The Antidote

The Antidote

Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

Book - 2012
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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 the wrong way?

Looking both east and west, in bulletins from the past and from far afield, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual group of people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether experimental psychologists, terrorism experts, Buddhists, hardheaded business consultants, Greek philosophers, or modern-day gurus, they argue that in our personal lives, and in society at large, it's our constant effort to be happy that is making us miserable. And that there is an alternative path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty--the very things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought-provoking, counterintuitive, and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is the intelligent person's guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness.

Publisher: New York : Faber and Faber, c2012.
ISBN: 9780865479418
Characteristics: 236 p. ; 22 cm.


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Jan 21, 2016

Absolutely loved this book. It is potentially life changing if you absorb its messages and apply them in your quest for happiness.

The premise is that there is a path to happiness in knowing that your reaction to events, not the events themselves is what counts (the Stoic philosophy). Being able to observe the inner weather of emotions and thoughts is key to understanding that they need not dictate your actions (a truth of Buddhism). These two principles are key to stopping the “irritable reaching” after better circumstances, thoughts and feelings. You can move forward with a project or with life without sharply defined goals. You should dare to inspect your failures. Stop trying to eliminate feelings of insecurity and put aside motivation techniques in favour of just getting stuff done. You should practice memento mori (remembering death) to sweeten the experiences of life. Refrain from too much effortful struggling and instead look for balance and moderation. The happiness that you seek can accommodate negative as well as positive emotions. It is a journey, rather than a destination.

Jan 16, 2016

Quick read, but powerful and deeply inspiring. Rather than ignoring the negative side of life, this book offers an alternative path to true comfort, acceptance, and security in an insecure world.
Recommended for anyone who can't bear to stomach another bubbly over-the-top totally unrealistic self-help book.

Apr 21, 2015

Is it not possible to delete comments? I was trying to comment on a different book.

Mar 16, 2015

Very good book for the "realistically inclined."

Apr 08, 2013

I first heard oliver burkeman being interview by kim hill a couple of years ago and what drew me to listening was his humour around a topic that adherents often take so seriously. His writing is delivered with the same humour while constructing and offering a very well researched counter opinion to the usual norm of thinking positively. well worth reading-especially if you are a person who has perhaps been sceptical about positive thinking as a default position to take on life's events.

ksoles Feb 18, 2013

In "The Antidote," British journalist Oliver Burkeman asserts that one cannot achieve happiness through the clichés of positive thinking, motivational pep talks and narrowly-focused goal setting. Instead, living a fulfilling life requires embracing both uncertainty and negative thoughts. In eight chapters, readers meet Stoics, Buddhists and other philosophers all of whom possess "a willingness to...pause and take a step back; to turn to face what others might flee from."

Burkeman does not intend to offer fool-proof rules for a happy life. He thoughtfully and thoroughly explores topics often shied away from and arrives at wise advice. This fresh and readable book offers humour, anecdotes and a powerfully sustained thesis.

hgeng63 Dec 31, 2012

Do you think about those worse off than you so you can feel better? Does making goals make you more anxious? Then this bk is for you!--and for people who really don't like self-help bks. (Though some parts of it made me squeeze my head to get around the topics.)

Oct 16, 2012

Interesting book that makes you look critically at the current emphasis on positive thinking.


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