Catholic Positive Psychology – Notes: Helpfulness


At that time, I was discussing with Marty Seligman, who was visiting Melbourne on a project with Geelong Grammar, what kind of link is there, in the brain, between positive/lateral thinking and altruism, the virtue of helping others.

Helpfulness, hopefulness and optimism characterise the legend of the Samaritan

Professor Seligman’s research has shown there is a direct link in the dorsal raphe nucleus brain centre to optimism and altruism. In other words, that positive, optimistic thinkers are more inclined and able to help others and be altruistic than are pessimistic thinkers.

Marty Seligman and Michael Hewitt-Gleeson in Melbourne

Martin Seligmans twenty years of research on optimism started when he found that an optimistic style worked against helplessness.

Furthermore, “optimism” is used to describe the “half-full” glass person, who – it is often implied – was born this way. But we are all born that way because all human brains have a dorsal raphe nucleus brain centre offering the ability of secreting hope and optimism which are both part of our cognitive, emotional, and motivational stances toward the future.

The better we are at using that part of our brain the better we are at favouring a belief that future good events will outweigh bad events and the more helpful we are likely to be to others, no matter what special group they identify with. But, you don’t have to be a Samaritan to be optimistic.

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