INPM Growing During the Pandemic Webinars 2020
Webinar A explains: (a) Why we need to accept COVID-19 as an opportunity to develop existential courage to transcend suffering as a rock foundation to build a better life, and (b) Why the new science of suffering is necessary for sustainable flourishing in times like this.
Webinar B shows: (a) How Viktor Frankl developed the antidote against suffering, and (b) How existential positive interventions transform suffering into character strength and joy.
These two webinars constitute the Introduction to a Certificate Course on Existential Positive Psychology (PP 2.0) and Meaning-Focused Interventions, which will be offered later.
All registrants will receive Dr. Wong’s new ebook Made for Resilience and Happiness as the textbook for the webinar.
We will post the links to the webinars recordings soon.
The presenter: Dr. Paul T. P. Wong Ph.D., C.Psych is the President of the INPM and a renowned psychologist, who pioneers in the new science of flourishing through suffering. He invites you to inquire about becoming a member of the new Research Institute on Flourishing & Suffering.
Webinar Questions for Dr. Wong
The future is ambiguous, isn’t it? Do we have an inbuilt capacity to survive and be happy? Does it mean that transitional situations like today have a fundamental meaning of discovering it and making use of it on the conscious level of functioning?
For a full answer, please read my book Made for Resilience & Happiness. A short answer is indeed to intentionally seek the meaning of every present situation and work towards future goal, no matter how uncertain the future might be.
I am very interested in your challenges to the PERMA model of wellbeing: are you saying that we need to cast this model out or can it be extended to take account of the impact/presence of suffering?
As I have already explained during our Question and Answer session, PERMA interventions can be made more effective if they take into account the inevitable personal limitations and sufferings of participants in their coaching program.
What strategies would you suggest to build a resilient mindset in people during the present crisis?
Start practicing the TRAMMB mindset as explained by the PPT and my book Made for Resilience & Happiness.
Question – so are you saying we should cultivate our limbic system thinking for resilience?
Not the limbic system, but the limbic cortex as a part of the default mode network (DMN).
Is “flow” a way of transcendence, or a part of Mindfulness?
Yes, indeed, but “flow” is just one of the many ways to achieve transcendence.
Also how can a catastrophic mindset become a growth mindset?
It can, but this transformation can be long process. Go over my powerpoint and my book Made for Resilience & Happiness. regarding the steps involved.
How do I know that I completely understand myself?
You never completely understand yourself. In fact, there is no bottom to the depth of self-understanding–you can always go deeper.
What is NE on that slide featuring the Tai Chi image? I mean, what does NE stand for?
NE stands for negative emotions.
More and more people survive in the constant life struggle… does it mean that learning personal growth becomes less important…?
No, it does not. The fact that life is a constant struggle means that personal growth is always needed to meet new challenges.
When do we decide that we are suffering?
When you experience a great deal of discomfort or distress either because of a current situation or a past memory.
What lead you to this line of work?
Both personal suffering and my calling in helping others.
Can we use PERMA and TRAMMB in an integrated manner?
Yes, you can in a variety of ways. A straight-forward way is to teach people both models at the same time. For example, provide one session of coaching on the need for TRAMMB will yield better objective measures of PERMA than one session of coaching on a standard positive world view that the world is good and safe.
There are also subtle ways of incorporate relevant elements from TRAMMB in PERMA interventions. For example, for Meaning interventions, we may include coaching on persistence and flexibility (http://www.drpaulwong.com/the-positive-psychology-of-persistence-and-flexibility/ ) as well as the need to make personal sacrifices for something bigger than oneself.
My question is about referencing God: how can we make it relevant to those that may not hold that belief?
Belief in God is a personal choice, but such belief is also an evidence-based adaptive way to cope with stress or trauma beyond human control (see https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2006-01105-011). That is why it is OK to mention belief or faith as part of inner resources available (http://www.drpaulwong.com/coping-and-stress/).
Can you say more about how meaning-focused coping is more effective than emotion-focused coping?
