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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  4,418 ratings  ·  580 reviews
Self-help books don't seem to work. Few of the many advantages of modern life seem capable of lifting our collective mood. Wealth--even if you can get it--doesn't necessarily lead to happiness. Romance, family life, and work often bring as much stress as joy. We can't even agree on what "happiness" means. So are we engaged in a futile pursuit? Or are we just going about it ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Faber & Faber (first published January 1st 2012)
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Sanjay Gautam
Jul 16, 2015 Sanjay Gautam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: For those who really can't stand positive thinking.
Murphy's Laws symbolize the error-prone nature of people and processes. This book shows how possibly the culture of positive thinking and cult of optimism can go wrong and how Murphy's law is applicable to it. Anything that can go wrong, will.

The book remains true to its title. It is really meant for the people who can't stand 'positive thinking', 'cult of optimism' kind of approaches to happiness. What this book does is that it shows a new and counter-intuitive approach to happiness- NEGATIVE P
...more
Seamus Thompson
This might be the only (so-called) self-help book that includes a quote from The Wire at the beginning of a chapter -- and surely that's a good sign.

I'm not someone who reads a lot of self-help books. I don't read them at all, really, though living in Southern California for a couple decades meant inevitable contact with self-help gurus and enthusiasts. Positive thinking, visualization and imitating the habits of successful people have always struck me as somehow deficient tactics but I never re
...more
Marie Murrell
This might be my favorite self-help book of all time. In a nutshell, rather than trying to force ourselves to be cheerful when we don't feel cheerful by thinking positively, it suggests we think of the worst thing that can happen and realize that whatever that worst thing is, it isn't likely to be the end of the world. On procrastination, it suggests we stop trying to feel motivated and just do what we have to do--moods and actions don't have to be related. On goals, it explores whether goal str ...more
Laura Leaney
This is a friendly little book that purports to be an anti-"self-help" book - although I have more than a sneaking suspicion that it IS a self-help book. My guess is that Oliver Burkeman is preaching to the choir, to use an old cliché, because I doubt any individual feeling the rosy after-glow of a Get Motivated! seminar will pick it up for an afternoon's reading. I bought the thing after reading a review in the Los Angeles Times, thinking it would offer a humorous take on our cultural obsession ...more
Emma Sea
Excellent book. The writing is highly engaging, and Burkeman gives enough information to be interesting, without overloading the reader, and incorporates just the right amount of personal narrative. The book is easy to just fall into, and, while still thought-provoking, doesn't require the reader to sit for ten minutes rotating a concept until its in the right position for comprehension.

I think it's got the wrong title, because this makes it sound like pop-psychology, and this is much more than
...more
Richard
The subtitle here is the hook: “Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”. Many of the ideas presented within these pages were already at least vaguely familiar to me, especially those of the Stoics and at least some of the Buddhists. But, really, the word “happiness” is out of place. Even before the Stoics existed, wise Greeks had recognized “call no man happy until he is dead,” and Burkeman’s thrust here is that striving for happiness is almost certainly a bad idea.

A better goal
...more
Henrik Hallberg
It's such a turnoff with self-help books that start out with ridiculing self-helps books only to try to paint themselves in a different light. Turnoff and common, that is. This book is no different. It becomes especially obnoxious when the author denounces other authors lack of rigor only to himself use ancient Greek philosophy and Alan Watts as backbones to his arguments. Now, stoicism and Buddhist metaphysics are favorite subjects of mine. My problem with the book is not lack of rigor but the ...more
Stephanie
I did like this book, but i wanted more from it. It seemed disappointingly minimal. The author unfortunately followed the pattern that is becoming really commonplace and boring in nonfiction books of talking to a handful of people, each of whom represents a different aspect of the topic at hand, and going out to a few select places in the world to experience the subject firsthand. And then using that smattering of information as a basis for an entire way of thinking about the world.

