Original Research

The popularisation of Positive Psychology as a defence against behavioural complexity in research and organisations

Frans Cilliers, Michelle May
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 36, No 2 | a917 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v36i2.917 | © 2010 Frans Cilliers, Michelle May | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 May 2010 | Published: 02 December 2010

About the author(s)

Frans Cilliers, UNISA, South Africa
Michelle May, UNISA, South Africa

Share this article

Bookmark and Share


Orientation: Positive Psychology’s focus on positive behaviour has resulted in research and organisational consultants to focus relatively more on positive behaviour, thus avoiding negative and often unconscious behaviour and its manifestations.

Research purpose: The aim of the study was to explore the systems psychodynamic nature of the manifesting defensive structures operating in Positive Psychology.

Motivation for the study: The study investigated the popularity of Positive Psychology amongst academics, students and organisational consultants and the tendency to avoid the complexity of the relatedness between positive and negative as part of the human condition.

Research design, approach and method: Qualitative research by means of a Listening Post was used, consisting of six psychologists in their roles as lecturers and organisational consultants. Thematic analyses led to the formulation of various working hypotheses, integrated into a research hypothesis.

Main findings: Four themes manifested – namely, the manifesting defence mechanisms, a reluctance to relinquish positive psychology as an object of hope, a need to guard against being too hasty in breaking down positive psychology and a need for a psychology that can engage us in a conversation about integrating the complexities of the human condition.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings were linked to Deo Strümpfer’s work, indicating that Positive Psychology originated in early 20th century psychology, which is indeed not about simplification, but is imbedded in the complexity of various behavioural continua.

Contribution/value-add: Academics, students and organisational consultants are encouraged to revisit Strümpfer’s work to ensure that this psychology is appreciated for its depth and quality.


Listening post; Organisational psychology; organisational wellness; qualitative research; systems psychodynamics


Total abstract views: 4626
Total article views: 15856


Crossref Citations

1. Well-Being, More Than a Dream: Women Constructing Metaphors of Strength
Antoni Barnard
Frontiers in Psychology  vol: 9  year: 2018  
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01186