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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  7,947 Ratings  ·  920 Reviews
A witty, fascinating, and counterintuitive read that turns decades of self-help advice on its head and forces us to rethink completely our attitudes toward failure, uncertainty, and death.

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 cons
ebook, 256 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Air A book doesn't have to be groundbreaking. Most of time, we can only get what we already "know". Science is another thing.

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Sanjay Gautam
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: For those who really can't stand positive thinking.

Murphy's Law 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 PA
Seamus Thompson
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Caroline by: Richard Wood
Shelves: psychology
Curmudgeonly Brit that I am, I enjoyed this book a lot. I read it at a gallop. I found it wonderfully provocative. I could have filled its margins with comments, heavily pressed into the paper, and accompanied by lots of exclamation marks.

The general drift of the book is that the roaring ra-ra-ra of positive thinking does not work. Day by day, in every way, we are NOT getting better and better. The author, Oliver Burkeman, a Guardian journalist covering psychology, says that instead we need to
Brendon Schrodinger
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
People often remark on how happy I always appear.- most of the time I have a smile on my face. And I must admit that my moods are fairly stable. But I'm definitely not one for always looking on the bright side of life, and I wouldn't call myself an optimist at all. I'm also very sceptical, especially about psychological strategies to 'get the most out of life'. I have encountered 'postive psychology' in my education studies and while I must admit that some aspects my be helpful, I cringe at the ...more
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Diane by: Brendon Schrodinger
What a clever and amusing and interesting and thoughtful book! I need more adjectives to describe how much I enjoyed this look at happiness in the modern world.

Oliver Burkeman is a journalist who was skeptical of the "cult of optimism," and he digs into the research on positive thinking and talks to various experts in the field. The first thing he learns is that you can't suppress negative thoughts — suppression doesn't work. Whatever idea you are trying to squash down will only continue to pop
Marie Murrell
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, non-fiction
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
Laura Leaney
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ms. Smartarse
Originally published as The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

I have always had a sort of love-hate relationship with positive thinking.

On the one hand, telling myself that things'll work out somehow, helped silence my panic-stricken rants. Interestingly enough, these rants where mostly fueled by reckless lack of studying for some of the most difficult exams of my life.
On the other hand, everyone's luck runs out EVENTUALLY, and no amount of believing in oneself wo
Emma Sea
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Henrik Lindberg
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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
Mar 02, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nov 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Alannah Clarke
I would not be the type of person to read self-help books at all but when the challenge came up for me to read something completely new, I took the chance to dive right in. I have to say that this was the perfect book for me to start with. I would say I was pretty much in the same boat as the author, Oliver Burkeman, who was skeptical of the whole optimism cult. Because I was listening to the book instead of reading it, I felt like I was sucked into the book so much quicker. I ended up feeling l ...more
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Feb 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Katie Mercer
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
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
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The impact this book has made on my outlook on life has been profound. Highly recommended!
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, non-fiction
Another book I picked up for its title, and enjoyed more than I thought I would. I found it amusing somehow. All this pursuing happiness, my gosh, I'm pretty sure it must be a Western invention. There was a time when suffering was accepted as part of life, not so much now. Not where I live.

So Burkeman takes 7 chapters to pose several different attacks on "the cult of optimism" - talks about how positive thinking can actually cause greater disappointment in life. How the Stoics would take the wo
Jul 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This starts off well with some humorous comments on positive thinking. I thought this might be a funnier version of : Bright-Sided How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich.
But then the author goes off track getting less funny and reaching too far trying to sum up all of Western and Eastern philosophy in a few chapters of disconnected anecdotes and interviews with people like Eckhart Tolle. And despite this huge goal, there are unnecessary and confusing detours, like a long discussion of Descartes's "cogito ergo sum" that I think misses the point.
Jalendhari Tabeeb
Its basic premise is that the more we try to hanker after psychological goods like happiness,confidence,security, the more they flee from us.Burkeman describes something common to buddhism n stoicism : the negative path to happiness.That is to say don't aim for happiness itself,focus on mechanisms that may ensure it.Like

1.Learn to detach yourself from your thoughts.You are not your mind.That's buddhism's central idea.

2.Imagine the worst thing that can happen and ask yourself would it be an absol
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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.” 44 likes
“Who says you need to wait until you 'feel like' doing something in order to start doing it? The problem, from this perspective, isn't that you don't feel motivated; it's that you imagine you need to feel motivated. If you can regard your thoughts and emotions about whatever you're procrastinating on as passing weather, you'll realise that your reluctance about working isn't something that needs to be eradicated or transformed into positivity. You can coexist with it. You can note the procrastinatory feelings and act anyway.” 29 likes
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