I really like
...more
Marcus
The Antidote starts off by talking about the positive thinking movement, moves on to Seneca and the Stoics then dips into Buddhist meditation, pauses to to criticize goal setting then stops in for a visit with Eckhart Tolle. Burkeman then writes about how we overvalue safety and undervalue failure then ends with a chapter on how we approach death, including an interesting visit to Mexico on the Day of the Dead.

Every chapter is well written and provides sufficient insight into each of the various
...more
Jason Pettus
(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 new
...more
Carlo
This is a very good book to which I keep coming back in the couple of months since I read it. What makes it great is its insistence of not having a one-size-fits-all formula to feeling happiness (or a better and delicious word used here and elsewhere is, if I may capitalise it, Eudaemonia), let alone exposing the tenuous and very subtle nature of what we usually call happiness, which among many things is mainly sensed in hindsight. The idea that there is no single solution for our problems, happ ...more
Bonny
I used to do the lab. work for a local group of oncologists, and one evening I heard someone crying in the waiting room. The rest of the staff had left and the doctors were doing rounds, so I went to see what was going on. I found a patient sitting there, crying quietly. She had been in remission twice, but had recently relapsed. She said she needed to talk to one of the doctors because she didn't know what she was doing wrong. When we talked further, she said she had been using some visualizati ...more
Katie Mercer
Full Disclosure I won this book as a Goodreads Firstreads. The thing is though, I entered the contest because I read the summary and immediately laughed because hand to god this book was almost exactly a conversation I was having with a good friend recently. Basically we were talking about how we find the whole "self-help" thing boring. My problems (not that I have any, obviously) do not stem from me not having any faith in my ability to get through things, so why do I need to wake up everyday a ...more
Erin
I had never read the author's articles in the Guardian, but might start doing so after reading this book. I appreciate that this the work of a journalist and not a self-help guru. Remember that a journalist is some one who gets paid money to do things that you might like to do for free if the consequences didn't seem overwhelming. If you read The Antidote in that light then it is a very interesting and thoughtful look into metacognition and the self help industry. The book is not academic, and i ...more
Charlou Lunsford
OK - So I will admit I picked this up because of my cynicism. I'm just not one of those "happy" people that are all the rage right now.

I kept reading because this book is so much more. How wonderfully validating this book was. (That is why we read self-help books, right? Not to change, but to validate who we are.) At some point I had realized that while I'm not one of the "happy' type, I am a content person when I'm not feeling bad about myself for not being "happy." The constant pressure to be
...more
Христо Блажев
Противоотрова срещу селф-хелп шарлатанщините: http://knigolandia.info/book-review/p...

Но това не е книга срещу. Това е книга за. Бъркман се оглежда наоколо и намира примери, че търсенето на щастие по обичайния за западните общеста начин е обречено на провал изначално. Извори на възможности обаче той открива другаде – на първо място при стоиците от античността, които са успели да се абстрахират от щенията на ума и тялото си. Друга посока има в социалните връзки, доказателство за което е, че дори
...more
Antigone
Looking at life directly is a lot like looking at the sun directly and should come with similar warnings. Damage will be done. Which is not to say that you shouldn't do it, or that anything could prevent some of us from doing it frequently and with great determination. But it would have been nice to have had some sort of cautionary word, some small piece of been-there-done-that warrior's wisdom; something graspable beyond the rather underwhelming bromide: Ignorance is bliss. Because by the time ...more
Jafar
You can’t overstate the folly of the self-help industry and the ridiculousness of the “motivational” speakers and various other “gurus.” And the millions who pay money to hear or read platitudes like “you are the master of your own destiny”? Only in America.
Hinch
The Antidote: Happiness for people who can't stand positive thinking, by Oliver Burkeman, is a challenging, but ultimately liberating discussion on the virtues of the "backward path" to happiness. The author begins by exploring the short comings of the modern-day fixation on positive thinking. The message extolled by self-help gurus and mainstream motivational literature entreats us to eliminate negativity from our consciousness, to coordinate our activities around a set of clearly defined goals ...more
Damaskcat
It might seem odd that a self-confessed positive thinker would even consider reading this book whose sub title proclaims it is a book about `Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking'. But I've read it and enjoyed it and from its pages have compiled a list of further reading. The book is written in an easy conversational style and I found the author's experiences and meetings with the gurus of the self help world fascinating reading.

