Human Flourishing:
A Jungian Approach to the Psychology of Well-Being

Dr. Jeannette Sullivan


Teresa Oster MSW, MS, CJSSF board member

CJSSF: Thank you for your suggestion to read Flourish, the groundbreaking book by the iconic Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology (PP). How important is his work to your work? You did title your event “Flourish”.

DR. SULLIVAN: Dr. Seligman is most assuredly, as you say, “iconic”. He has been nearly tireless in his insistence upon addressing human strengths since he was APA President many years ago. Most researchers in positive psychology have read his work. When he posed one of his initial research questions, “how do we classify human strengths?” — he had me hooked.

Similarly, he asked something along the lines of “In what ways can we measurably improve the human experience, so that rather than going from minus five to minus three, how do we get to plus three?” YES! How indeed?


CJSSF: As a longtime board member of our Jung Society, we watched your years of work to get your Ph.D. in psychology. Congratulations. Was Positive Psychology theory related to your thesis topic? What have you gained from PP in your personal process?

DR. SULLIVAN: I was crushed that my dissertation chair rejected my original research until I was in conversation with my long time friend who suggested I research what I am always reading and talking about anyway.


In other words – why don’t I take my own advice? I can tell you that reading and researching positive psychology is really uplifting. One is being primed all the time with positivity and the results have changed my life. I have been very lucky because I enjoy research and as a professor have had the opportunity to run several pilot studies. This has enabled me to present that research at the International Positive Psychology Association, and the International Positive Education Network, and the Association for Psychological Type International.

Anyone who has ever experienced a clinical depression (as I have) or has worked with clients, family or friends with serious depressive disorders, or the depression that is ancillary to other disorders, can testify as to the sense of desperation endemic to this condition. This is one of the seemingly bottomless sinkholes of life that has been begging for a note of optimism from a field immersed in the medical model and the DSM V (quite necessary for the obvious reasons, but nonetheless relentlessly depressing).

I am glad to discuss my quantitative dissertation topic of leadership in higher education and well-being with anyone who has the stamina to discuss such things. But I dare not bore our general audience with the details.


CJSSF: Seligman was part of the team whose experiments taught us about ‘learned helplessness’. Would you say that his current project is learned optimism?

DR. SULLIVAN: Most certainly. In fact, he wrote a book titled Learned Optimism. I believe that he made modifications to some of his ideas in that book, and that the subsequent book, Flourish, more closely captures his current ideas.


CJSSF: With a defined set of skills and exercises and goals and measurements, Positive Psychology doesn’t seem anything like the Jung’s depth psychology. But there seem to be overlaps with his Analytical Psychology, for example both offer a non-pathologizing approach. Any other similarities? Do you integrate Jungian Psychology with PP in your work? What do you imagine Jung would say about PP?

DR. SULLIVAN: I will talk about what I imagine Jung would say about PP at the workshop on the 26th. I can only offer my own opinion of course. However, Jung once said that “the sole purpose of life is to kindle a light in the darkness.” The field of psychology has been successful in identifying, classifying, treating, and in some cases, curing mental health disorders. This is of critical importance.

It has also made a science out of human misery without, until recently, addressing the factors that contribute to human flourishing in any systematic way. We now have the opportunity to help move countless thousands from post-traumatic stress to post traumatic growth. At the behest of General Casey, the American military has incorporated resilience training in the Soldier Comprehensive Fitness Program in an effort to limit suicides and strengthen mental health among solders.

Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman, brough us the classification of Character Strengths and Virtues, and added to that the work of researchers and practitioners alike such as psychologists, neuroscientists, and economists, have led to an outpouring of efforts to bring positive psychology into homes, schools, and through the actions of national and international organizations, into state and national policy. This has measurably reduced and eliminated depression and anxiety for millions of people and improved learning at educational institutions at every level. These efforts have brought with them a rethinking of the goals central to our most important pursuits, and the reintroduction of building of character in schools world wide.

This constitutes a light in the darkness.

Professional headshot of Jeannette Sullivan, Ph.D.

Jeannette Sullivan, Ph.D., is a professor with a Doctoral degree in Higher Educational Leadership and Research Methodology, an M.Ed. from Florida Atlantic University, and a Master’s in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia University. She has coached, trained, and facilitated groups for over 20 years in Honolulu, Scottsdale, and southeast Florida. Dr. Sullivan’s research interests include human persistence, resilience, happiness, and well-being. She specializes in personality training using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and holds the Master Practitioner Credential. She has presented for the Association for Psychological Type International, the International Positive Psychology Association, First Year Experience, Teaching Academic Survival Skills, the International Positive Education Network, the Association of Florida Colleges, and The Center for Jungian Studies of South Florida. She is a facilitator of Exploring What Matters, an Action for Happiness class in the fall of 2018.


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20533 Biscayne Blvd Ste 104
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Center for Jungian Studies
c/o Richard Chappell
20533 Biscayne Blvd Ste 104
Aventura, FL 33180-1529

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As a Not-For-Profit organization we exist because of the generosity of our friends, volunteers and donors. None of the work that we do would be possible without you.