Meaning-Focused Therapy

Radical positive psychology for radical times

Paul T. P. Wong
Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D. C.Psych
Toronto, ON, Canada

International terrorism, radical fundamentalism, natural disasters, AIDS, ethno-geographical wars, oppressive regimes, devastating poverty and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots indicate that the state of the world is not well. Radical positive psychology is needed for the radical times of 21st century.

Radical positive psychology (RPP) moves beyond the comfortable confines of American positive psychology which focuses on personal happiness and individual success in “normal people” under normal or benign conditions. RPP asks a different set of research questions: What does life demand of us as individually and collectively? What is our responsibility to society and humanity? How can we promote peace, harmony and well-being in the world? What can we empower people in radical circumstances or “boundary conditions” to find meaning, hope and happiness?

RPP involves a broader epistemology, theoretical framework and methodology. More specifically, it embraces different knowledge claims and research methodologies. It recognizes the contributions from indigenous psychology around the globe. It emphasizes cross-cultural research on a participatory basis and the need to balance insiders’ perspectives with outsiders’ observations.

Conceptually, RPP rejects the false dichotomy of negative and positive psychology and accepts the duality of negatives and positives as the essence of the human condition. Thus, in instead of simply focusing on the positive, RPP emphasizes the need to bring out the positive in negative situations. The basic premise is that the best way to accentuate the positive is through transcending and transforming the negative. Thus, hope is redefined as the ability to believe in a better future in spite of bleak reality and happiness as the capacity to rejoice in the midst of suffering.

Apart from laying out the theoretical framework for RPP, the presentation will provide empirical findings and what makes life worth living in different cultures, and how restore hope and happiness in radical times.

In sum, RPP avoids Eurocentric biases and moves to develop a bold vision of systems psychology, which incorporates both etic and emic laws for both individual and society. Its mission is to advance a humble and cooperative agenda towards international participatory research in order to enhance the well-being of all people especially the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

* Keynote address to be given at the International Council of Psychologists in San Diego, August 11-14, 2007. For more information, please visit