I was interested to learn that my own brand of pos
...more
Lylah
Calling this book life changing would be a little hyperbolic, calling it perspective changing would not.

Oliver Burkeman, a Brit, starts by looking at what's wrong with America's billion dollar self-help/motivational industry. There's the expensive seminars (which corporations, the military and government agencies pay for their employees to attend) where an 80-year-old tycoon with an orange faux tan lets you in on his secret to success: banish the word "impossible" from your vocabulary! Then ther
...more
Kiwi
Interesting and thought provoking book. It deals much more with human psychology (touching on philosophy and religion) than self help. Burkeman explores a new approach to happiness called “negative path” which leads to some counterintuitive insights such as setting goals can lead to catastrophic consequences, seeking security to failures and the effort to try to feel happy is often precisely the thing that makes us miserable. Well worth a read.

Favourite quotes:

Faced with the anxiety of not knowi
...more
Caren
This book may sound as though it had been written by something of a curmudgeon, but---far from it---it is a witty, sparkling foray into ideas about what makes us happy. The author, a writer for "The Guardian" (a British newspaper), explores psychology in his weekly columns. The chapters in this book look at finding contentment from the perspective of Stoicism, Buddhism, setting goals (or not), moving your focus outside of yourself, not seeking after security, recognizing your mistakes and weakne ...more
Joe
A thought-provoking, challenging, ultimately liberating blend of Stoicism, Buddhist philosophy, and current thinking in a contrarian school of psychology that opposes such shibboleths as positive thinking and goal setting. Burkeman mines a wide range of thought, ancient and modern, to counter the success culture so pervasive in our world. It's difficult to boil this down to a summary statement, but at the end of the book Burkeman cites Keats' Negative Capability as perhaps the best two-word desc ...more
Deb
**Happiness where you least expect it**

It’s kind of ironic that our pursuits of happiness often result in increases of misery. Relentless striving for lives full of positivity, good cheer, security, and success has paradoxically derailed many from the path of happiness. (What’s wrong with this picture?)

Shedding insight into this self-help paradox, the author Oliver Burkeman points out that:
“There is something about trying to *make ourselves* happy and successful that is precisely what sabotages
...more
Hannah
Oh I love Oliver Burkeman! I always liked his column in the Guardian - it digests big psychological and philosophical ideas and phenomena with humour, thoughtfulness and aplomb. This book uses much the same approach and I immediately felt as though Burkeman was talking directly to me.

The tone of the book is not self-help as much as it is an exploratory journey of philosophers, 'experts', people who have had rather interesting life shifts and people who have thought a lot about how to live well.
...more
Velvetink
“For the Stoics, then, our judgments about the world are all that we can control, but also all that we need to control in order to be happy; tranquility results from replacing our irrational judgments with rational ones”
― Oliver Burkeman, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
Bill
Excellent read ... the negative capability as an answer to the relentless onslaught of self help positive thinking dribble.

I'll be back with my thoughts but in the interim remember all we have is the now. The past is gone and the future a fantasy. The now is the only reality!
Aubrey
Whether this book is self-help or philosophy, I plan on reading it again straightaway. I enjoyed the philosophy aspects of it so much that I read it too quickly to let any of its main points settle with me. I highly recommend it. It makes a lot of sense.
Jim
the ideas and methods of perceiving examined in this book resonate deeply with my own thoughts and experience (struggle) and has given me grounds for further reading and contemplation; a thoroughly humanist and excellent read
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“Confronting the worst-case scenario saps it of much of its anxiety-inducing power. Happiness reached via positive thinking can be fleeting and brittle, negative visualization generates a vastly more dependable calm.” 31 likes
“True security lies in the unrestrained embrace of insecurity - in the recognition that we never really stand on solid ground, and never can.” 16 likes
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