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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  9,016 ratings  ·  1,023 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 i
...more
Kindle Edition, 212 pages
Published June 21st 2012 by Canongate Books
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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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- NEGATIV
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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 bu
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Caroline
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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B 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
Diane
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Diane by: B 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 cont
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Marie Murrell
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Bonny
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
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 is “ac
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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 would magic
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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 muc
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Henrik Lindberg
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
Jonathan
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of course this is not perfect. Of course there is a populist tone and a lack of rigour. Of course there are some parts that fall apart if you pick at them too much. But there is a hell of a lot of good stuff here, all of which has tied in nicely with the work I have been doing on my anxiety and depression issues over the last few years. All I can say is that from practical experience, this approach can help. And he is right, too, to speak of having a “tool kit”, rather than buying totally in to ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I suppose some folks read books like this to learn something. And if so they could do worse than this one. For me, not so much to learn anew as to be reminded of what I knew already. In this case it was something I was first reminded of by Zizek and have benefited from rehearing here. That is, if you want something the best way to not get at it is to aim directly at it.

And it was refreshing, true, to read something that involved some thinking but didn't require any heavy lifting.
Mehrsa
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great overview of some great studies on “happiness” or rather peace. So it’s a great start for people who don’t read a lot of self help books, but for those who have a hobby of reading meditation books (guilty), a lot of this is not new material. It’s a review of Eckhart Tolle and Buddhism and stoicism and a rebuke of the positive thinking industry, though not the first. The industry has been bankrupt of ideas for a while and others have called it out. Still, this is a good book and it ...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,
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Antigone
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 I real ...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 var
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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
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Charlou
May 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
Lylah
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 vocabular
...more
Karl-O
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
Jafar
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Laura
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The impact this book has made on my outlook on life has been profound. Highly recommended!
Hinch
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Andy
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 Ea
...more
Katie Mercer
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Caren
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Erin
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 illustrat ...more
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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.” 48 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.” 36 likes
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