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Positive and Existential Psychology in Times of Change: Towards Complex, Holistic, Systemic and Integrative Perspectives

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Mental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2022) | Viewed by 23086

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
1. Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management, College for Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg 2006, South Africa
2. Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, Europa Universität Viadrina, 15234 Frankfurt, Germany
Interests: positive psychology; transcultural mental health; salutogenesis; shame; psychobiography; conflict transformation; 4IR; women leadership in diverse contexts
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

With this Special Issue, the editor would like to address the urging questions and challenges of our times from latest positive and existential psychology perspectives. Thereby, we are aiming at publishing the latest trends from theoretical, empirical, and applied perspectives and invite authors to contribute from various disciplinary, cultural, and language backgrounds.

During the past two decades, positive psychology (PP1.0) has been pioneered by Seligman and colleagues, who shifted the focus of research from a rather negative toward a positive. Wong developed this movement further to a so-called positive psychology wave 2 (PP2.0), highlighting that one can only develop the positive side of things after having worked through the negative aspects of life, such as suffering and pain. His concept is therefore dualistic in nature and recently referred to as existential positive psychology. Moreover, researchers such as Lomas et al. have called for a third wave of positive psychology (PP3.0) which is systemic in nature.

It is argued here that an existential positive psychology (EPP) is needed in theory as well as in applied practice—such as therapy, counseling, and consulting—which deals with the complexity of life, responding to essential questions of our times, providing adequate answers. Therefore, the editor emphasizes in this call for papers that research is needed which addresses the key components of EPP from a holistic, systemic, and integrative point of view. Key questions of this Special Issue include but are not limited to:

  • How can EPP address the complex changes and challenges of our times in theory, empirical evidence, and practice?
  • What new models in EPP are needed to capture and promote a complex and systemic understanding of the world and life?
  • How can human beings respond to core questions of life to secure a holistic, sustainable world?
  • Which guidance can EPP give to deal with opportunities and challenges with regard to sustainability, holistic living approaches, spirituality?
  • How can we (re-)define meaning of life, meaning making, and identity development for a sustainable future based on EPP?
  • How can EPP contribute not only to human–human relationships, but also to human–nature and human–animal relationships?

The editor would like to invite research from all disciplines, cultures, and societies to present their research—empirical, theoretical, or applied—from different EPP perspectives, following complex, systemic, holistic, and integrative approaches to respond to complex times of change.

The Special Issue further opens up to promote EPP research which reaches beyond WEIRD (white, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) schemes and perspectives to make a difference and foster paradigm shifts to transform WEIRD research approaches, which is part of addressing complex and systemic phenomena in times of change.

Deadline for abstracts: 20 June 2021

Prof. Dr. Claude-Helene Mayer
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • positive psychology
  • existence
  • existential positive psychology (EPP)
  • times of change
  • transforming WEIRD studies
  • paradigm shift
  • cultural views
  • holistic
  • systemic
  • complex
  • integrative

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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3 pages, 273 KiB  
Editorial
Positive and Existential Psychology in Times of Change: Towards Complex, Holistic, Systemic, and Integrative Perspectives
by Claude-Hélène Mayer
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(14), 8433; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19148433 - 10 Jul 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1459
Abstract
This Special Issue, entitled “Positive and Existential Psychology in Times of Change: Towards Complex, Holistic, Systemic and Integrative Perspectives”, addresses the urging questions and challenges of our times from the latest positive and existential psychology perspectives [...] Full article

