John Andrew Williams, the founder of Academic Life Coaching, sat down with Dr. Itai Ivtzan to discuss his work and views on Positive Psychology today. The two met at the 2015 International Positive Psychology Association Conference in Florida, where Dr. Ivtzan was speaking. This is Part I of their interview and discussion about Positive Psychology, spirituality, and the changing landscape of research around these topics. In the first of this three part series, Dr. Itai Ivtzan discusses his recent books, the new wave of Positive Psychology, and how we can increase our own personal wellbeing.
What is the new wave of Positive Psychology?
The movie Inside Out demonstrates the ideas behind the new wave of Positive Psychology perfectly. Throughout the movie, joy is at the forefront of everything and sadness is constantly being pushed aside. About 80% through the movie, joy realizes that she needs sadness in order to have a complete and healthy psychological experience.
“In many ways that is what we are trying to do now with the second wave of Positive Psychology,” says Dr. Itvtzan.
The main point is this; our path to happiness is much more complex than the way we normally approach it.
We usually identify happiness with positive emotions or pleasure. Life is good if we are smiling and enjoying every moment, and when we experience these things, we are happy. “I would like to doubt that,” says Dr. Ivtzan, and here is why:
There is a distinction between hedonic and eudemonic happiness that is essential to understanding what it truly means to be happy. Eudemonic happiness is a deeper, more complex experience of happiness, where we realize that happiness is much more about the alignment between “who and what I am” and “the way I act or the choices I make.” In other words he says, “if that, which is sitting deep within me, is expressed in my life, then I am eudemonically happy.” Ultimately, if we have a job that feels right for us, are surrounded by people who feel right for us, and are doing things that feel right for us, then we feel eudemonically happy.
The challenge with this, says Dr. Ivtzan, is that doing all of those things is so challenging that it requires us to go through negative emotions. We normally reject feelings of pain, sadness, anxiety, etc., but these negative emotions are often found on the path toward eudemonic happiness. However, instead of embracing these emotions as part of our journey, we try to push them away. This is where the real trouble comes from, because the more we try to push emotions away, the more they are able to find their way back to us.
Just like Riley in Inside Out, we must learn to embrace both joy and sadness, both negative and positive emotions. This is where true happiness can be found.
Meet Dr. Itai Ivtzan
Dr Itai Ivtzan is passionate about the combination of psychology and spirituality. It makes his heart sing. He is convinced that if we befriend both psychology and spirituality, and succeed in introducing them into our lives, we will all become super-heroes, and gain super-strengths of awareness, courage, resilience, and compassion. Isn’t this an amazing prospect? Dr. Itai Ivtzan is a positive psychologist, a senior lecturer, and the program leader of MAPP (Masters in Applied Positive Psychology) at the University of East London (UEL). He is also an honorary senior research associate at University College London (UCL).
Over the past 15 years, Dr. Ivtzan has run seminars, lectures, workshops and retreats in the UK and around the world, in various educational institutions and at private events. He published several books, as well as numerous journal papers and book chapters. His main areas of research are positive psychology, mindfulness, and spirituality. Dr. Ivtzan is confident that mindfulness meditation has the power to change individuals – in fact, whole societies – for the better. Accordingly, he has been investing much time in studying mindfulness academically, writing books about it, teaching it, and training mindfulness teachers.
He is the author of a number of books related to his research in psychology and spirituality:
Awareness is Freedom: The Adventure of Psychology and Spirituality – Discusses step-by-step how we can incorporate psychology and spirituality in our lives to increase wellbeing and experience transcendence
Second Wave Positive Psychology: Embracing the Dark Side of Life – Rethinks what Positive Psychology is, what it researches, and what it should research (available in ~3 months)
Mindfulness in Positive Psychology: The Science of Meditation and Wellbeing – Brings Positive Psychology and mindfulness together to help people increase wellbeing (available in ~6 months)
Applied Positive Psychology: Integrated Positive Practice – Explores the practical aspects of Positive Psychology in textbook form
If you wish to get additional information about his work or contact him, please visit www.AwarenessIsFreedom.com.