lesson from Allah's Signs and Verses, Alzumar, 39:9), positive psychologists propose identifying
and using signature strengths of wisdom in a new way.
It was further claimed (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008) that the measures which
explore meaning and happiness in a decontextualized manner, positive psychologists
presuppose that the source of personal meaning is irrelevant. In response to these criticism,
positive psychologists, engaged in the task of developing (VIA) signature strengths, state that it
yields a ‘surprising amount of similarity across cultures and strongly indicated a historical and
rgence of six core virtues’ these values
were courage, justice, humanity,
temperance, wisdom, and transcendence, identified as ever-present, if not universal. (Peterson &
Seligman, 2004, p.36) Studies, done with English speakers were extended to Japanese speakers,
resulted in a strong convergence in the relative prevalence of character strengths across
language communities as well as their relation to happiness (Shimai, Otake, Park, Peterson &
Seligman, 2006). Biswas-Diener (2006) studied character strengths in three cultures and found
evidence for the ubiquitous nature of VIA. The sample consisted of three groups: Kenyan
Maasai lived in Kenya without electricity and running water, Inughuit, a group in North
Greenland, still retain a hunting lifestyle and students from the University of Illinois. Majority
of respondents, from all three cultural groups, recognized and acknowledged the existence,
importance and desirability of all character strengths in their society. Biswas-Diener concluded
that these virtues are more than Western culture phenomena. It further suggested that research,
intervention and application based on VIA taxonomy will have widespread appeal and utility.
In a study of Michigan High School students (n= 459), researcher found the VIA
strengths to be an important topic for adolescent (Steen et al, 2003).VIA strengths were
associated with subjective well being in (n=5000) a cross cultural internet study (Park et al,
Modern Western societies focus on only one tier view of the world (Weber, 1978; Tylor,
1975) while Eastern societies have two tired view of the world. Positive psychologists,
considering good life and search for decontextualized universals, did not capture the cultural
practices of two tired view (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008). If the horizon of identity is an
inner horizon, (Tylor, 1985) as it is in Western society, well being and mental health will be
achieved through freedom, autonomy, and self expression. However, if identity is defined in a
more extended manner, as it happens in Eastern world, the indicators of a good person tend to be
A critical review of Western Individualism shows that it relies on the perception of the
person as being and separate from other person (Sullivan, 1986). Utilitarian individualism root
back in the European Enlightment (Bellah, 1985), rejection of what comes to be seen as
hierarchical, patriarchal and authoritarian excesses of Middle Ages (Tylor, 1989). Before
individualism, the masses were emphasized obedience to hierarchy.
Decades ago, in many non-western societies such as Taiwan and Japan, the kind of self
assertion that American consider normal and a sign of health were considered immature and an
invitation to bad luck (Bond,1986). Generally in collectivist cultures one should be modest and
avoid drawing attention to oneself (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Chinese were far less inclined
than Americans to say that they were experiencing a state of well being, even if they were not
(Hu, 1986). These tendencies in Asians were called self abnegating (Bond, 1986) do not mean
that one actually felt weak or treated himself negatively. As Heine and Lehman (1995) suggested
that individuals in interdependent cultures come closer to realizing their cultural ideals by self
effacing, thereby removing their distinguishing features and allowing them to maximize their
sense of belongingness.
For Westerns people, (Tylor, 1985b) good life was defined in term of emotional satisfaction
while (King and Bond, 1985) good life in non Western cultures was measured not by happiness
but by the ability to live in harmony with others. In China, a person
s worth as a human being
was based on the extent to which he or she was a dutiful son or daughter and fulfilled family
obligation (Mei, 1968). Personal happiness has not traditionally been considered the highest
good for Chinese (Johoda, 1958). This interpretations draws support from a recent research
finding that “how a collectivist fee
ls about himself is less relevant to his life satisfaction than is
his view of whether he behaves properly in the organized social order
(Diener & Diener, 1995).
Hannah Arendt (1958) points out how ancient Greeks distinguished between the life of
necessity and good life. In many East Asian societies, being a dutiful son or daughter through
respect and obedience to one’s parents and elders, has traditionally
been regarded as the most
distinguished feature of good character and maturity (King and Bond, 1985).