Meaning-focused coping is more effective than emotion-focused coping because the former not only help reduces one’s emotional distresses, but meaning is often related to doing the right thing, which may lead to future success.
Please explain the concepts of meaning-reconstruction and re-authoring.
Please read my book Made for Resilience and Happiness. My short answer is that meaning-reconstruction involves meaning making or making up a different story about the event. Re-authoring is involved in one’s life review and seeing one’s life in a new way, such as from a victim to a survivor.
When I have any unusual symptoms, I stress about it for days and then realize I am not sick. How can I approach that better?
If an unusual and uncomfortable symptom persists, you may need to see your family doctor, because it is a message that something is not right in your body or mind. A rational way to approach to such problems is always more adaptive than an emotional way.
What is the best why to help the suffering people around me? How do you suggest that a single individual can do this?
The best way is to listen to them and find out how you can help. Every person can help by showing empathy and compassion.
How does the B in TRAMMB apply if the person Is not religious?
B means belief or faith in one’s self-efficacy, in humanity, or in a better future. It does not have to be religious.
How can I control negative feelings of anxiety when I am unable to practice mindfulness? I also feel that I have less belief and faith in my god and myself during these moments.
Learning deep-breathing and mindful meditation would be a good start to manage anxiety. Read relevant chapters in my book on Made for Resilience and Happiness.
For someone who keeps on hitting roadblocks in life, we’ve got to take a step back and try to discover the meaning and seek new goals?
Each roadblock is an opportunity for new learning. Repeated setback may indicate the need to consider new strategies or new goals.
Could you elaborate on Nietzsche’s ideas about happiness?
Please read this helpful article https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/10/15/nietzsche-on-difficulty/. He believed in meaning, sacrifice, and struggle rather than the pursuit of happiness.
Please say more about Blaine Fowers book on suffering, please elaborate on the role of virtue.
Dr. Fowers believes that the Aristotelian virtue is the antidote to human limitations and suffering.
Can religious beliefs help to cultivate positive thoughts in life?
Yes, research has shown that religious beliefs and faith communities can contribute to wellbeing.
How does existential positive psychology relate to questions of social inequality? Can we be responsible for our own meaning and fight oppression at the same time?
I have set an example of assuming personal responsibility to improve my own life and at the same time, fight for social justice and against oppression. I welcome all the oppressed people to join the struggle.
Is mindfulness one of the key ways to help with suffering? What is one other important method you have used?
As I have explained in my webinars and my book Made for Resilience and Happiness, mindfulness and meaningfulness are two most versatile ways to deal with suffering.
How do you introduce the idea of meaning to someone with no experience of faith and no belief in being part of something bigger than oneself.
Western culture promotes the ideas of individualism and competition. Frankl’s three avenues of meaning and discovering the minute of the moment are powerful ways. However, Frankl also emphasize the need for socially beneficial life goals as a way to balance individualism and communion.
Are the Existentialist philosophers very nihilistic and negative and not actually writing about how to have good existential health?
Not all existential philosophers are nihilistic and negative. The most influential ones like Satire and Camus were concerned about creating meaning and keeping healthy in spite of living in an absurd world.
In reading Ecclesiastes, the wisest man on earth felt there was no meaning to life except: enjoying good things, loving God, and loving each other. Do you consider this to be the main theme of what you are teaching here?
My teaching is indeed consistent with Ecclesiastes.
How can we feed the TRAMMB model into the PERMA model to allow us to acquire a more holistic approach to a Positive resilient mindset for COVID-19? What are the two driving forces to acquire this?
Yes I can show this, but it will require a different paper to show how this can be done. The holistic approach can be applied to all positive interventions, because there are no perfect people living in a perfect world, and we need to address the problem of suffering at all levels of human existence – from economic to spiritual.
I was wondering what might be the best way to promote a meaning mindset in a world that feels like there is a lack of meaning? How can we revive faith to cultivate a meaningful life in others?
I need more people to help promote the meaning mindset in the way people are promoting mindfulness now. This paper helps to explain the why and how: http://www.drpaulwong.com/documents/wong-meaning-mindset-measurement-and-implications.pdf
What does re-authoring mean? Is it for ourselves, or establishing ownership f[or a new responsibility?
