Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 1753–1768 | Cite as

Second Wave Positive Psychology: Exploring the Positive–Negative Dialectics of Wellbeing

  • Tim LomasEmail author
  • Itai Ivtzan
Review Article


Positive psychology has tended to be defined in terms of a concern with ‘positive’ psychological qualities and states. However, critics of the field have highlighted various problems inherent in classifying phenomena as either ‘positive’ or ‘negative.’ For instance, ostensibly positive qualities (e.g., optimism) can sometimes be detrimental to wellbeing, whereas apparently negative processes (like anxiety) may at times be conducive to it. As such, over recent years, a more nuanced ‘second wave’ of positive psychology has been germinating, which explores the philosophical and conceptual complexities of the very idea of the ‘positive.’ The current paper introduces this emergent second wave by examining the ways in which the field is developing a more subtle understanding of the dialectical nature of flourishing (i.e., involving a complex and dynamic interplay of positive and negative experiences). The paper does so by problematizing the notions of positive and negative through seven case studies, including five salient dichotomies (such as optimism vs. pessimism) and two complex processes (posttraumatic growth and love). These case studies serve to highlight the type of critical, dialectical thinking that characterises this second wave, thereby outlining the contours of the evolving field.


Dialectics Flourishing Positive Negative Second wave positive psychology 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of East LondonLondonUK

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