The Hope Circuit

A Psychologist's Journey from Helplessness to Optimism


By Martin E. P. Seligman

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One of the most influential living psychologists looks at the history of his life and discipline, and paints a much brighter future for everyone.

When Martin E. P. Seligman first encountered psychology in the 1960s, the field was devoted to eliminating misery: it was the science of how past trauma creates present symptoms. Today, thanks in large part to Seligman’s Positive Psychology movement, it is ever more focused not on what cripples life, but on what makes life worth living — with profound consequences for our mental health.

In this wise and eloquent memoir, spanning the most transformative years in the history of modern psychology, Seligman recounts how he learned to study optimism — including a life-changing conversation with his five-year-old daughter. He tells the human stories behind some of his major findings, like CAVE, an analytical tool that predicts election outcomes (with shocking accuracy) based on the language used in campaign speeches, the international spread of Positive Education, the launch of the US Army’s huge resilience program, and the canonical studies that birthed the theory of learned helplessness — which he now reveals was incorrect. And he writes at length for the first time about his own battles with depression at a young age.

In The Hope Circuit, Seligman makes a compelling and deeply personal case for the importance of virtues like hope, gratitude, and wisdom for our mental health. You will walk away from this book not just educated but deeply enriched.


Photo courtesy of Mandy Seligman.

Part 1


Chapter One

Lightning Bolt

MY FAMILY AND I were driving through Yellowstone Park in the late spring of 1996 when I got the news that changed the course of my life. I went to a pay phone and found out that I had been elected president of the American Psychological Association (APA). It was then, and remains now, one of the greatest honors of my life.

A few months later, I attended the APA convention in Toronto as president-elect-elect (I’d become president-elect the following year and president the year after that). I was told that there was no place for me to sit on the floor of council, and while the rank and file greeted me warmly, even effusively, I got one cold shoulder after another from the establishment, whose chosen candidate I had soundly defeated in the election. I returned from Toronto dismayed, wondering if I could be effective on this national stage.

The answer came by way of epiphany.

“GET TO WORK, Nikki,” I shouted irritably. It was three weeks after the Toronto convention, and I was low. We were supposed to be weeding. Nikki, however, was having a great time, throwing weeds in the air, dancing, and singing. She startled when I shouted at her, walked away, and slowly walked back.

“Daddy, can I talk to you?”

I nodded.

“Well, on my birthday, I decided that I was going to stop whining, and that was the hardest thing Ive ever done,” Nikki Seligman said. “And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch.” Nikki Seligman and the author, 1996. Photo courtesy of Mandy Seligman.

“Daddy, do you remember before my fifth birthday I was a whiner, I whined every day?”

I nodded.

“Have you noticed that since my fifth birthday, I haven’t whined once?”

I nodded.

“Well, on my birthday, I decided that I was going to stop whining, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And if I can stop whining, you can stop being such a grouch.”

I was stunned. Nikki was exactly right.

First, I was a grouch and proud of it. But it occurred to me for the very first time that maybe any success I’d had was not because I could see every flaw—because of my “critical intelligence”—but in spite of it. If Nikki could change, so could I. I decided to change.

Second, my “remedial” view of raising my children was wrong. If I could correct all my kid’s errors—shouting at Nikki’s indolence—I would somehow end up with an exemplary child. What nonsense. Instead I had to identify what Nikki was really good at—and I’d just seen it: gleaning insight into other people—reward it, and help her to lead her life around her strengths, not waste her time thanklessly correcting her weaknesses.

Most significantly, I got the idea that powered the rest of my life: psychology could be explicitly about building the good life. The current practice and science of psychology was half-baked. Psychology started with the premise that not getting it wrong equaled getting it right. If psychology could somehow eliminate all the ills of the world—mental illness, prejudice, ignorance, poverty, pessimism, loneliness, and the like—human life would be at its best. But the absence of ill-being does not equal the presence of well-being. Psychology could be about the presence of happiness not merely about the absence of unhappiness.

Not getting it wrong does not equal getting it right.

IN JANUARY 1997, I threw myself into my work as president-elect of APA. The possibility of a psychology of well-being had been percolating. But it seemed like a long shot, and I wanted my presidency to leave a mark. So on the day my term began, I hit the ground running and started work on other, less adventurous initiatives. I visited with Steve Hyman, the young director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Steve was no colorless Washington bureaucrat, but a world-class intellect and former professor of neuropsychiatry at Harvard. He and I shared a passion: empirical evidence in treatment.

