The year is 2050. Belinda feels that she is in a straight-jacket, both at home and at work. She works hard in both and feels that she is getting no rest. Her husband has little interest in helping out at home, except to take the children to the playground where he can have fun with them. Her co-workers pile the work on her desk, knowing that they get along with the supervisor but she does not. In her mind, her universe is limited to stress and drudgery.

Because most people feel limited by their home  or work lives at times, it is likely that you have experienced some of these feelings. When the feelings of frustration, disappointment, and anxiety mount, it is easy to feel like there is no way out.

In a society informed by positive psychology, the following might transpire. Given your sense of suffocation both at home and at work, you turn to the resources available to you on the internet. You recall the messages of positive psychology and refer to the approaches and techniques it teaches. You dig into the topic of positive society psychology and learn how to deal with group issues like the ones you are experiencing at work. In both cases, psychology has emphasized the role of communication— whether this is communication between the different parts of yourself or between you and other disputers. You recall some of the lessons you learned throughout your schooling in the decade beginning in 2020, that is, in your positive psychology programs on how to handle stress and to focus on solutions. Those programs also taught you how to grow and flourish to an optimal level, whether in the role of a student, worker, partner, or parent.

Your Universe and Multiple Universes; Steps and Stages

You recall two principles that help explain how positive psychology works. (a) First, you remember that although you might feel stuck in yourself or in your world, you must think outside the framework of your world as it exists in the present. It is not just your universe—there are multiple worlds that could be constructed by you. The one in which you are living in the present is one of them, but it is not the only one possible. You have the choice to analyze your current world carefully, learn how to improve yourself, and utilize the strategies that psychology teaches to help improve others. All these tools will help make your world better.

That being said, it is hard to predict where any changes to your world will bring you. In predicting the future, you might realize that there are several possible new worlds—even multiple universes. Because it is difficult to know in advance its exact nature, you have to be flexible and ready to accept different options. There is not one best path for you, and what might develop is relative. [Note to the reader, in this sense the term "relaverse" might be a better one than "multiple universes"]

(b) Second, your world might go through steps as it grows and these could be quite difficult to manage. The steps might change quickly with little time for you to rest. However, in your positive psychology programs at school, you learned that not all types of growth are smooth. Systems might always be in change or resting before the next change. Ideally, systems are always on the edge of change and prepped to move in a positive direction. Feeling stuck does not mean that positive change is impossible. To the contrary, positive actions on your part can help your world grow in a positive direction.

In this sense, because in your world you seek constant positive change, your world might be in a constant state of instability or disequilibrium rather than stability and equilibrium. Living this way, there might be only isolated moments without change. You might need to get used to the idea of not resisting change. Resisting change could backfire and lead to negative change. [Note to the reader: The concept of moments of change in a pattern of stability over time is referred to as "punctuated equilibrium." However, in terms of personal and societal growth, it is more likely that the optimal pattern reflects "punctuated disequilibrium."]

The time is late in the year 2050. You keep hope because you have learned attitudes and techniques that will help. Like Belinda, you start the path toward altering your world, changing yourself for the better and working to change others around you. You had done this in the past and you will do it again in the future.

Improving Societies and Societal Relations

So far in this series of essays on positive society psychology, I have focused on the growth of individuals and of the society that we live in. However, just as couples can have disputes, so can societies. Indeed, our times are marked by brinkmanship, poor state relations, mini-wars, and great wars. The lingering effects of hatred drive people apart and facilitate further strife. In the future, an approach of positive society psychology might help societies to navigate the worst disputes and threats of war before conflagrations begin.

I have implicated that the educational system would be influenced by the approach of positive society psychology. Everything possible should be done to encourage optimal psychological growth in children and parents in our society. Similarly, children in other societies should be exposed to a similar philosophy and its application. This will serve to help reduce the communication and cultural gaps across societies and help to promote inter-cooperation instead of inter-competition.

Ideally, each society will be viewed as having the potential for constant positive change or transition and each one will have developed an approach and techniques to facilitate growth in other societies as well as its own, for example, by developing positive actions and policies and by learning how to control, alter, or inhibit the growth of negative ones.

Diplomats and representatives of all societies would be schooled in this mentality and would encourage the right way to alter any lapses in others. For example, any sign that children are being taught hate would be stamped out in constructive ways by collective will and action before it could get too far.

This is my vision. This is your opportunity. In a certain sense, we can promote a better future and help overcome the troublesome signs in our present. Acting in the way indicated, or in a similar manner, would be positive for your psychology and for our society.

About the Author

Gerald Young, Ph.D.

Gerald Young, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at York University.

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