The disappearance of the big figures of modern psychology

A non-neglectable number of Influential leaders of modern psychology and the science of well-being, also known as positive psychology, have left us in the last 9 months. With the loss of Thich Nhat Hanh last Saturday, I thought it would be important to take the time to honor those teachers and scientists who shaped my thinking and understanding of human functioning over the course of my studies and trainings, and I am sure you are some more out there who feel alike.

Let’s start with Ed Diener, psychologist, professor, and writer, also known as Dr Happiness, who passed away at the age of 74 on April 27th, 2021. His research focused on theories as well as measurement scales of well-being. He was particularly interested in studying the relationships between temperament/personality, income, cultural influences, work satisfaction and well-being. Thanks to Ed Diener and his colleagues, we have a validated scale that measures subjective well-being (SWB).
The next in the row who left us on July 26th, 2021, at the age of 95 years old, is Albert Bandura. He was a psychologist and professor, forerunner of social and cognitive psychology. He is also known as the inventor of the bobo doll experiment which demonstrated the concept of observational learning. As originator of the theoretical construct of self-efficacy, his work serves me every day when coaching people with lack of self-confidence. Albert Bandura is one of the most influential psychologists of all time. During his lifetime, he was widely described as the greatest living psychologist.
The third in the bunch is a psychologist who become famous for the recognition of the concept of flow and whose name stays unpronounceable: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He passed away on October 10th, 2021, at the age of 87. Passioned about motivation and flow, he was known to be the world’s leading researcher in Positive Psychology. I often challenge my clients by helping them to find activities they are intrinsically motivated for and where they experience flow, as it is proven to be directly related to happiness.
The only one who become a century-old was Aaron T. Beck, psychiatrist, and father of cognitive behavioral therapy. His scientific contributions on how to treat clinical depression and all sorts of anxiety disorders as well as the development of self-report measures (Beck Depression Inventory) for depression and anxiety labels him as one of the most influential psychotherapists of all time. As a life coach and psychologist, I experienced the power of cognitive behavioral tools and integrate them into my everyday practice.
Last but not least, Thich Nhat Hanh, who passed away on January 22nd, 2022, at the age of 95, was Buddhist monk, global spiritual leader, peace activist, poet and father of mindfulness. Thich Nhất Hạnh was a major influence on Western practices of Buddhism as he adapted mindfulness to Western sensibilities. He provided the Western world with a version of the Five Precepts, which are common to all Buddhist traditions: the Five Mindfulness Trainings. When asked what had struck him the most during his early years in the West, Thich Nhất Hạnh answered, “the first thing I learned was that even if you have a lot of money and power and fame, you can still suffer very deeply. If you don’t have enough peace and compassion within you, there is no way you can be happy.” Most people I meet – no matter whether it is in the professional or personal context – do not know how to live a mindful life and need to learn how to be in the present rather than ruminating in the past or projecting into the future.

To sum it up, let’s keep living on the shaping figures who rest in peace, by starting…
• to understand that our happiness and well-being is under our control via our actions and thoughts,
• to explore our unique capacities to accomplish our goals,
• to enhance moments of flow and to lead a engaged life
• to transform our vulnerabilities into opportunities by addressing our cognitions and behaviors
• to learn how to create inner peace and compassion.