“Steve,” I said, “I won by the largest vote in APA history, and I have a mandate. We have an opening here to change the course of APA. Let’s launch a program on evidence-based psychotherapy.”

“If you can bring recalcitrant-old-APA into the fold, Marty,” Steve said, “I will find $40 million to support the research.”

VISIONS OF COOPERATION between science and practice and the salvation of APA danced in my head. I asked to attend a meeting of the influential Council for the Advancement of Private Practice and Science (CAPPS)—which had backed the losing candidate in the APA election but remained vitally important to the discipline—to explain my vision. The council deigned to allot me fifteen minutes, and I had my first encounter with the machine I had just humiliated.

It did not go well.

About twenty stony-faced committee members sat around an enormous table in one of the many well-appointed seminar rooms in the luxurious new APA office building. APA’s treasurer, Jack MacKay, had wisely invested in Washington, DC, real estate, and APA was now worth $100 million. It was perhaps the only national professional organization well in the black.

I launched into my pitch. The council members stared at me as if I were an exotic bird that had flown in off course from another planet, and my voice got louder than I wanted it to be. They stared. I couldn’t seem to make my voice softer and less shrill. These people hated me. I thought, “I have defeated them in the election, and they will have their revenge.” As I described the possibilities for putting psychotherapy on a lasting evidence-based platform, their faces got even stonier and their stares more hostile. I concluded by telling them that NIMH was willing to spend an unheard-of amount—$40 million—to underwrite the search for evidence.

This was my applause line. There was dead silence. One question cut through the quiet, asked by Stan Moldawsky, the group’s next president-designate.

“What if the evidence does not come out in our favor?”

RON LEVANT, STAN’S right hand, took me out for a drink. Brimming with good cheer and friendliness, he said, “Marty, you are in deep shit.”

I HAVE HAD a lot of good advice in my life, but since my student days, I’d had only one true mentor: Ray Fowler. Ray was the CEO of APA, and unlike the presidents who come and go, he was its institutional memory. He defined his role as bringing out the best in its presidents. Years after that meeting he confided in me that his best quality was his willingness to suffer fools gladly, and at that moment I knew whom he had in mind.

Ray hailed from Alabama, where he was a well-known personality psychologist, dissecting the characters of such celebrities as Howard Hughes, and chairing the department of psychology at the university. He was the soft-spoken, moderate, and civilized face of the “dirty dozen,” the practitioners who had seized power from the science wing fifteen years before, and he was immediately elected president of APA.

APA happened to collapse at that moment. Having invested heavily in Psychology Today—a more foolish investment than Washington real estate—it was penniless. The administration was fired, and Ray was called on to become CEO. He did so, rescuing the organization, and became its near-permanent chief executive.

Ray was the very soul of patience and moderation. He was the only APA officer who advised me that my running for president was not impossibly quixotic, and he encouraged me to go for it.

In deep shit, I turned to him now.

There are two kinds of leadership,” Ray told me after listening patiently as I described the CAPPS fiasco, “transactional and transformational. You cannot possibly out-transact these people. They sit on all the committees, and they have great sitting power. They will out-sit you. If you are not to fail, you will need to be a transformational president.

“Your job, Marty, is to transform American psychology.”

WHEN I FIRST encountered psychology, more than thirty years before my stint as APA president, two warring factions in the field—the behaviorists and the Freudians—were at a standoff. For all their differences, they shared many of the same dogmas. Both focused on misery. Neither took evolution seriously. Both believed that the past, especially childhood trauma, frog-marches us into the future. Both considered thinking and consciousness mere froth. They also shared many of the same blind spots: happiness, virtue, free will, meaning, creativity, and success. In short, they both missed everything that makes life worth living.

I have witnessed the transformation of psychology, and at more than one pivotal moment, I led the transformation. Psychology in my lifetime rejected these premises in order to remove four huge blind spots. First, the discipline abandoned behaviorism to embrace cognition and consciousness. Second, it realized that evolution and the brain constrain what we can learn. Third, it ended its fixation on only curing what is wrong to include building what is right and positive in the world. Finally, it discovered that we are drawn into the future rather than driven by the past.