Research

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16 pages, 1416 KiB  
Article
The Robben Island Diversity Experience: It’s about the Journey, Not the RIDE
by Michelle S. May
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(15), 9064; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19159064 - 25 Jul 2022
Viewed by 1221
Abstract
The Robben Island diversity experience (RIDE), a conference using a group relations training model, was held annually from 2000 to 2013, (with RIDE not taking place in 2004). During RIDE, underlying, unconscious, and covert South African diversity dynamics are studied as they manifest [...] Read more.
The Robben Island diversity experience (RIDE), a conference using a group relations training model, was held annually from 2000 to 2013, (with RIDE not taking place in 2004). During RIDE, underlying, unconscious, and covert South African diversity dynamics are studied as they manifest among managers and officials in the fields of change, diversity management, transformation, and human resources management. The participants (staff and membership) of the conference collectively form a temporary organisation in which they explore unconscious dynamics and processes as they relate to dealing with diversity challenges. A qualitative, analytic auto-ethnographic research approach was used to elicit data. The data consisted of different sets of process notes compiled during my involvement in RIDE (2000 to 2014). Thematic analysis was used to analyse and interpret the data to allow insights into diversity dynamics. The findings suggest that in the early events RIDE citizens displayed a preoccupation with race which was expressed through attempts to re-organise the race hierarchy in the unconscious, and the need to form good-enough relationships with old enemies through searching for the absent white-man. In more recent years it became evident that groups are reluctant to explore differences of organisational position and socio-economic status in racial sameness. The experimentation with leadership within and across race groups and gender was a preoccupation of members in a more recent RIDE. Further, the marginalisation of women, through the intersection between diversity characteristics, also became apparent. It seems that through RIDE as a container, the consultants as containers, and the willingness of the participants to engage with their diversity challenges, more diversity dynamics have become accessible to the RIDE citizens. This understanding of diversity dynamics can be used in South African and international organisations by researchers, consultants, and managers to enhance their understanding of diversity dynamics in organisations and inform the nature of the different diversity management initiatives implemented in these organisations. Full article
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19 pages, 7575 KiB  
Article
Bridging the Gap of the Afri–Eurocentric Worldview Divide in a Postcolonial South Africa
by Sharon Johnson and Izanette Van Schalkwyk
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(3), 1165; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19031165 - 21 Jan 2022
Viewed by 2997
Abstract
Background: This paper is an attempt to bridge the gap between Africentric and Eurocentric worldviews through the lens of positive psychology’s second wave of attaining pathways to well-being. Methods: The overcoming of existential suffering with indigenous understandings has been addressed through photo-elicitation in [...] Read more.
Background: This paper is an attempt to bridge the gap between Africentric and Eurocentric worldviews through the lens of positive psychology’s second wave of attaining pathways to well-being. Methods: The overcoming of existential suffering with indigenous understandings has been addressed through photo-elicitation in retrospective timelines with students Lihile+, Tanaka+, and Diana+, +Pseudonyms to protect identity Thematic analysis with semi-structured virtual interviews has also been utilized to gain insights into Africentric and Eurocentric worldviews. All students come from different contexts of cultural complexity. Lihile was raised by her maternal Xhosa family, with a traditional Sotho father. Tanaka is Shona, born and schooled in Zimbabwe, studying in South Africa. Diana was born in England and is now living in rural KwaZulu-Natal. Findings: Students’ worldviews were shaped by their primary caregivers’ multicultural influences, as well as their exposure to educational and religious contact zones. Despite having to survive the traumatic legacy of social injustices, the students managed to pursue positive goals and transcend challenges and achieve well-being. Conclusions: This study attempted to transcend the divide of Afri–Eurocentric worldviews towards a shared responsibility to develop an improved social science in Africa. Positive psychology offered a space to accommodate well-being as a healing process, not only for the oppressed but also the oppressors of past social injustices. Full article
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14 pages, 397 KiB  
Article
Existential Therapy for Children: Impact of a Philosophy for Children Intervention on Positive and Negative Indicators of Mental Health in Elementary School Children
by Catherine Malboeuf-Hurtubise, Carina Di Tomaso, David Lefrançois, Geneviève A. Mageau, Geneviève Taylor, Marc-André Éthier, Mathieu Gagnon and Terra Léger-Goodes
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(23), 12332; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182312332 - 24 Nov 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3861
Abstract
Background: Philosophy for children (P4C) was initially developed in the 1970s and served as an educational program to promote critical thinking, caring, creative reasoning and inquiry in the educational environment. Quasi-experimental research on P4C, a school-based approach that aims to develop children’s capacity [...] Read more.
Background: Philosophy for children (P4C) was initially developed in the 1970s and served as an educational program to promote critical thinking, caring, creative reasoning and inquiry in the educational environment. Quasi-experimental research on P4C, a school-based approach that aims to develop children’s capacity to think by and for themselves, has suggested it could be an interesting intervention to foster greater basic psychological need satisfaction in children in school settings. Objective: The goal of the present study was to evaluate the impact of P4C on basic psychological need satisfaction and mental health in elementary school students. Method: Students from grades one to three (N = 57) took part in this study and completed pre- and post-intervention questionnaires. A randomized cluster trial with a wait-list control group was implemented to compare the effects of P4C on students’ mental health. Results: Analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) revealed a significant effect of group condition on levels of autonomy and anxiety, after controlling for baseline levels. Participants in the experimental group showed higher scores in autonomy, when compared to participants in the control group, and participants in the experimental group showed lower anxiety scores, when compared to participants in the control group. Conclusion: Overall, results from this study show that P4C may be a promising intervention to foster greater autonomy in elementary school children, while also improving mental health. Full article