It means all of the above, but it also means a deeper self-understanding.
Can you compare and contrast “Balancing” dualities and “Synthesizing” dualities?
“Balancing” dualities means to discover the optimal midpoint between two opposites. This is a Yin-Yang dialectic process. “Synthesizing” represents Hegel’s dialectics of creating a new reality from integrating two opposing views thesis and antithesis.
How can we practice to achieve this state of resilience?
You can start by accepting the painful reality of life and learning how to overcome or rise above it. Please read my book Made for Resilience and Happiness and then ask specific questions.
Also how can a catastrophic mindset become a growth mindset?
Start practicing the 3-second rule. Another way is to cultivate mindful meditation. Transforming one’s mindset is every an easy process, because the traditional approach to remove bad habits or attitudes does not work with mindset. For more tools, read my book Made for Resilience and Happiness.
Should we use all the approaches of coping at the same time?
No, that is not possible. Some coping responses are mutually exclusive – it not possible to choose fight and flight at the same time.
How much of our coping skills is innate and how much is learned?
The most basic coping skills is Freeze-fight-flight. Many defensive mechanisms skills are also innate. Most sophisticated coping skills are learned.
I have done research in this area (meaning based in cancer) and found that meanings are influenced by cultural beliefs. Do you feel that culture affects how people view suffering?
The growing research literature of indigenous psychology and cross-cultural psychology clearly shows that our views towards cancer and suffering are influenced by cultural norms.
What mindfulness exercise techniques do you recommend for us to practice?
There are many different mindfulness exercises, based on one’s religious or cultural tradition. Some are based on breath-work, some based on saying mantra. There is also the CBT-based mindfulness training which is not religious. There is no scientific evidence to show which ones are most beneficial.
E. Z. T.
How can one remove daunting desires from tormenting the mind?
First, you have to decide whether you want to be a slave or a master of your desires. Once you have decided to assume responsibility to regulate your desires, then you can start cultivating and reinforcing your will power to say “No” to your desires, while discovering and developing your passion for some worthy life goals. Please read my book Made for Resilience and Happiness for more details.
Would you be willing to describe some case examples where you have applied these ideas for advancing meaning and even joy amid suffering?
Please read the case studies and my autobiography on my website, www.drpaulwong.com
N. M. R.
What are your thoughts about ‘advaita vedanta’ non-duality – would you say this might be THE spiritual approach to transcend good/evil?
N. M. R
Do you think that a resilient mindset could be achieved by people who see themselves as ‘atheists’?
This pandemic is the concern for all, especially a person going through adversity already. How can that person still remain positive by continuing to instill positivity?
That is why existential positive psychology instills positivity by learning to embrace, transcend, and transform adversity.
E. Z. T.
Is silence complacent in the wake of the current world state/situation? How can a meaningful life enhance meaningful silence in the present world situation?
A meaningful life does not enhance silence in the face of injustice and oppression. Silence is meaningful only when it is suitable for the situation, such as grieving the loss of a hero.
How could faith be nurtured and the search for a meaningful life be built up when a person is starving due to poverty?
Personally, I found my faith during a time of poverty. When we are in dire poverty, faith can be a source of consolation, meaning, and strength.
When the neural networks of coping will lead to same outcome, why is the default network is more emphasized? Is it because of its endurance and reflective quality so it in a way it lead to freedom of choice and then lead to mastery which reinforce our empowerment and sense of agency? So isn’t it emphasizing the philosophy of the connected universe?
The default mode network (DMN) was emphasized in my lecture because of both its positive and negative potentials for our wellbeing. If we don’t cultivate the DMN, we will be naturally fall into the black hole of negativity. If we cultivate mindfulness and transcendence, it will indeed contribute to a sense of universal connectiveness and inner peace.
How do you deal with people who have psychopathic symptomatology- for example, no empathy, devious, no compassion, using situation for their own advantage, etc.