Together these make up the new psychology of hope.

This book tells the story of these sweeping changes in psychology over the last five decades. I too came to reject these four dogmas, and I tell the story of how the field was transformed through the medium of how one psychologist was himself transformed.

Chapter Two


IT BEGAN, AS for many psychologists of my generation, when I first read Sigmund Freud. I was thirteen years old, and my sister came home from the University of Rochester for her summer vacation. Beth was my exuberant and affectionate mentor from the time I was six. When I was seven she taught me what a factorial was. Showing off to my second-grade class may have been my first display of academic hubris. When I was nine, she read Flatland aloud to me,1 unveiling the marvels of geometry. At twelve, I confessed to her that I had never read a whole book and merely bluffed my way through seventh-grade book reports. So she locked me in my bedroom with The Count of Monte Cristo and did not let me out until I had read all of it. Eighteen hours later, I emerged, peed copiously, and passed her quiz. I have never been without a novel since.

In the summer of 1955 she brought home Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis.2 So I lay in the navy surplus hammock that stretched between two emaciated pine trees outside our little camp in Lake Luzerne, New York, and I could not put Freud down.

Counting forward from the date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I was born almost exactly nine months later. My conception, I surmise, was a declaration of optimism about the future by my parents, Irene and Adrian. Both of them had lived troubled lives, and optimism did not come at all naturally.

My mother, Irene Brown, was born in 1905 in Nagyvarad (meaning “big town”), Hungary—now Romania. She changed her birthdate to 1906 when she married my father in 1931 since it was unseemly for the bride to be older than the groom. Nagyvarad was a center of fashion and culture and Jewish life until the Nazis “cleansed” it of Jews in 1944. My grandmother (Elsa Bet Weinstock) died giving birth to Irene. It was December 1905 in the Carpathians, and Irene, premature, was incubated in the family oven and nursed to health by my grandfather. With the death of his wife, Marten Brown lavished all his affection on tiny little Irene. Bathed in such love, the first three years of my mother’s life must have been idyllic. But scarring events would soon cast her out of paradise.

Marten was a tailor who designed women’s clothes, and he was ambitious. This was the height of the Belle Époque, and Vienna at the turn of the twentieth century was the center of the intellectual and artistic universe. This was the Vienna of Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gustav Mahler, Gustav Klimt, Karl Kraus, and the Strausses—it was the place to be, but it was also a place of rising anti-Semitism. Marten, in his mid-twenties, must have yearned for Viennese life and applied to the Academy of Fine Arts to study haute couture. Just a Jew from the countryside, he was summarily rejected (as was Adolph Hitler, twice). So he packed up Irene and decided to try his luck in Berlin.

But not before acquiring a second wife. I knew her only as “Granny Brown.” Petite, solid, outspoken, determined-jawed, fiery… and jealous, she was a stepmother right out of Cinderella. The love that Marten lavished on his firstborn daughter his wife should have instead, and she let him know it. Marten withdrew from Irene, and even in her late eighties, Irene teared up when she spoke about this rejection, a rejection that no three-year-old could possibly understand, a rejection that any three-year-old would only attribute to herself.

Berlin proved no more promising than Vienna, and Marten’s haute couture hopes were again dashed. So in 1911 he took his five-year-old daughter and his pregnant wife to New York. They settled in the town of Tuckahoe, a few miles north of the Big Apple, and Marten opened a tailor’s shop. Irene’s first day of school was bittersweet. This was the age of the welcomed huddled masses coming to America, and her class was full of newly landed kids. The kindergarten teacher called on the children to share songs from their homelands, and a Scottish girl sang. Irene knew exactly what was going on and bursting with excitement waved her hand to be called on. She so wanted to sing a Hungarian song. But since she spoke no English, the teacher passed over her for the Irish girl on her right.

As she grew into a teenager, she was not passed over any more. She was gorgeous—there is no other word: five-foot-one, full-figured, blonde, and blue-eyed. She was well-spoken but reserved and very sympathetic of manner—a girl you could pour your heart out to. But poverty took its toll. Marten’s tailor shop burned to the ground. Irene dropped out of high school to help support the family as a legal secretary. In the early hours of the morning, she often heard Marten sobbing in his bedroom in despair over their dwindling finances.

