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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; udgave 2012)

af Oliver Burkeman (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
7703722,005 (3.85)29
In an approach that turns decades of self-help advice on its head, Oliver Burkeman explains why positive thinking serves only to make us more miserable, and why 'getting motivated' can exacerbate procrastination. Comparing the personal philosophies of dozens of 'happy' people - among them philosophers and experimental psychologists, Buddhists and terrorism experts, New Age dreamers and hard-headed business consultants - Burkeman uncovers some common ground. They all believe that there is an alternative 'negative path' to happiness and success that involves coming face-to-face with, even embracing, precisely the things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Burkeman concedes that in our personal lives and the world at large, it's our constant efforts to eliminate the negative - uncertainty, unhappiness, failure - that cause us to feel so anxious, insecure and unhappy. Hilarious and compulsively readable, The Antidote will have you on the road to happiness in no time.… (mere)
Medlem:JuliaMay
Titel:The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
Forfattere:Oliver Burkeman (Forfatter)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), 257 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:currently-reading

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

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» Se også 29 omtaler

Viser 1-5 af 37 (næste | vis alle)
The name says it all! If, like me, you have sat stone-faced opposite someone telling you people bring cancer upon themselves through negative thinking, then you'll see why the title suggests that the positive thinking movement is some kind of poison.

The Antidote has some nice practical ideas about stoicism, mindfulness meditation, the darker side of goal-setting, thinking about failure, and a brief introduction to some of the key ideas in CBT. If you forget all of it or it isn't for you at least the book will have made you laugh.

In the footnotes he mentions that there are some exceptions to the fact that self-help books are useless, one such exception being Feeling Good by David D. Burns. If you are going through a crisis or want to prepare yourself to deal with one in the future that is the book to read. The Antidote is an entertaining book about getting through the supermarket and the working day. ( )
  RebeccaBooks | Sep 16, 2021 |
Light but astute introduction to the intersection of stoicism and buddhism. Well written, thought provoking, a very nice "anti-self-help" book. ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
Happiness is one of those paradoxical things that can be more difficult to find the harder you look for it. That insight is hardly original, but it's remarkable how difficult that is to internalize, and depressing how often most people simply don't "get there". Burkeman has written a travelogue of happiness that straddles the line between literature survey and self-help book, to alternately entertaining and infuriating effect. Neither a Troy McClure-ish "Get Happy, Stupid!" motivational work nor a rigorous summary of the current state of happiness science, I often found the more straightforward self-help sections the most valuable, while the interview and analysis sections were often the most padded and added the least value. Its basic message: relax and don't worry too much, which is as true as it is unhelpful.

When I was reading The Antidote, I was frequently reminded of an interesting interview I once heard on NPR with Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, where she discussed the perceived differences between Stoic philosophy, which is generally regarded as a useful guide to happier living, and self-help books, which aren't:

"Stoic philosophy, if you're not familiar with it, it really reminded me of Don't Sweat The Small Stuff, which, again, is an illustration of high-brow, low-brow. You know, Marcus Aurelius has this really poetic language, but his message is more or less "don't sweat the small stuff." Whereas the Richard Carlson book Don't Sweat The Small Stuff, which was a huge best-seller, in a sense has the same message, but it doesn't sound as good. It sounds kind of silly. It sounds kind of offhand."

That point about messaging sums up my basic reaction to this whole book: this is essentially a self-help book with better branding, so if you're the kind of person who is "too good" for the kind of book that's in the self-help section, then this might be more appealing to you. However, if you're reading this book with a more critical eye, then large sections are just too fluffy to be very useful. One example is the section about what Stoicism has to say about people finding happiness. Rather than giving a simple definition of Stoicism, one of the most famous philosophies of happiness ever, and just saying "go read Marcus Aurelius", or even trying to quantify whether or not Stoicism is a useful philosophy, Burkeman takes the reader through a lengthy interview with an expert on Stoicism, so you have to sit through pointless biographical details and what are the knick-knacks in the guy's house and what's the deal with his wife's arthritis and oh what a fascinating character this guy is, until you're bored to tears and uncertain what the exact point that he's trying to make is.

The nadir of his conversational style comes in Chapter 4, sprinkled among several loosely-connected "you might think that setting goals is good, but study X says one thing and study Y says another" literature summaries. Burkeman is very fond of the counter-intuitive notion, so common in happiness research, that pursuing happiness too doggedly can actually make you even unhappier than you would have been otherwise. That sounds reasonable, but he talks to people who seem to be a bit too fond of that idea:

"Bosses are more frequently persuaded, though, by Shapiro's other argument: that getting rid of goals, or focusing on them less fixedly, is often also the best way to extract results from employees. He seduces them with anecdotes about the effectiveness of operating goallessly, such as the tale of the Formula One pit crew with which he worked, whose members were told that they would no longer be assessed on the basis of speed targets; they would be rated on style instead. Instructed to focus on acting 'smoothly', rather than on beating their current record time, they wound up performing faster. Then there was the story of the sales team that went from missing its targets to exceeding them – as soon as it became company policy to keep those targets a secret from the salespeople. 'You can have a broad sense of direction without a specific goal or a precise vision of the future,' Shapiro told me. 'I think of it like jazz, like improvisation. It's all about meandering with purpose.'"

