The Anti-DSM Manual of the 24 Human Strengths

· August 7, 2016

The anti-DSM movement represents the commitment made by positive psychology in favor of human virtues and strengths. This perspective intends to highlight what makes us happy, and to counteract the tendency to only classify and study mental disorders.

Thus, while DSM is the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders and Problems, the VIA (Values in Action) intends to classify human strengths by extracting patterns and proposing a common lexicon that will help us understand human virtues and strengths on a transcultural level.

In addition, like the DSM, the VIA manual also offers evaluation strategies and questionnaires that help researchers evaluate 6 virtues that can be broken down into 24 strengths. With this link, you can take the test after registering.

holding blue light in two hands

The 24 human strengths, the key to our happiness

Psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman are behind this initiative. They’ve identified 6 key virtues, through which 24 human strengths are articulated. Let’s see what they are:

  1. Love:
    • Friendliness.
    • Intimate bond.
    • Social intelligence.
  2. Bravery to overcome obstacles:
    • Courage/bravery.
    • Industry and perseverance.
    • Integrity and honesty.
    • Vitality (desire and enthusiasm).
  3. Common sense and knowledge:
    • Curiosity or, in other words, having interest for the things around us.
    • Love for knowledge.
    • Critical judgement and a mind willing to learn.
    • Creativity.
    • Perspective (criteria).
  4. Justice:
    • Citizenship and teamwork.
    • Justice and equity.
    • Leadership.
  5. Temperamental features:
    • Humility.
    • Self-control.
    • Prudence and caution.
    • Forgiveness and compassion.
  6. Transcendence:
    • Appreciation of beauty.
    • Fear and awe.
    • Gratitude.
    • Hope and optimism.
    • Playfulness and humor.
    • Spirituality and objectives.

The importance of highlighting the positive in education

Without falling into the excessive side of optimism, it is generally understood that the more we cultivate these virtues and strengths, the happier we can become. This opens up great ways to move forward when it comes time to optimize the formation and education that we provide to both children as well as adults in our society.

Highlighting our strengths helps us promote the development of these personal, emotional, cognitive and behavioral competences. One movie that helps us understand the importance of highlighting these human strengths is ¨Dead Poets Society.¨

One could argue for less rigidity and more flexibility, because learning to take perspective, having an open mind and being able to understand and learn while being aware, conscious and evaluating every possibility is essential to guaranteeing the making of strong people, capable of dealing with the world.

Because just as we’ve stated here, education has to have the ability to promote positive changes in people and better their competences on every level, opening doors and highlighting that which results truly relevant for our development as beings of the world.

In the last couple of years we have witnessed a “humanizing” tendency in our education, which increasingly emphasizes social and emotional intelligence as guarantees of success and good development.

father hugging his daughter

In other words, by promoting the development of human strengths, we are helping children become happier, more sure of themselves and more capable of making their own decisions. However, even today there is a great deficiency when it comes time to personalize education and learning in schools.

This is due in great deal to the overcrowding of classes, which makes this task impossible. But there is also a point of ignorance and “inertia” which depletes the few possibilities for this within a conventional school. There is a well-known quote by Einstein that says:

“We are all geniuses. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Let’s take note and start to explore each one of our strengths.