But all her suitors during the Roaring Twenties may have been ample compensation. One of them, a most persistent young law student, she brushed off repeatedly. Not to be deterred, he sat mooning on her porch steps all evening, waiting for Irene to return from her dates. By now she was engaged to a wealthy dentist (there are family rumors of six engagements), and the Great Depression had begun. One evening Adrian must have finally caught her in the weak moment he was waiting for. He pounced, and their romance began.

Persistence was only one of Adrian’s strengths. He was handsome, but not head-turningly so like Irene: five-foot-nine, blonde, barrel-chested, and blue-eyed, with the deepest dimple in his chin. He was also dazzlingly clever, ingratiating of conversation, and extremely quick of mind. His parents, Sigmund and Matilda (née Beringer), had emigrated from the Dutch border of Germany and from Alsace, respectively, in the 1890s and married in New York City on the very last day of the old century. Their firstborn, Bert, Adrian’s big brother and my uncle-to-be, was a strapping, ruddy, and domineering lad. He became a millionaire in his twenties on the eve of the Great Depression and founded a Wall Street trading firm. In a family scandal, he changed his name to Sinclair upon marrying a Catholic—a cause for ostracism by the Seligmans. Adrian, in contrast to Bert, was a sickly child, prone to hiding at home from school when things got too rough. He had a childhood lump in the throat that impeded swallowing, likely an anxiety condition known as globus hystericus. It was quite prevalent in the days of Freud but is rarely seen today. (If I think too hard about my own Adam’s apple, I can almost feel the lump arising. I will refrain and put off a discussion of heritability until later in this book.)

But Adrian skipped four grades in school, zoomed his way through City College, got his bachelor of laws degree from New York University School of Law and then a Juris Doctor from Columbia, when the D in “JD” meant that you wrote a real doctoral dissertation. His was about Benito Mussolini’s rise to power. He courted Irene successfully, and they married in 1931, honeymooning in Atlantic City, then a classy destination.

And then came the crucial decision of his life.

He was a brilliant young lawyer, armed with a doctorate from Columbia Law School. But it was the second year of the Great Depression. Lawyers were not out of work, but much of the rest of America was, and clients were having trouble paying up. Lawyers were still drawing salaries, but many of them were poor. He was newly wed, and he and my mother both saw potential disaster looming more readily than they saw opportunity.

So he chose a secure path: civil service. Low pay, steady work, no chance of ever losing your job, but also no chance of scaling the heights of money or power. No chance of standing eye to eye with Bert.

Adrian took a job reporting judges’ decisions at the Court of Appeals (New York State’s highest court) and moved with Irene from the center of power—Manhattan—to the provinces: Albany.

Albany in 1931 was not a boomtown and, in fact, hadn’t been since the building of the Erie Canal more than a century before. Its population had held steady at 130,000 for those one hundred years. While it was the capital of New York State and domicile of politicians on the rise—Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, soon to be president, to name just two—the brightest lights escaped every weekend on the express train back to Grand Central Station in Manhattan.

Albany was settled by the Dutch in the 1620s, and the prominent wealthy families were still named Ten Eyck, Schuyler, VanDerZee, Pruyn, and Van Renselaer, with a couple of Townsends and Livingstons thrown in for diversity. The decaying estate of the patroon still stood high o’er the Hudson River. But the old families eventually lost their political power to the Irish, who had come en masse as laborers after the 1845–1852 potato famine. By 1920 Dan O’Connell’s political machine—a machine so all-powerful as to make Jersey City and Chicago look like democracies—ran the city. O’Connell passed out twenty-dollar bills from the living room of his unpretentious row house in Colonie to voters in need, and the machine’s front man—Mayor Erastus Corning IV—lent it all a veneer of gentility.

Albany was as grubby as it was corrupt, and the Great Depression made it worse. Large numbers of “bums,” looking for any work at all, roamed the streets during the day and slept in cardboard boxes on the banks of the Hudson River by night. The bums were white, and beneath them on the social scale were the blacks, who were even more miserable and drew even less public sympathy and attention. This was in good weather. In the winters, when snow could pile up to four feet and the temperature could sink below zero for a week, life was brutal, fragile, and cheap.