Meaning therapy is very optimistic, believing there is some goodness in everyone. Our challenge is to find ways to awaken their spiritual core.
R. V. R.
How to create meaning and motivation in life when we are going through a depressed state?
Often, a depressed state triggers the search for meaning.
Is there a relationship between spiritual intelligence and meaning in life? And also, how would spiritual intelligence have an impact on death anxiety?
Spiritual intelligence provides the wisdom on how to discover meaning. Spiritual intelligence is the antidote to death anxiety, because it reveals the wisdom that to find something worth dying for will accomplishes the twofold purpose of endowing life with meaning and removing fear of death.
Many people from the Philippines were already suffering long before the pandemic. How can we reconcile the tenet no. 1 that suffering is necessary for well being? Do we need to suffer long to find meaning?
I can understand the pain behind your question. But, properly understood, the first tenet is that suffering is the necessary foundation for sustainable wellbeing. In other words, since suffering is inevitable in life, especially in some developing countries, wellbeing or happiness is like an impossible dream unless we can find the wisdom to transform suffering as the rock bottom for surviving and thriving.
Can a person, not ready for the change, be granted a meaningful life and be happy?
Generally, meaning is discovered or created, but never granted by another person. However, when you meet someone full of meaning and zest for life, such a person may awaken you need for a more meaningful existence.
I am wondering if you could suggest three avenues to help a person change a negative core belief system to an affirming one?
Here are three helpful ways to change one’s negative core beliefs: (1) Read some inspirational books on positivity, (2) Seek some spiritual and religious answers, (3) Study existential positive psychology on how to transform negative beliefs to an affirmative one.
You cite Frankl’s “spiritual freedom – which can not be taken away” – what are your thoughts on the Chinese government with their oppression of Tibetans (e.g. recently not allowing they can fly their prayer flags) – do you think their spiritual freedom cannot be taken away? It seem that the Chinese government is trying to do this; and do you think that the Chinese government does not practice “spiritual freedom”?
According to Frankl, spiritual freedom is the ultimate freedom which no authoritarian government can take away, because it is the freedom to take a defiant stance in the face of death or life imprisonment. If such freedom could take place in Nazi death camps, it can take place in any concentration camp.
How do you distinguish between tragic optimism and optimistic pessimism?
They mean the same thing.
How do you define success?
The common way to define success is in terms of world gains, such as money, fame, or power.
But to me, true success means fulfilling one’s purpose in life through the constant struggle to improve oneself and contribute something of value to society, even without external recognition or reward. The process of true success is intrinsically rewarding.
I am a coach not a therapist. Can Meaning Therapy be translated into the coaching area?
Coaching can be considered as a collaborative, goal-oriented process to strengthen clients’ natural capacity for personal growth in order to accomplished some desired outcome. Meaning therapy does the same thing. For example, some of my clients meet with me regularly not because they have any psychological problems, but because they want to function at a more fulfilling and productive level. The main difference between coaching and therapy is the focus of the session, but they make use of many of the same principles and interventions.
Can the Golden Triangle for Positive health be implemented with the DMN hypothesis?
DMN is mostly related to Religious or spiritual aspects of the Golden Triangle. When the mind is not actively engaged in pursuing any goal, it can be best devoted to contemplative prayer or mindful meditation.
How can we introduce the three-second rule and the mindful mindset in meaning centered therapy to individual are so angry with trauma or avoidant in expressing their experience? How can we encourage clients to talk about these sufferings?
You can introduce the 3-seconds rule as a way for clients to not respond to unpleasant situations with emotional and instinctive response. Clients naturally talk about their sufferings, if they feel that they are in a safe and trusting environment.
L. J. S.
In what way specifically would you say that meaning can help people overcome adversity?
Meaning can help people overcome adversity by attaching a more realistic and positive way of interpreting the event.
If the meaning of life depends on relationship issues, how can it be changed into a more meaningful life?
Since we are social animals, relationships are one of the main sources of a meaningful life. See what I wrote about the Golden Triangle (in my book Made for Resilience and Happiness).
