • Alloy and Abramson (1988) • Realistic, undistorted appraisals about self- relevant events • Depression as a mental adaptation • A challenge for executive psychologists Depressive Realism
  13. 13. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore • Taylor and Brown (1988) • Positive appraisal of situation that has low connection to reality • Three types of thinking: – Unrealistic positive views of self – Illusion of control – Unrealistic optimism • The Confidence Movement Positive Illusion
  14. 14. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore • Realistic appraisal of situation that is connected to reality • We want the same things as positive illusions, but we don’t want it to be an illusion • Wellbeing as a continuum • Brings in the external criteria into the conversation Supra Wellbeing
  15. 15. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore
  16. 16. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore • People have different goals and definitions of reality • Key to understanding wellbeing is the congruence between one’s definition of reality, one’s goals and one’s behaviour, with outcomes and internal states • This has to be understood at the individual level and must include an evaluation of capacity, willingness, and opportunity (Blumberg and Pringle, 1982) • Wellbeing is therefore a holistic concept that incorporates internal and external states, assessed within the individual to form an evaluation of self-discrepancy and self-actualisation • The continuum of wellbeing creates a growth mindset that drives internal and external change A Growth Mindset and Courageous Objectivity
  17. 17. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore The World Of The Executive Psychologist The Psychologist Advantage To Assist Wellbeing 5 virtues of psychology in practice: Ethics Evidence-based Continual research Scientific method Community BUT, it must result in changes to the internal and external states to be valued by clients and a discerning public.
  18. 18. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore • As a researcher, how have I incorporated reality into my measurement? • As a researcher, how have I incorporated one’s congruence with reality into the definition of wellbeing • As a practitioner, how aware am I of the stages between delusional depression and positive illusions? • As a practitioner, have I evaluated my coachee’s capacity, willingness, and opportunity? • As an individual, how do I use the concept of supra wellbeing to operationalise my growth mindset? Five Key Questions
  19. 19. Australia  New Zealand  Singapore • Blumberg, M., & Pringle, C. D. (1982). The missing opportunity in organizational research: Some implications for a theory of work performance. Academy of management Review, 7(4), 560-569. • Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc. • Englert, P. (1997). Eliminating the negative in positive illusions: A blue print for the maintenance of mental health during unemployment and redundancy. In P. Howland (Ed.). Voices in Continuum (pg. 115-126). Victoria Postgraduate Association: New Zealand. • Ghate, O., & Locke, E. A. (2003). Objectivism: The proper alternative to postmodernism. In Post Modernism and Management (pp. 249- 278). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. • Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: a social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological bulletin, 103(2), 193. References

Notes de l'éditeur

  • The problem with the replication crisis is that it is almost inherent to our discipline.
  • Not just thinking of the construct of wellbeing in a definition, but in a nomological network.
    The nomological network needs to have an external criteria, especially if we are putting wellbeing on a continuum.
  • George Kelly and Hans Eysenck
  • The problem is psychology is taken over by pop psychology, and when that happens, it is very problematic. This is the problem with where it is going. Psychology has so much to offer in terms of the ethics, updated literature, what the science is, but we have to be honest about it.
  • If change is merely internal but not external, it is not pointless but certainly not as valuable.
    Underneath positive illusions is just changing one’s mental state but their reality stays the same.
    There has to be a causal relationship of changing someone’s mental state so they can change their external state (reality).
    This works well too not just with tangible realities but also other concepts of external reality (e.g. spiritual outcomes).

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