19 pages, 651 KiB  
Article
Understanding Wildlife Crime from Eco-Existential and African Perspectives: A Psycho-Philosophical Investigation
by Claude-Hélène Mayer
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(21), 11675; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111675 - 7 Nov 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2907
Abstract
Wildlife crime has huge consequences regarding global environmental changes to animals, plants and the entire ecosystem. Combatting wildlife crime effectively requires a deep understanding of human–wildlife interactions and an analysis of the influencing factors. Conservation and green criminology are important in reducing wildlife [...] Read more.
Wildlife crime has huge consequences regarding global environmental changes to animals, plants and the entire ecosystem. Combatting wildlife crime effectively requires a deep understanding of human–wildlife interactions and an analysis of the influencing factors. Conservation and green criminology are important in reducing wildlife crime, protecting wildlife and the ecosystem and informing policy-makers about best practices and strategies. However, the past years have shown that wildlife crime is not easy to combat and it is argued in this article that there are underlying existential “givens” and culture-specific aspects that need to be investigated to understand why wildlife crime is still on the rise. This theoretical article explores (eco-)existential perspectives, Greening’s four givens and selected African philosophical concepts, aiming to understand the complexities behind the prevalence of wildlife crime within global and African contexts. Full article
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21 pages, 922 KiB  
Article
Sense of Coherence in Managers during COVID-19 and the New World of Work: A Mixed-Method Study
by Claude-Hélène Mayer, Cemonn Wegerle and Rudolf M. Oosthuizen
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(21), 11492; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111492 - 31 Oct 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2452
Abstract
During COVID-19, the working world has changed inevitably, and many managers experience extreme strain and stress. This study determines how managers cope with the changes during COVID-19 from a positive psychology and salutogenic perspective. It employs a hermeneutical research design and an interpretivist [...] Read more.
During COVID-19, the working world has changed inevitably, and many managers experience extreme strain and stress. This study determines how managers cope with the changes during COVID-19 from a positive psychology and salutogenic perspective. It employs a hermeneutical research design and an interpretivist paradigm by using a mixed-method research approach in which managers’ sense of coherence (SOC) is investigated quantitatively through the 29-item Life-Orientation scale and qualitatively through semi-structured interviews. Purposeful and snowball sampling techniques are used. The sample consists of 17 managers. Data were collected in different organizations within South Africa and analysed through content analysis, linking quantitative and qualitative data in a holistic, integrated and complex way. In terms of the quantitative findings, the managers scored at the medium and higher end of the SOC-scale in comprehensibility, followed by manageability and finally meaningfulness. Male managers in the age group 47–57 scored highest. Female and younger managers scored lower on average. Lowest scores in comprehensibility and manageability were scored by a young female manager, while in meaningfulness the oldest male participant scored lowest. The qualitative findings show that high scoring SOC managers apply complex thoughts to the present and future workplace scenario. Individuals with lower SOC scores do not present as much knowledge, complex thinking and argumentation structures during the interview in comprehensibility scores as high scoring SOC managers, yet still acquire resources to manage the workplace (manageability). High meaningfulness scores are associated with creating meaningful workplace interaction (human–human and machine–human), knowledge distribution through technology, impactfulness, experiencing the job as meaningful, including helping others, and achievements. Managers have a complex view of the world and findings show the complex connections of a high/low SOC scores and the managers’ explorations and systemic understanding regarding their managerial world. Conclusions and recommendations for theory and practice are given. Full article
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13 pages, 389 KiB  
Article
Self-Compassion in Irish Social Work Students: Relationships between Resilience, Engagement and Motivation
by Yasuhiro Kotera, Freya Tsuda-McCaie, Ann-Marie Edwards, Divya Bhandari and Geraldine Maughan
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(15), 8187; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18158187 - 2 Aug 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4783
Abstract
Self-compassion recognises a meaning of life’s suffering, aligning with existential positive psychology. Although this construct is known to protect our mental health, how to augment self-compassion remains to be evaluated. Social work students suffer from high rates of mental health problems; however, research [...] Read more.
Self-compassion recognises a meaning of life’s suffering, aligning with existential positive psychology. Although this construct is known to protect our mental health, how to augment self-compassion remains to be evaluated. Social work students suffer from high rates of mental health problems; however, research into self-compassion in this population remains to be developed. This study aimed to evaluate (i) relationships between self-compassion and more traditional positive constructs—resilience, engagement and motivation, and (ii) differences of these constructs between the levels of studies to inform how self-compassion can be enhanced in social work students. A total of 129 Irish social work students completed self-report scales regarding self-compassion, resilience, engagement and motivation. Correlation, regression and one-way MANOVA were conducted. Self-compassion was associated with gender, age, resilience, engagement and intrinsic motivation. Resilience and intrinsic motivation were significant predictors of self-compassion. There was no significant difference in the levels of these constructs between the levels of studies. Findings suggest that social work educators across different levels can strengthen students’ resilience and intrinsic motivation to cultivate the students’ self-compassion. Moreover, the close relationships between self-compassion, resilience and intrinsic motivation indicate that orienting students to the meaning of the studies helps their mental health. Full article