Muslims also follow these traditions. In Holy Quran Allah ordered Muslims to be courteous to
their parents (And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old
age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in
terms of honor, Al-Quran,Al- Israel, 17:23). In contrast, in the Western society, duty, obligation
and social expectations are often thought of as constrains that hinder the fullest expression of
human potential. Ultimately the happiness in both societies is different and the measures
developed in Western countries for estimating happiness and wellbeing should be applied in
Eastern societies with caution.
researchers’ point of view, there is paradigm shift from collectivistic approach to
individualistic one in Eastern countries. A reflection upon the cultural practices regarding
positive psychology shows that both Western and Eastern societies stress upon the same virtues
and strengths to lead a happy and satisfied life. Although there is some difference of
individualistic and collective culture but due to globalization the entire world is changing into a
single place, a single culture and a single identity (Naz, Khan, Hussain, and Daraz, 2011).
Globalization is a source of transformation of new and modern ideas, but on other side it is threat
to socio-cultural environment in the context of identity. Naiz and colleagues said that
globalization is bringing psychological crises in Pakistani culture. The prominent trait of
Pakistani culture i.e. simplicity has been altered to complexity, while the solidarity has been
replaced by individualism. Globalization creates a global culture in which the identity is
amalgamated that tends to bring a homogenous culture throughout the world that might assist the
local beliefs and cultural values to be universalized rather than to be demolished.
In Pakistan, youngsters are following the Western culture, perceiving it more close to their
needs and wishes. Joint family systems are perceived as a hindrance in personal autonomy and
they are shifting towards nuclear family system to get freedom. Females are no more ready to
accept domestic violence. The efforts of Sharmeen Ubaid Chinoy (2012) against acid attacks
have not only made women aware of their rights but also made men alert not to carry on such
practices any more.
In researcher’s point of view, most of the concepts of positive psychology related with good
life and virtues are universal. All the religions and cultures support and inculcate these values in
their citizens. Islam teaches to adopt virtues to lead a happy and satisfied life. Apparently it
seems that different cultures assume happiness in different way but a deeper look tells us that
pursuit of happiness is more or less same in all cultures.
However, psychologists all over the world should explore the Western concepts of human
flourishing and compare it with their own cultural practices. If they find any relevance among the
cultural practices, use measures developed by positive psychologists.
n researcher’s point of view
a deep comparison of two cultures makes us realize that the
Western Individualism brings betterment for their society on the whole. For example, in Western
culture the individuals do not interference to others lives.
Likewise they take care of other’s
rights by following rules and regulations. But in collective societies like Pakistan, people during
social interactions interfere in others lives too much, some times, making them miserable. They
do not follow the laws which are made for the betterment of the society as a whole. So
apparently our cultures are collective but working for individuals while Western individualistic
cultures are working for the betterment of society on the whole.
Moreover, the concepts of good and satisfied life are apparently different in East and
West but if we go in depth both are teaching more or less the same things. For example Islam
asks a person to live a meaningful life by serving humanity and getting being courageous,
grateful, patient, positive and just. By increasing all these virtues people may have internal
satisfaction, spirituality and well being which ultimately will make their life good.
will be meaningful when they will do well to others without the desire of return. Therefore,
individualistic and collectivistic cultures both are teaching the same things but in a different way.
Western people are striving for good life by giving attention to human rights through the law
enforcement while in Pakistan it is done individually through the religious teachings as law
enforcing agencies are weak. One of our great Eastern poets Iqbal (2009) said that
Christians have adopted the Quranic teaching that is why they are flourishing
However, the critics of positive psychology have presented an alternative theoretical and
philosophical framework which suggests new goals and methods for positive psychology
(Christopher & Campbell, 2008; Fowers, 2008; Richardson & Guignon, 2008; Slife &
Richardson, 2008; Sundararajan, 2008). These psychologists suggest a theoretical foundation for
inquiry, having sensitivity to cultural context that might help to correct the one-sided
individualism and instrumentalism that seem to instill positive psychology.
Sundararajan (2008) explores the relevance of Asian conceptions of the good life to
positive psychology. Summarizing several Chinese and Indian philosophies and related
thoughtful practices, his study discusses non western conception of indigenous positive
psychologies that rely on quite different understanding of the self.
Christopher and Campbell (2008) suggested interactive-Hermeneutic metatheory for
human action and development for positive psychology. They discussed two aspects of
interactivism-----implicitness and the knowing levels----that will provide more integral ontology
for positive psychology. This non dualistic metatheory contends that the development of goals,
values and the self involves rising through levels of knowing. From interactive standpoint in
each culture people are thrown in to an inter-subjective world of social practices, they begin by
taking over the understanding of what’s pleasant, good and meaning
ful underlie these social
practices. If the pleasant, good and meaningful is the scope of positive psychology, then every
society has at least a folk positive psychology where persons are already committed to these
psychologies. For example, children in our Pakistani society, from early childhood listen to their
parents and grandparents about the good life consisting of the virtues taught by Quran and they
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