Civil servants and merchants made up the middle class, some of whom hailed from Albany’s sizable enclave of Jews. There were the old Jewish families: the Sterns, Nathans, Mendelsons, and Barnets, the Jewish upper crust. They had come to Albany in the mid-1800s, founded Reform Judaism in America, owned the factories, and become prominent pillars of the community—although they still could not join the Fort Orange Club. Then there were the nouveau riche Jewish families, newer arrivals, who ran very prosperous businesses. They were the upper middle class, and they could join the Colonie Country Club—but not Wolfert’s Roost. And then there were the rest of us, the civil servants and just-hanging-in-there merchants, who could not join Colonie but could join the synagogues.

Adrian and Irene joined T’Firith Israel, the conservative synagogue. I came to know, under tragic circumstances, that my father was an atheist, but my mother was very strongly attached to Judaism. Marten had been pious (as well as a loyalist admirer of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, who had given a medal to his second wife for her apple strudel). My father’s attachment to Judaism was political. A mover and shaker, he became president of the synagogue and was instrumental in transforming it into Temple Israel, which became the largest and most powerful of the Jewish institutions in Albany.

The Seligman family in 1945 at the Fulton Chain of Lakes in upstate New York: Martin (three), Adrian, Beth (ten), and Irene. Courtesy of the author.

SO YOU NOW know the world as I found it when I arrived one gestation period after Pearl Harbor.

“Just in time for lunch,” were the first words my mother heard on August 12, 1942, after the delivery at 11:58 a.m.—an exclamation we will soon hear William James make under more momentous circumstances. I came late, and Irene was forced to walk and walk and walk to induce labor. It must have been traumatic, because after that I was never late again: a compulsion to get stuff done and show up early is an emblem of my life that I am proud of.

There was no doubt that I would be named for my saintly grandfather, Marten, who had died of a sudden heart attack in 1940. Elias was chosen as my middle name to honor Irene’s Weinstock grandfather. But all this upset my naming-deprived six-year-old sister, who was then given naming rights. So I acquired a second middle name, Peter.

Martin Elias Peter Seligman.

Somehow the unmyelinated oblivion of childhood blanketed World War II right up to its close, and my first memory, no less disturbing, dates from the very end of the conflict. It was April 1945, and a blue-eyed boy with ringlets of platinum blonde hair was playing on the linoleum floor of the kitchen. All the photos from that era—and my father took hundreds of them—show me to be unfailingly merry and beaming.

I heard heartbroken sobs and gasps from the next room and soon found my mother on the second step of the stairs under the newel post, her head in her hands. I tried to comfort her but could not. She would not stop. She sobbed and sobbed.

What had happened? The thirty-two-month-old boy was mystified, and he knew only that the person at the center of his universe was in the throes of grief and that he was helpless to do anything about it. Many years later, my mother explained that she must have just heard that President Franklin Roosevelt had died or, even worse, that she had just found out about all the Jews—much of her family abandoned in Hungary—murdered.

Or both.

I can’t say for sure if the sunshine went out of my life just then, but the photos of me as a young child—merry and beaming—do look different from those taken in later childhood, and they look very different still from those of my teenage years. The smiles are a shade or two less bright after age three, and by late childhood I am usually tight-lipped and unsmiling. When that beaming two-year-old looks up at me from the old photos, I do not recognize him. But I do recognize myself in the teenage photos. By then I look serious. Considering my lifelong skirmishes with my own depression and the fact that my early work in psychology centered on helplessness and depression, this must have been a turning point in my life.

Martin in 1946, the blue-eyed boy with ringlets of platinum blonde hair. Photo by Adrian Seligman.

I was indeed a serious student once school started. My parents first tried nursery school when I was four, but the moment my mother left, I wailed and did not stop until my parents retrieved me. So school was postponed until I was five.

School 16 was only two blocks from our house on South Main Avenue. The ten-minute walk took me first for a long hug from Milton, the crippled and basset-eyed newsboy peddling the Times Union outside Mack’s corner drug store; then past Stittigs, where the cherry parfaits at thirty-five cents were Beth’s highest reward for me; then past the Madison Theater, where every Saturday morning Hopalong Cassidy outgunned Peg Leg and his gang of seedy Mexicans; across Madison Avenue under the watchful eye of the huge, merry policeman in black leather; and onto the packed-dirt playground of the school yard, where two hundred scruffy kids stood awaiting the rattle of the morning bell.

