Today, for my 100 days challenge, I’ll write another type of article by introducing my second illustration of an important concept of psychology.
I cannot believe it took me so long to share this one with you guys!
This is the model I come back to a lot in my work (and my personal life). It was coined by Martin Seligman, the founding father of positive psychology, the science studying happiness, flourishing and strengths.
I discovered his amazing work 10 years ago, and it changed my practice and life forever.
This model specifically is about everything that was studied as a contributor to well-being, in life or at work. But not everything has the same value in terms of living what is called “a good life”, one that makes us happy on the long term.
Here is some bits of myself and my life to illustrate what I mean :
I am what Emily Wapnick from @puttylike_hq would call a multipotentialite : I love learning and doing many many things, sometimes, not for very long, sometimes like with psychology and sociology, or like creativity, for a very long time because of how vast and deep the discipline is. That’s often why my work can seem so “scattered”.
But don’t mistake my love for many many subjects like mental health, parenting, mentorship, creativity, sexuality, body image, social justice, radical feminism, spirituality, coupledom, group psychology, cultural psychology... for an actual superficial scattered approach : most of my life is devoted to learning, experimenting and writing/speaking about all those things.
Nothing I do is ever superficial, I don’t see the point of it. I prefer to go all in and deep, sometimes too much haha. I just have a (time) consuming pattern for learning ALL THE THINGS about being human as individuals or together. I have been doing and learning all that on most days for the past 15 years. I actually have learned more since I graduated from my university than in the 5 years I spent there only learning about psychology and disciplines feeding its ins and outs.
The way I managed to work so much on all that and sustain so much passion is because it is feeling each part of the model.
I do it because it gives me a lot of positive emotions. I deeply enjoy learning and the things I am learning about. It feeds my sense of wonder about humanity and the Universe. It works for me like a game : I’m making the biggest puzzles I’ve ever done by collecting information about emotional and social intelligence and human experiences, which I have always loved since I was a little girl. It gives me hope about the future of humanity and the world.
It is something I am deeply engaged in. It gives me a great sense of flow to work, write, draw, give talks or have conversations about all this.
Yes, I am a perfectionist so I struggle with procrastination. But I don’t have to force myself constantly to read, learn and write about all that. It is something I deeply want to do, and when I don’t, I feel very empty and depressed in very little time. Of course I can take a break or vacation, but if I don’t read/learn and talk about psychology (including at work) for a few weeks…
Oh boy, you don’t want to be near me. I’m all depleted and cranky, and hate everything and everyone.
This work all impacts in every meaningful way possible all of my relationships. The one I have with myself, with my family of origin, with my loved ones, with my friends, with my patients, with strangers, everyone. They all deeply deepen and strengthen through all this work. It also allowed me to meet incredible people to collaborate with, when I struggled for decades to meet people I could really relate to. Finally, the therapeutic alliance is another type of very meaningful relationship.
I don’t think I have to explain how meaningful that work is to me at this point. It brings me a very strong sense of joyful purpose. I have a place in the Universe through it : I know what I was born to do and even have the unbelievable chance to feel like I actually change the world everyday in my own little way, by doing what I love the most.
Finally, I get the opportunity to have a strong sense of achievement through all this. As a person, through learning, evolving, progressing personally, creatively, professionally. As a person in my relationships, it’s incredibly satisfying to be in profoundly meaningful relationships, rooted in kindness, love and authenticity, sharing not only deep intimacy but multitudes of meaningful shared interests, especially since I went through complex trauma, deep attachment issues, multiple mental illnesses (depression, anxiety, addiction) and a strong history of a sense of isolation. And of course, helping my patients/clients through their own issues and seeing them recover and thrive, that all of this counted for more than myself and my loved one, has given me a strong sense of accomplishment too.
Of course, you don’t need to find ONE thing that encompasses all of the PERMA model to have a good life. I am a very lucky duck.
And even I find a bit of all of them through things that have nothing to do with my work, like art making, my personal relationships, physical exercise, my daily routine, personal reading, dancing, cooking…
The idea is that if you have nothing at all of one of them, chances are your life is going to feel unbalanced and somehow empty. Not one can replace any of the other, they all work together, collaborating on giving life purpose.
So the model can serve as a map for well being, to give us direction on what we can work on to feel more fulfilled.
You’ll find here more information on the model here :