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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't…

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking (original 2012; edition 2013)

by Oliver Burkeman

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3451831,733 (3.88)11
Title:The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
Authors:Oliver Burkeman
Info:Canongate Books Ltd (2013), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library, Have Read

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


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Surprisingly not awful. Didn't learn the secret of happiness, but that probably wasn't the point. Some fun anecdotes, and a breezy style make this feel nice and short. ( )
  sometimeunderwater | Sep 3, 2015 |
An interesting, wise, and quite amusing tour of the "negative path" to happiness. I particularly enjoyed Burkeman ending with John Keats's idea of "negative capability," which I first encountered in college and have always found fascinating. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
The feeling of relief with which I read this book stays with me still. Finally, a book that convincingly argues that the pursuit of happiness only makes it more difficult to reach; that when positive thinking fails, the fault is not with the thinker; and that the evil, unhappy feelings that fill me when I attempt to improve my life with affirmations are entirely normal! And yet, this is no book for modern cynics. It's an overview of several schools of thought, including the pop Buddhism of Alan Watts, the revival of Stoicism by philosopher William Irvine, and the rational school of psychology pioneered by Albert Ellis, that approach a fulfilled life from an entirely different direction. Is it the best of all conceivable books of its kind, as my five-star rating would seem to imply? No; it begins with a gimmicky takedown of an easy target, one of those giant celebrity positivity rallies, and it proceeds with a familiar breeziness that seems to me rather forced. But despite the folksy everyman-author-on-a-quest format, there is real wisdom here, and much to explore. It's a book I'm going to read again. ( )
  john.cooper | Mar 20, 2015 |
A great thought provoking book on a subject written about generally from one perspective. I rated it four stars and was considering five but for a lapse on the final topic. Oliver Burkeman is a pleasure to read as he delves into subjects and topics related to the motives and methods related to the positive goal setting agenda folks who seem as much motivated by the prospect of lining their pockets more than anything. And of course never a short supply of those on the other end handing it over to them trying to get someone to help them steer their lives on the right course. I generally am disappointed with what I call slice of life books that jump from one topic to another usually geared toward humor or their sense of commercialized whimsy. Burkeman's approach was much more interesting and to the point. He lost me a bit on his final topic of death as he wanders around Mexico watching and commenting on the acts of celebrating the dead. But the central question of how we deal with our inevitable demise was as chilling an central as ever. A book I am glad I picked up, read, and made me think I may have missed my calling as a stoic. ( )
  knightlight777 | Mar 8, 2015 |
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I know this is going to come as a shock to many of you, but I am not exactly an "Up With People" kind of guy, and the relentless forced positivity within a certain section of the liberal arts these days, despite being done for the most noble intentions, tends to wear me out. So thank God, then, for the newish The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by philosopher and participatory journalist Oliver Burkeman; he instead looks at the many groups over the last several millennia, from the Stoics of ancient Greece to the Buddhists of Asia, the Rationalists of the Enlightenment, and even such modern figures as Alan Watts, to show that maybe it's actually pretty healthy to sometimes picture the worst-case scenario, to embrace the failures you make, and to always carry with you a finely tuned daily awareness of your own imminent death. As these groups have each independently proven, he shows through a series of fascinating trips to various contemporary communities, tribes and experts around the globe, it can actually be really healthy for humans to understand their boundaries, to know which things they can reasonably accomplish and which they can't, and to know when to let go of an obsessive desire for a goal before that goal instead kills you; and in the meanwhile, he cites modern study after modern study that are each starting to show how much damage the "power of positive thinking" can have, from increased frustration over challenges to the body giving up on a challenge after enjoying it too much in an idealized version in one's head, even to the kinds of fatalistic embrace of violent quick-change solutions that always come with fascist administrations in times of crisis. (It's not a coincidence that Nazi-era Germans and Bush-era Americans were both obsessed with new-age beliefs.) A fresh splash of water in a lobotomizingly peppy world of endless Tony Robbinses and Deepak Chopras, this will absolutely change the way you look at the world if you're one of those people receptive to its message, and it comes strongly recommended whether to read or to simply carry to your next corporate-job-mandated "Unleash The Power of Positivity!" seminar at your local sports arena.

Out of 10: 9.7 ( )
1 vote jasonpettus | Mar 2, 2015 |
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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
To my parents
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

Haiku summary

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)

(summary from another edition)

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Average: (3.88)
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