Catharses, unforgettable moments of revelation, powerful expressions of deep emotion, breakthroughs, overwhelming joy—these kinds of supercharged experiences are often prized in the therapy world as landmarks on a client’s path to change. But in the increasingly influential world of positive psychology, researchers have begun to wonder whether all that fascination with drama and intensity is obscuring a mundane truth about what really matters in human relationships: the importance of the little things in daily life.
University of North Carolina psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson, in her books Positivity and Love 2.0, focuses on the small, casual, fleeting moments of positive connection in life as the key to resilience and health, rather than grand, intense, deeply passionate experiences. She argues that a notion of love defined by romance, profound intimacy, and marriage limits our understanding of the daily chain reactions of small moments of meeting with others that are essential to mental health. Rather than the capital-L version of love that we’ve been taught is basic to human happiness, the kind that really makes a difference for each of us may be better thought of as a renewable resource, like food and air, which the body takes in, depletes, and constantly needs to replenish.
This new, biologically informed understanding of love and positivity challenges our notions of what the goals of psychotherapy might be and encourages us to…