You speak of meaning as the antidote, but the term itself seems somewhat vague, or at least wide-open. Are there certain elements inherent within meaning that are necessary to make a legitimate “meaning-perspective” to live by?
Meaning is indeed an antidote to suffering. It is an holistic concept involving cognitive meaning, and spiritual meaning. That is no way to get away from the meaning factor as a human being.
How do we find meaning and purpose to life? The purpose which cannot be defined within social norms?
Review what I wrote about Frankl’s three avenues of finding meaning. Regarding purpose, Frankl emphasized that we need to be consistent with some social norms or universal values to ensure that one’s purpose in life would not be misguided.
Can you speak about the relevance of meaning seeking and finding meaning in the context of end of life (and palliative care)
Meaning seeking and meaning making are indeed central concerns in palliative care.
How can we cultivate optimal functioning through the Golden Triangle’s Positive mental health rule?
Read my book Made for Resilience and Happiness.
C. W. L.
For people with mental illness, like schizophrenia, is Meaning Therapy suitable for them?
Meaning Therapy can always serve as an adjunct to whatever medical treatment is given to that patient. Frankl called Logotherapy a medical ministry.
C. W. L.
What kind of support could logotherapy render to the relatives/survivors of COVID 19, whose son, father, uncle etc. are deceased? Perhaps by first accepting their suffering and grief? (Frankl explained that he suffered from depression when he returned to Vienna as a survivor and found out that his wife and all his relatives had been killed in the concentration camps).
Please read the chapter on grieving in my book Made for Resilience and Happiness.
Why are some people so resilient while some are just the opposite? And, how do we help people develop resiliency?
A simple answer is that it has a lot to do with how people were brought up. We all have the capacity for resilience, but it takes the experience of overcoming problems.
Can you tell us a bit about your work with severely ill patients? Thank you!
Please read the case studies on www.drpaulwong.com
What if the client/person has values that are destructive or are feeding the problem?
The therapist has an ethical obligation to help the client become aware of their self-destructive behaviors so that they can consider healthier values.
How does Frankl address the ‘self’ in relation to self-transcendence?
According to Frankl, the true meaning of human existence, or one’s truest self can only be found in self-transcendence – going beyond oneself in serving the common good and connecting with others.
How receptive is the Mental Health Industry to your work on suffering and flourishing? Is there hope that the mainstream will embrace this great work of yours?
I really need some journalists to help popularize the paradoxical truth of happiness and flourishing comes from embracing and transforming suffering.
You’ve discussed WHAT can we do. But HOW can we identify and understand the particular meanings when one doesn’t have any inner energy to do so? How can we implement this technique? Inner energy comes from a sense of mission.
The “How” of meaning can be found from my book Made for Resilience and Happiness.
Can you provide examples of how you have helped clients to discover meaning in their lives?
See some case studies on my website www.drpaulwong.com
Is self-disclosure permitted in meaning centered therapy to use therapist as model to orient clients towards meaning seeking?
Meaning Therapy encourages safe and effective use of self-disclosure as a way to demonstrate how meaning helps.
I would like to ask you something about transcendence and ego development. How feasible is it to ask a young person to transcend his ego needs and wants, when s/he is not at a mature age to understand on a deeper (or higher) level what self-transcendence means and serve something bigger than him/herself?
You will be surprised to know that young people are more idealistic than adults – they are more willing to sacrifice self interests to pursue an ideal. Just see how young Hong Kong students are willing to sacrifice everything for freedom and democracy. You don’t have to agree with them, but you have to admire their courage and self-transcendence.
T. M-. L.
I strikes me that some people who are not very evolved to begin with, may find meaning based therapy very difficult. I don’t mean to be insulting but I suppose what I am asking is – can simple minded people grasp this type of psychological approach?
Good question. Yes, meaning therapy works better with educated people. But with simple minded people, they still understand the simple concept of cultivating good relationships, bring their best self towards their work, and showing gratitude for life experiences. All these are powerful tools of meaning therapy. As a matter of fact, I often practice meaning therapy without mentioning the word meaning.