I get that he's just quoting someone who calls themselves an expert, but this uncritical endorsement bothers me on several levels. First, never trust a jazz analogy - jazz players have to work very hard to be able to improvise together without sounding awful (additionally, jazz sales have been negligible for years, and you almost could not pick a comparison that's less congenial to sales targets). Second, even without resorting to music analogies, "meandering with purpose" is meaningless jargon. Third, those vague allusions to people beating their targets when they don't know what they are practically screams with a giant "CITATION NEEDED" sign, but the index doesn't provide one, and I'm not about to buy another book to figure out if that guy is actually correct or not. Fourth, it's all too easy to think of many, many fields where if you don't set specific goals and practice really hard to reach them you won't get any better - a qualitative state like "I feel really happy" is not the same as a quantitative state like "I sold a certain number of widgets in the third quarter" or "I ran a four minute mile", so even assuming that the point is true for one, why would it be true for the other?

I could go on in this vein for a while, but I don't want to be too negative, since something feels wrong about hating on a book about happiness. I appreciated the openly personal sections more, such as when Burkeman describes what going on a weeklong silent meditation retreat is like, or he describes techniques like talking out loud on the subway to beat anxiety. Something feels more fitting about a narrative-based writing style for writing about something personal like happiness. Do people get more out of something like Montaigne's essays or Marcus Aurelius' meditations (or even Pessoa's musings in The Book of Disquiet) than they do out of quantitative literature reviews? Ironically, it would probably take a quantitative literature review to know for sure, even if you could guess just by common sense that people seem to find things like Ecclesiastes quotes more helpful than just about anything else.

Anyway, Burkeman's heart is in the right place, so even if you personally don't have a high opinion of writers like Eckhart Tolle or Alan Watts, it's unlikely that you'll find absolutely nothing about their general philosophies worthwhile. Like that NPR interview, sometimes it's a matter of finding basic truth expressed in just the right ways to resonate with you. I'm no exception; for no logical reason I found this bit about Steve Jobs unexpectedly memorable:

"When you really face mortality, the ultimate and unavoidable worst-case scenario, everything changes. 'All external expectations, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important,' Apple’s founder Steve Jobs once said, in a speech that was speedily co-opted by several gurus of positive thinking, though in truth its message struck fatally at the heart of theirs. 'Remembering that you are going to die is the best way that I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.'"

Finally, I wish he had mentioned a 2011 Gallup poll about happiness I once read about, which has a really funny account of taking happiness research to its logical conclusion and trying to find the Happiest Guy in All the Land:

"The New York Times asked Gallup to come up with a statistical composite for the happiest person in America, based on the characteristics that most closely correlated with happiness in 2010. Men, for example, tend to be happier than women, older people are happier than middle-aged people, and so on. Gallup's answer: he's a tall, Asian-American, observant Jew who is at least 65 and married, has children, lives in Hawaii, runs his own business and has a household income of more than $120,000 a year. A few phone calls later and... Meet Alvin Wong. He is a 5-foot-10, 69-year-old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, who's married with children and lives in Honolulu. He runs his own health care management business and earns more than $120,000 a year."

The punchline is his secret to happiness, which makes this entire book redundant: "my life philosophy is, if you can't laugh at yourself, life is going to be pretty terrible for you." Is it really that easy? Who knows.... ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
The Antidote is a great look at happiness and how to achieve it, in the most unlikely of manners. Burkeman first pokes holes in the theories of positive thinking and motivational nonsense. Then he sketches out a "negative path." He examines Stoicism, Buddhism, and other approaches to living a life filled with undeniable suffering. His call for more "openture" than closure is reasonably argued and supported with both anecdotal and statistical evidence. A book that made me feel better equipped to live happily in the midst of uncertainty, as we all must try to do. ( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
Overall, this is a solidly constructed, journalist's take on the negative path to happiness. I wouldn't say I enjoyed it -- I don't think I was supposed to -- but parts were informative. ( )
  cygnoir | Jun 27, 2020 |
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I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought, 'what the hell good would that do?'

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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.

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In an approach that turns decades of self-help advice on its head, Oliver Burkeman explains why positive thinking serves only to make us more miserable, and why 'getting motivated' can exacerbate procrastination. Comparing the personal philosophies of dozens of 'happy' people - among them philosophers and experimental psychologists, Buddhists and terrorism experts, New Age dreamers and hard-headed business consultants - Burkeman uncovers some common ground. They all believe that there is an alternative 'negative path' to happiness and success that involves coming face-to-face with, even embracing, precisely the things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Burkeman concedes that in our personal lives and the world at large, it's our constant efforts to eliminate the negative - uncertainty, unhappiness, failure - that cause us to feel so anxious, insecure and unhappy. Hilarious and compulsively readable, The Antidote will have you on the road to happiness in no time.

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