That Flourishing Feeling

Positive psychology is sometimes perceived as putting a premium on pleasant experiences – what critics call “happiology”. Yet just because pleasure is a positive experience doesn’t mean it’s the only positive experience!

Yes, it’s true that thinkers as ancient as Socrates and Aristotle have maintained that people who flourish also experience greater enjoyment in life. However, it seems to me that the personal experience of eudaimonia is much more intriguing and varied than mere hedonics. Consider Aristotle’s claim that the objective conditions of eudaimonia produce subjective experiences of greater tranquility, stability of personal identity, harmony between reason and emotion, lack of significant regrets over one’s actions, internal coherence or “being of one mind”, evaluations that one’s life is valuable and lacks nothing of significance, etc. Modern thinkers have added to this list, as for instance with the late Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of deep engagement in one’s activities (see his book Flow) and Daniel Haybron’s exploration of qualities such as attunement with one’s environment and a sense of expansiveness (see his book The Pursuit of Unhappiness). Generating a comprehensive description of the feelings of flourishing would be a fascinating research project for someone who is so inclined…

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