What awaited us on the inside of School 16 was… well, not much. Teaching kids in the public schools of Albany was the female extension of the O’Connell machine’s hiring dozens of men to plant tulips in slow motion in Washington Park. In addition to legions of unemployed males in need of featherbedding, there were legions of unemployed spinsters to pay off as well. These were my teachers.

We spent countless hours singing about Ireland.

And if there is going to be a life hereafter

And somehow I am sure there’s going to be

I will ask my God to let me make my heaven

In that dear land across the Irish Sea.


  • "Here is a major thinker who sees deeply into human nature and tells a good story. In The Hope Circuit, Marty Seligman displays both these gifts. This book is his best writing and thinking yet."—Angela Duckworth, CEO of the Character Lab andbestselling author of Grit
  • "Martin Seligman is renowned for his contribution to the field of positive psychology-and in this thought-provoking and surprisingly candid memoir, he explains how hard-won his wisdom has been."—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Projectand The Four Tendencies
  • "Martin Seligman is an intellectual giant, and readers will look to his memoir The Hope Circuit for secrets to his phenomenal impact as a scholar. What they will find is a deeply human story of his own struggles, hopes and ideas, told in an inspiring way. The Hope Circuit is more than an autobiography; it is handbook for each of us to build a life dedicated to human flourishing."—Arthur C. Brooks, PhD, President of the AmericanEnterprise Institute
  • "The Hope Circuit is a masterful blend of memoir and recent intellectual history-specifically, the history of trying to understand how we can live richer and more meaningful lives. This book could only have been written by someone who has played a vital role in that inquiry, cares passionately about it, and has the literary skill to carry that passion onto the page. The result is a vivid, bracing and sometimes poignant story of unfolding synergy between a psychologist's life and his work."—Robert Wright, author of Why Buddhism is True
  • "For half a century Martin Seligman has enlightened and inspired students of the human mind with his arresting findings and his visionary insights. He has been unafraid to plumb the dark recesses of the psyche, but just as bold in illuminating our better angels. This book combines a history of psychology by a man who shaped it, an explanation of powerful ideas about mental life, and a delightfully candid and reflective memoir."—Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology,Harvard University, and the author of How the Mind Works and EnlightenmentNow
  • "In this revealing memoir, the founder of the Positive Psychology movement recounts the experiences that shaped his work - from early childhood through his academic studies and research to the present. Martin Seligman has transformed the field of psychology to the benefit of all of us. It is fascinating to read the story of how he did that."—Andrew Weil, MD, author of SpontaneousHappiness and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health
  • "One of our most important psychologists alive takes us on a surprising personal journey-through his own highs and lows, twist and turns, overcoming tremendous obstacles to discover some of the most groundbreaking and iconic concepts in psychology. For a time his concept of 'learned helplessness' dominated the field as we looked to undo the past and now has us looking forward with positive psychology to grow our resilience , gratitude and hope. If you have an interest in the human condition-you will love this book."—John Ratey, author of Spark and Driven toDistraction
  • "This warm, lively, beautifully written book tells the stories behind some of the grand ideas and developments that have reshaped psychology - as well as the struggles, missteps, conflicts, and misunderstandings that nearly derailed them. Through it all emerges the author's infectious excitement about exploring the human mind and his roaming quest for how to make life better for the mass of humanity."—Roy F. Baumeister, author of Willpower: Rediscoveringthe Greatest Human Strength
  • "With a mix of humility and insight, Marty Seligman walks us through the full arc of his life, offering his theories on tectonic shifts in both himself and the field of psychology. In The Hope Circuit, Marty uncovers a view of human nature that is as surprising as it is inspiring. Dive in for a fascinating disciplinary history seen through the eyes of one of the most influential psychologists of our time."—Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity andLove 2.0
  • "Marty's book is not an autobiography. It's a personalized, guided tour through the mind and consciousness of genius. I thought I knew my friend from our many years of association. But not until I read The Hope Circuit did I really understand how Marty's life is a reflection of the unimaginable purity of one man's creative and unparalleled intellect."—Major General Robert Scales (retired)
  • "This inspiring and rewarding well-documented record of a lifetime is a beautifully written page-turner. In addition, The Hope Circuit is the saga of how American psychology came of age."—George E. Vaillant, MD, author of Triumphs ofExperience
