New Doors Have Opened in Positive Psychology: An Interview with Dr. Itai Ivtzan (Part 2/3)

October 26, 2015 by Coach Training EDU

Watch the interview here:

This is the second part of a three part interview series with Dr. Itai Ivtzan, a researcher and professor at the University of East London. He is a Positive Psychologist who specializes in the connection between psychology and spirituality, as well as topics such as meditation and mindfulness. While these topics have become more mainstream in the last decade, there are still questions about their place in the academic and research worlds. In the second part of this three part interview series, Dr. Itai Ivtzan discusses how the landscape of Positive Psychology has changed in academia and what this means for the future of research in previously taboo topic areas.

“Don’t Waste your Time with this Mindfulness Stuff”

When Dr. Itai Ivtzan first began researching and teaching mindfulness at universities 15 years ago, he was met with skepticism. People often acknowledged it as an interesting idea, but they also told him that he would be better off to change his topic because “this mindfulness stuff is going nowhere.”

Who’s laughing now? Today, mindfulness and mediation are some of the most prominent research topics out there. Psychologists, doctors, and the general public have all become fascinated by these two subjects, and the interest just continues to grow.

However, these are not the only two topics that started out taboo and quickly became well-known. “A lot of concepts that used to be out of bounds, rejected, or not a part of our scientific world, are now okay,” says Ivtzan. It just takes time.

Self transcendence is another example of such a concept. The deeper we go into spirituality, the deeper we go on our journey of letting go of ourselves and letting go of the ideas we originally had of who/what we are. We begin to move into a scary territory, where we are less defined less aware of ourselves. “It is scary and beautiful at the same time,” say Ivtzan, “scary and exciting.” From this place, we begin to see the potential of life and the unlimited opportunities that exist.

This idea has recently become a widespread research topic in Psychology. It has been used in both nursing and psychotherapy, as a way to help people let go of their attachment to themselves and become more free.

Both mindfulness and self transcendence are topics that psychologists barely batted an eyelash at 10 or 15 years ago. However, today, they are both being researched and used in various aspects of Psychology.

“As years go by, I feel that I have much more space to explore,” says Ivtzan. The things that he used to barely touch on in a lecture are now the main topics of discussion, and this is partly because Positive Psychology is such a great home for spirituality.

Doors have opened in Academia

While there is a lot of progress being made within psychology, there are still some shortcomings. John Andrew Williams brought up an excellent point, stating that, “there still seems to be this separation between science and spirituality, and it is making less and less sense.”

Dr. Ivtzan emphasized that this is all a journey, and that these changes cannot all happen in a day. According to him, nearly all topics that are being discussed in Positive Psychology have roots in Humanistic Psychology from the 1950s and 1960s. “We haven’t invented the wheel,” says Ivtzan, “but what we are offering now, that we weren’t offering then, is rigorous scientific research.” This is where the strength of Positive Psychology comes from, and this is why it is flourishing.

We are more comfortable when we are able to study something from a scientific standpoint, and this ability has a great bearing on what we choose to accept. Today, we are engaging with and researching topics that are related to spirituality that we never have before, such as the meaning of life.

This idea, which has been at the forefront of human existence for as long as we know, was never properly researched or scientifically studied until Positive Psychology took an interest. Now, we know the incredible effect that our meaning in life has on so many areas of wellbeing.

This new openness in Positive Psychology, and academia in general, is allowing us to learn and understand so many new and amazing things. Ivtzan says that, “The level of openness that we have now with academia is much, much greater than it used to be. We are allowed to bring in and investigate questions that were not allowed 10 or 15 years ago.” And this is what makes this field so amazing!

Now is a great time to get involved with academia because we are able to explore anything we want to. The doors are open and waiting for people to come in and ask questions that have never been asked and explore areas that have never been explored.

To learn more about Dr. Itai Ivtzan and his work, visit

You may also enjoy Amazing Lessons from Parenthood : An Interview with Dr. Itai Ivtzen (Part 3/3) blog.

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