Dr. Itai Ivtzan

Dr. Itai Ivtzan is passionate about the combination of psychology and spirituality. He is a positive psychologist, a senior lecturer, and the program leader of MAPP (Masters in Applied Positive Psychology) at the University of East London (UEL). He published several books, as well as many journal papers and book chapters. His main interests are positive psychology, mindfulness, and spirituality. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Ivtzan has run seminars, lectures, workshops and retreats in the UK and around the world, in various educational institutions and at private events. He is a regular keynote speaker in conferences. If you wish to get additional information about his work or contact him, please visit www.AwarenessIsFreedom.com.

Dr. Ivtzan will be giving the following keynote lecture and pre-conference workshop, as well as participating in the panel on Second Wave Positive Psychology (PP2.0) – Happiness & Well-Being for the 9th Biennial International Meaning Conference, July 28-31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Keynote Title

Second Wave Positive Psychology: Embracing the Dark Side of Life

Scheduled for Saturday, July 30, 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM


What is the first image that comes to our mind when positive psychology (PP) is mentioned? For most of us, it is the smiley emoticon. This symbol of happiness, optimism and joy reflects the way PP is commonly conceived and portrayed, both within the PP discipline and in society at large. As such, whatever is labelled as ‘negative’ is frequently rejected and considered to be outside the sphere of PP. But this could not be farther from the truth. PP actually investigates and researches some of the most difficult and painful human experiences. This talk explores a variety of topics that could be considered as part of the ‘dark’ side of life, and emphasises the role they play in the positive aspect of our functioning and transformation as human beings. While doing this, cutting edge theories, research, and practices are also introduced.

The ‘dark side’ refers to challenging experiences, thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, which trigger discomfort in us. Such discomfort is frequently avoided as it carries an engagement with fear, pain, distress, or confusion. However, engaging with the challenge and discomfort has a great potential for growth, healing, insight, and transformation. In other words, the ‘dark side’ contains the seed for a potential positive outcome, even when the path towards this outcome is testing.

I would like students and other people that are interested in this field to feel they were allowed to include the aspects of life we might call ‘negative’ in their PP experience. Moreover, it is important to make it clear that these aspects of life are frequently necessary for the experience of growth and flourishing to be complete. To achieve this, I describe in this talk the current state of affairs in the field of PP, with a view to dispel the myth of its ‘positivity’. People believe that PP deals only with the positive because they confuse experiences with outcomes. Indeed, the outcomes of PP theory and research are always positive in some way; and yet the paths, the journey, what we experience on the way to these outcomes may be ‘negative’ and challenging. Second-wave PP recognises and acknowledges this journey, enabling the broadening of PP boundaries to embrace both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ in our experience of flourishing.

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn about the potential role of ‘negative’ experiences/emotions as part of our positive transformation.
  2. Review research that links the ‘negative’ with positive outcomes.
  3. Understand the importance of embracing both the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ in your personal journey of flourishing.

Pre-Conference Workshop Title

Mindfulness Programs in Positive Psychology

Scheduled for Thursday, July 28, 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM


Mindfulness meditation is one of the most popular interventions in psychology, the interest in which grows year after year. Positive psychology (PP) is the fastest developing branch of psychology, whose expanding journey of investigating human flourishing has attracted great interest. What happens when these two are brought together?

This workshop will inform you about the fascinating points of convergence between mindfulness and PP. We will explore various mindfulness programs focused on increasing positive variables, such as meaning, compassion, positive emotions, strengths, and gratitude. These programs are flourishing-focused, thereby embodying the spirit of PP. We will also examine how certain popular mindfulness programs are deficit-focused (aimed at decreasing mental illness), and consequently less relevant to the goals of PP interventions.

The workshop covers three aspects: Theory, Research, and Practice. We will discuss some theoretical background to the convergence between PP and mindfulness, including the role of savouring and meaning in the creation of what I call the “positive mindfulness cycle”. Research will be addressed as well, and studies that bring to life the impact of mindfulness on the experience of flourishing, growth, and positive transformation will be highlighted. Finally, we will practise a number of different mindfulness exercises designed to increase self-compassion, meaning, and savouring. This experiential aspect of the workshop is important, in that it allows you to engage in the actual experience of the meeting point between mindfulness and PP.

This workshop is intended to provide an adventurous, creative, and open space, where we learn about mindfulness and PP, while being mindful and playful.

Learning Objectives

  1. Experience a broad range of mindfulness exercises and PP-related techniques.
  2. Learn how the areas of PP and mindfulness can enhance each other.
  3. Understand the theoretical foundation that combines mindfulness and PP together.
  4. Review research that links mindfulness with PP and flourishing.

Interested in learning more about pre-conference workshops? Find out more here.

Panel Title

Second Wave Positive Psychology (PP2.0)

Scheduled for Saturday, July 30, 11:15 AM – 1:15 PM


  • Paul T. P. Wong
  • Gordon Medlock