  • "Martin Seligman provides a riveting autobiography about his discovery of 'learned helplessness' and 'positive psychology' with The Hope Circuit. Interwoven within the carefully scripted storytelling, Seligman takes the reader in a journey of self and intellectual discovery that explains why he is one of intellectual icons of our times. Woven throughout is a story not only of discovery but of resilience, passion, and drive to not only understand self but to understand and remedy the maladies of life. The 2017 recipient of the prestigious American Psychological Association's Lifetime Achievement Award employs a unique simultaneous combination of both fast reading and soul scratching to deliver a timely and critical message of hope."—Antonio Puente, President of the AmericanPsychological Association
  • "The Hope Circuit is riveting. It turns out that one of the greatest psychologists of all time is also one of our greatest story tellers. Offering an unparalleled glimpse into a particular time and place and history of science, Marty Seligman's book will entertain you, fascinate you, disabuse you, and move you. Along with Marty, you will laugh, grieve, and rage and, alighting on the last page, insist on a sequel."—Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph. D., professor of psychology atthe University of California, Riverside, and author of The How of Happiness:A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want
  • "Martin Seligman has written a fascinating and intimate portrait of both his own life and the discipline of psychology. A deeply gifted scholar, practitioner and communicator, he reminds us that positive psychology has profound implications for the way we live and work-and for public policy. Through his unique insights, relentless work ethic and infectious enthusiasm, Marty has helped many children and adults around the world-and especially in Australia-live more engaged, happy and meaningful lives. For that we should be most grateful."—The Honorable Kevin Rudd, 26th Prime Minister ofAustralia
  • "Martin Seligman is simply the most important and influential psychologist of the last 30 years. This stunning memoir will tell you why, and reading it will change your life for the better."—Sir Anthony Seldon,vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham
  • "This valuable memoir reveals how an influential new approach in psychology is intertwined with the life story of its leader."—Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition andEducation at Harvard University and author of Multiple Intelligences
  • "The positive psychology movement is a beacon of hope in our contemporary culture. Its founder, Martin Seligman, is one of today's most influential psychologists. In this book, he tells his remarkable journey - from studying failure to promoting human flourishing. It is a fascinating story."—Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Program atthe London School of Economics
  • "In my life, Martin Seligman rapidly evolved from just brilliant scientist, to become my good friend and mentor after we started the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program in 2008. This book, The Hope Circuit, which is both entertaining and refreshingly honest, helps me understand how he become the scientist, visionary and patriot I met and admire today."—Rhonda Cornum, Brigadier General (retired), PhD, MD,and Director of Health Strategy for TechWerks
  • "There are only a handful of living psychologists who would be worthy of an autobiography. Martin Seligman is one of that handful-one of the very most eminent psychologists alive today. Seligman's life and career both are models for how one can find meaning in life. Seligman not only reminds us of the tremendous positive impact he has had-through his studies of learned helplessness, depression, and positive psychology-but also of how even the greatest of professionals must overcome the many obstacles strewn in their path. Seligman shows that greatness does not derive from a life without obstacles, but rather from viewing those obstacles as challenges and learning experiences. He demonstrates how he and anyone else can meet challenges in life to reach ever-growing heights not despite the challenges, but often, because of them. This is a wonderful story masterfully told."—Robert J. Sternberg, Professor of Human Development,Cornell University
  • "The Hope Circuit is a remarkable blend of personal growth and scientific discovery. Seligman is one of the giants of science and in this treatise he bares his sole as to how he came to the revelations that have so changed the field. Preparedness, safety signal, learned helplessness, and positive psychology are among the most original and important contributions to psychology in the last half century. The treatise reads as a character study and as a road map for how to do science and it is always fascinating and illuminating."—Steven Hollon, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professorof Psychology, Vanderbilt University

On Sale
Apr 3, 2018
Page Count
448 pages

Martin E. P. Seligman

About the Author

Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the director of the Positive Psychology Center, and former president of the American Psychological Association. Among his twenty books are Learned Optimism and What You Can Change and What You Can’t.

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