Other

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10 pages, 309 KiB  
Perspective
Existential Positive Psychology (EPP): A Positive Tool for Healing Existential Anxieties in South Africa during, and after, the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Kathryn Anne Nel and Saraswathie Govender
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(16), 10248; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph191610248 - 18 Aug 2022
Viewed by 1862
Abstract
Globally, humanity is in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic; thus, we question our individual, and collective, behaviours. Long periods of lockdown and ever-escalating death rates have found people asking questions such as “What is the point of carrying on?” This is exacerbated [...] Read more.
Globally, humanity is in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic; thus, we question our individual, and collective, behaviours. Long periods of lockdown and ever-escalating death rates have found people asking questions such as “What is the point of carrying on?” This is exacerbated by the world’s burgeoning ecological crisis. Humanity is beginning to wonder if it belongs on the planet when its footprint has caused such rampant destruction to forests, oceans, the animal kingdom, and other ecological entities. Existential positive psychology (EPP) seeks to uncover truths about humankind’s existence, survival, and, thus, meaning in life. We, as people, need to make sense of our reason for being as we struggle with our anxieties and seek to become authentic. This discussion paper contends that EPP can help humanity find the courage to challenge, and heal, its existential anxieties, namely, death, isolation, freedom, and meaningless, in order to find individual and group identities, as well as overall mental wellness (or happiness), specifically in a South African context, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The writings of Wong, who works within the framework of EPP, and those of Frankl, a holocaust survivor, whose work falls within the scope of humanistic and existential psychology and Asante’s Afrocentrism, which is a philosophical framework grounded on the African continent, are used to support this argument. Full article
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