I'd love to develop a seminar on the positive psychology of country music. It would be fun and easy! Except, of course, for copyright and licensing problems, which I suspect are virtually insurmountalbe for any reasonable investment of time, energy, and legal fees!
If I ever do this, one aspect I'll focus on is the role of positive psychology constructs in the face of adversity. Many of the constructs -- Seligman's attributional style theory, Dweck's theories of intelligence, and Snyder's hope theory -- really come into play when we face adversity. Perhaps the old saying should be revised to state, "When the going gets tough, the positive get going." Or, even more accurately, the positive never slow down. And, in that vein, I'd use Rodney Adkins' "If You're Going through Hell" as the musical interpretation. If you haven't heard this song, you can listen to a clip in the Amazon widget above or try here. (If you're a Firefly/Serenityfan, the video's a bonus. If not, well, maybe you'll become one!) (If the link doesn't work, youtube's taken that video down.) Here are the key lyrics:
Well you know those times
When you feel like there's a sign there on your back
Say's I don't mind if ya kick me
Seems like everybody has
Things go from bad to worse
You'd think they can't get worse than that
And then they do
You step off the straight and narrow
And you don't know where you are
Use the needle of your compass
To sew up your broken heart
Ask directions from a genie
In a bottle of Jim Beam
And she lies to You
That's when you learn the truth
If you're going through hell
Keep on going, Don't slow down
If you're scared, don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there
The title of this song comes from a Winston Churchill quote, "If you are going through hell, keep going." Churchill certainly faced uncontrollable negative events, and he responded in positive way. "Not me, not always, not everything" -- he didn't see himself or England as responsible, didn't think the causes of the conflict would always exist or that they would tarnish everything. This is positive attributional style, a/k/a "optimism", from the work of Marty Seligman. Churchill did not know exactly how England would win through, but he seems to have had confidence that they could figure it out. This is Carol Dweck's incremental view of intelligence. And, he clearly envisioned the goal of defeating the Nazi war machine, generated alternative pathways toward that end, and deemed himself and England capable of traversing those pathways, however rocky and winding they might be. That's Rick Snyder's Hope Theory.
At bottom, that's the power of habitual positive thought patterns and the regular experience of positive emotions -- those habits work! As Barb Fredrickson has shown, the survival value of positive emotions is in helping us broaden our behaviors and build connections with one another. That "together" idea is another good reason for the muscial metaphor. Solos are great, but we generally find the greatest music performed by groups.
What's your music for the positive?