Optimism, and the dispositional moods highlighted by Peterson leads to individual perseverance and success, and to experience better physical health. Peterson's main emphasis on within the subject of subjective well-being is that society often has a negative influence on our well-being. This is because as a group, it is much harder to accomplish tasks and achieve goals, therefore it is taken for granted that we live within an overly pessimistic culture. Cultural forces thus impact our ability to be optimistic and thus our ability to be happy. Personal happiness can only improve if we can change our disposition towards a state of optimism, and create a barrier between our interpretation of events and the actual occurrence of events themselves. Peterson's analysis of subjective well-being appears to be very logical, he applies many examples to demonstrate the theoretical and conceptual understanding of disposition.
Peterson makes clear through his textbook that positive psychology has implications not only for the study of human happiness, but our entire approach to cognitive and social psychology. While traditional psychology has focused on illness, positive psychology takes a "longitudinal" approach to examination of happiness and well-being. He clarifies that the positive psychological processes takes place within an entire lifetime, where many different dispositions can inflict us depending on external circumstances. Therefore a truly positive psychological adaptation cannot occur through brief periods of clinical help nor through direct drug or psycho-therapy, it is a process that should unfold over a lifetime. Peterson argues that many contributing factors impact our understanding of happiness and the development of subjective well-being. Maturity brings about defenses against pessimism and psychological ills such as altruism, sublimation, suppression, humor, anticipation, etc. all of which culminates in our ability to have a successful and joyful life. In practice this implies that happiness is an end state that can only be reached after years of experience, Peterson's conclusion is that there are no short-cuts to achieving lasting happiness. The implications of his sum analysis are that a broad spectrum of emotions can have an impact on the development of positive psychology.
Within Peterson's analysis he attempts to adopt a mediation and unity between the new field of positive psychology and social psychology. He specifically identifies several theories and relationships found in both fields. One of these fields is the understanding that "close social relationships are essential to well-being." Research into the field of human interactions and social dissonance has shown that social relationships are one of the strongest correlates to positive emotions. This is one of the primary mechanisms by which individuals can achieve a positive state of mind. Peterson argues that the last century of social psychology research have demonstrated that the lack of social support and close social relationships can have far-reaching negative implications on human emotional health. He concludes that human beings, in order to achieve happiness have to have a fundamental need for close social relationships. Social connectedness in general has been identified to help with autonomic activity, better immunosurveillance, and lower levels of stress hormones. Social psychology and its study of "illnesses" have reveals that individuals who have been ostracized by the group can have impaired cognitive functioning. The reason that Peterson focuses on these specific examples in his understanding of positive psychology is to show that this study is rooted on fact and that it is not an "emerging field of study" as many psychologists claim. Instead it is something that is rooted in our foundational understanding of psychology in general.
A thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, I thought that Peterson did a masterful job of relating positive psychology to the greater context of psychology in general. He not only related the study of positive psychology by explaining the rhetoric behind it, but also firmly rooted it within established scientific studies. Peterson's analysis of subjective well-being was especially helpful, in that he demonstrated the need to understand the process of positive states of mind as a series of interlinked events rather than a consistent static state. The process of achieving happiness is life-long, and there are no visible shortcuts. In the end, we have to practice habitual adoption of optimism and surround ourselves with people who have a positive social influence upon our…