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

by Oliver Burkeman

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2561344,916 (3.8)11
Member:Parthurbook
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
Rating:***1/2
Tags:psychology, self-help

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

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This was OK but inconclusive - which I suspect was one of the points!
Humans look for easy answers but they don't exist. ( )
  infjsarah | Aug 17, 2014 |
I really loved this book. I had completely misunderstood what stoicism was, and I am so glad to have been properly introduced to it. This book has really inspired me, and has led me to read a lot more about stoicism. ( )
  HollyC36 | Jul 20, 2014 |
Burkeman has a difficult story to tell. How do you achieve happiness by reading a book full of "unhappy" (=realistic) insights? What should you actually _do_?

The author concludes with the observation that any "x-points to follow be happy and successful" is very ill-fitting, or better: totally besides the point of the book. It means that many people, looking for pre-chewed chunks of advice, will throw the book aside. Burkeman's message is: there is no plan, there is no "success list". But those who try to incorporate reality into their lives, especially the negatives and the failures, are better equipped to handle their lives and will find happiness more easy.

The message of the book is not: be pessimistic. It's: be realistic. Observe the negatives and the failures, describe them, calculate what they will mean for you and incorporate them in your life.

Burkeman builds his story by going step by step through history in a non-linear way, from Stoics, via meditation to the Mexican celebration of Memento Mori. Sometimes the story is a bit irritating when the author states over and over again that "it's hard to believe, but..." That's really not necessary. It almost looks as he tries to apologize for the fact that the world is different than the "if-you-want-it-you'll-succeed" prophets tell you. There's enough (scientifically solid) research in the book to let the reader see that the real story to feeling happy and positive is quite different than we are led to believe.

This book is a great antidote for the "positive thinking books" which are way too loud. But it's also a great addition to them. What I like is that Burkeman closes with the story of his own use (and results) of the knowledge he has gathered.
But again, it is not a self-help manual. The reader has to start working with the content him- or herself, without a program from the author.

And that is good. ( )
  jeroenvandorp | May 13, 2014 |
A well thought out explorations of the historic alternatives to the "cult" of positive thinking. The problems inherent to positive thinking are examined with a wry eye.
It's not a pessimistic or sarcastic text; the alternative to positive thinking is not expecting the worst.
This would be a good companion to Bright Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich.
( )
  Vantine | Mar 14, 2014 |

I found this to be an annoying read.

The author starts off by showing where positive thinking fails and then loosely props up a kind of oppositional "negative way" by way of quotes, personal anecdotes/experiences, name-dropping, and grabbing elements of philospophers and interviews and cramming them into a narrative.

He may be right in his assertions, but he doesn't back it up with anything solid, he doesn't properly spell out what exactly he is proposing and he doesn't test out if he is right. If this is the antidote, he is relying on people supplying a lot of confirmation bias when they read this. Perhaps in this way the title is well chosen?
( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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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
Dedication
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:41 -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)

» see all 4 descriptions

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