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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who…
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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking (2012)

by Oliver Burkeman

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I'm not a huge fan of self help books but needed to read one to fulfill a challenge. I found this book at the library and it seemed to fit the bill for me. Throughout the book Burkeman covers a wide range of spiritual philosophies and practices, such as Hellenistic stoicism, Zen Buddhism and Memento Mori, philosophies and practices that often are said to focus on negative thinking.

The author believes that not forcing a positive attitude to life could have positive consequences for psychological, physiological and neurological function. Burkeman first describes the Stoics and focuses on their struggling to achieve a specific emotional state. He then poses the idea that we should accept negatives experiences as something that can be helpful.

I've never heard of Oliver Burkeman but apparently he writes a popular column in The Guardian. I found his book to be both funny and refreshing. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Aug 9, 2017 |
Human psyche isn't something to be constantly pushed in one direction. It has a delicate balance of a range of states and emotions, and if you push in one direction, it might rebound in the other. Maybe instead of forcing yourself to be positive, you can try reflecting on death. It might bring surprising benefits.

You don't have to buy into any one grand and complete idea that must guide your whole life. Even though, say, stoicism ([b:A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy|5617966|A Guide to the Good Life The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy|William B. Irvine|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1429872677s/5617966.jpg|5789357]) provides a whole philosophy, including stoic metaphysics (which I don't personally like), you don't have to follow it all. You can use it as a toolbox. The Antidote provides this kind of set of tools. ( )
  automatthias | Jun 19, 2017 |
An okay book on stoicism and its various modern manifestations as an alternative to positive thinking. It's quite interesting in places, but not great by any means. ( )
  eclecticdodo | Apr 27, 2016 |
Tired of the self-helg genre's focus on positivity in all ways, Burkeman writes a self-helt book about the power of negative thinking. Already a reality-oriented sceptic, I guess I never needed persuasion. It is nice to hear about Eipcurus, stocicism, and serious forms of mindfulness, but overall the book was not extraordinary to me. Ok. ( )
  ohernaes | Mar 13, 2016 |
Rating 3
This book is more about dealing normal life. It is about viewing things as they truly are and not about pretending things won't happen.
A few quotes from the book:
Negative visualization generates a vastly more dependable calm.

Without noticing we're doing it, we treat the future as intrinsically more valuable than the present. And yet the future never seems to arrive.

We fear situations in which we feel as though we have no control, such as flying as a passenger on an aeroplane, more than situations in which we feel as if we have control, such as when at the steering wheel of a car. No Wonder, then, that we sometimes risk making ourselves less secure by chasing feelings of security. You're vastly more likely to be killed as a result of a car crash than an air crash, vastly more likely to die of heart disease than at the hands of a violent intruder. But if you react to news stories about air terrorism by taking the car when you'd otherwise have taken a plane, or if you spend time and energy protection your home from attackers that you could have spent on improving your diet, you'll be letting your biases guide you towards a greater feeling of security at the expense of your real safety.


This book finishes up discussing death in the true sense whereas we are all going to die. we need to quit living as if we are not.


( )
  JWarrenBenton | Jan 4, 2016 |
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Epigraph
I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought, 'what the hell good would that do?'

Ronnie Shakes
I have always been fascinated by the law of reversed effort. Sometimes I call it 'the backwards law'. When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float . . . insecurity is the result of trying to be secure . . . contrariwise, salvation and sanity consist in the most radical recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.

Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity
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The man who claims that he is about to tell me the secret of human happiness is eighty-three years old, with an alarming orange tan that does nothing to enhance his credibility.
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Book description
The Antidote is a series of journeys among people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. What they have in common is a hunch about human psychology: that it’s our constant effort to eliminate the negative that causes us to feel so anxious, insecure, and unhappy. And that there is an alternative "negative path" to happiness and success that involves embracing the things we spend our lives trying to avoid. It is a subversive, galvanizing message, which turns out to have a long and distinguished philosophical lineage ranging from ancient Roman Stoic philosophers to Buddhists. Oliver Burkeman talks to life coaches paid to make their clients’ lives a living hell, and to maverick security experts such as Bruce Schneier, who contends that the changes we’ve made to airport and aircraft security since the 9/11 attacks have actually made us less safe. And then there are the "backwards" business gurus, who suggest not having any goals at all and not planning for a company’s future.

Burkeman’s new audiobook is a witty, fascinating, and counterintuitive listen that turns decades of self-help advice on its head and forces us to rethink completely our attitudes toward failure, uncertainty, and death.

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0865479410, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: The you-can-do-it, life-is-one-big-smiley-face ethos of our contemporary culture has its value: Aggressive positivity helps many triumph over addiction, say, or build previously unimaginable businesses, even win elections and wars. But according to Oliver Burkeman, this relentless pursuit of happiness and success can also make us miserable. Exploring the dark side of the theories put forth by such icons as Norman Vincent Peale and Eckhart Tolle by looking to both ancient philosophy and current business theory, Burkeman--a feature writer for British newspaper The Guardian--offers up the counterintuitive idea that only by embracing and examining failure and loss and unhappiness will we become free of it. So in your next yoga class, try this: breathe deep, think unhappy thoughts--and feel your soul relax. --Sara Nelson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:38 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Exploring the dark side of the theories put forth by such icons as Norman Vincent Peale and Eckhart Tolle by looking to both ancient philosophy and current business theory, Burkeman--a feature writer for British newspaper The Guardian--offers up the counterintuitive idea that only by embracing and examining failure and loss and unhappiness will we become free of it.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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