In this fascinating new book which he narrates himself, Oliver Burkeman argues that "positive thinking" and relentless optimism aren't the solution to the happiness dilemma, but part of the problem. And that there is, in fact, an alternative path to contentment and success that involves embracing the things we spend our lives trying to avoid - uncertainty, insecurity, pessimism, and failure. Thought-provoking, counterintuitive, and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is a celebration of the power of negative thinking.
©2012 Oliver Burkeman (P)2012 Canongate Books Ltd
"No Antidote just another path to the truth"
I'm a happy believer in the scientific ideas of positive psychology, I have sometimes been called a motivational speaker, and decided to listen to this book to get the view from the 'other side' and negative thinking. I expected each element of positive thinking to be examined and taken apart in detail with counter evidence yet this was not the case. I did find one extremely useful example of the use of negative visualisation, an excellent counterweight to excessive positive thinking and goal fixation.
Other than that I found a book that mirrored my own path of discovery and search for the truth about happiness albeit with the positive as my starting point. I agree with Oliver's concerns about the worst excesses of positive thinking but then I tend to believe that the truth in life is usually somewhere in between any two schools of thought.
This book is a delight, so well balanced and inquisitive rather than dismissive or defensive as I feared it might be. The ideas covered from Buddhist meditation, Eckhart Tolle, to Alan Watts ideas on the true nature of the self, to Carol Dweck's work on Mindset and Keats negative capability are all ideas I personally associate with the positive path in life - to find them here examined from another perspective was enlightening. I see nothing here that conflicts with the ideas of positive psychology, I'd go so far as to say they align completely.
Albert Ellis's idea of 'musterbation' is brilliant, we 'must' on ourselves all the time and get in all kinds of self defeating behaviour. This idea that stands out most for me along with the courageous examination of death.
So the book is really only an antidote to the smiley yellow face and painted on smile of superficial positive thinking. I'm still a little more generous towards the 'positive thinkers' as I have seen them set many people on the path to searching out their own deeper truth. That aside I agreed and found a great deal of well written and entertaining wisdom her
"An excellent read/listen"
Really well written and very insightful, Oliver allows you to make up your own mind rather than telling you how to live your life. Really nice spoken voice too and plenty of humour thrown in to take the edge of the more serious topics. Memento mori.
"Entertaining, subversive and an excellent guide!"
What a refreshing book! Funny, thoughtful, informative unorthadox and practical.
I laughed aloud throughout the first chapter's "motivational seminar" account. This alone served as an antidote to the tyranny of "success mentality", but what I liked most was the book not only presents a viable alternative, but makes an excellent case for why the "positive thinking" approach must always fail in the end to make us happy, based as it is on denial, and constant future focus.
Excellently narrated too by the author (which always makes for a better reading), I thoroughly recommend this book as an antidote to the whole philosophy of self improvement. This book, is instead a radical alternative - the practice of the philosophy of self acceptance.
I cannot recommend this book enough, I stumbled into it on a dark evening of personal reflection that could have see me sucked into the joyless self analytical cycle of seeking mental refreshment through the regurgitation of someone else idea of what it is to be and to search for 'happy'! Luckily I downloaded this refreshing guide to not putting too much emphasis on the 'search' and handing yourself over to the power of now! I don't think I will achieve it instantly but this book is a wonderful listen and has helped me not to give some much of my brain time to worthless thoughts. Would definitely recommend!
"Thought provoking,well read & laugh-out-loud funny"
This is a rare thing - an author-read audiobook that's a real pleasure to listen to, and I find a British voice is often easier on a British ear so that was a bonus for me.
Oliver's reading pace is perfect, his pronunciation clear and concise, and his voice conveys just the right amount of the dripping sarcasm or biting wit which sometime punctuates the dialogue. It's a shame the sample clip on the product page has been encoded so badly as the recording itself is really clear and well produced.
His descriptions of motivational seminars and books had me nodding and laughing along in recognition.
Pessimists and motivational skeptics rejoice - a book for us has arrived!
This book, read by the author, immediately struck a note with me. It confirmed many of my own beliefs and introduced some fascinating new ideas. A must for anyone who is fed up with the endless stream of blurb about positive thinking, achieving your life goals and the pressure we put ourselves under to achieve happiness.
"Educational, Grounding and Refreshing"
If you have read Oliver Burkeman's column in the Guardian you'll know what to expect from this book. Its intelligent and inquisative. The book takes a look at the rather glib approaches to being happy or geting the life you want whic have been popularised over the last few decades by many in the self-help industry that seem to promise the world and a life which is full of success and somehow devoid of any struggle difficulty or unpleasantness. To me it is a call for more grounded and realistic but ultimately more satisfying approach to living a happier life. And I mean happy in the true sense of being fulfilling, and rewarding even if at time it is difficult and unpleasant. There is plenty of wisodm which I'm sure our fathers and grandfathers would have recognised and admired, and which seem to stem from a time when we weren't promised everything on a plate. In a world of 24hr media where adverts and politicians bombard us with the notion that we can be, and have whatever we want; when we feel entitled to this, and when approaches such as the law of attraction promise we really can have everything we want if we just want it enough, this book is a breath of fresh air. Happiness really is a journey and not a destination.
"I now know why I have read so many self help book."
This book is comprised of many short stories and interviews from Oliver Burkeman that gently takes you by the hand and help you come to your own conclusions of why you might have read 20 self-help books and still feel your life is not in your control. I really enjoyed this book, the series of different tales of self-discovery and de-bunking of old myths regarding the 'positive thinking marketing machine'. This book helps you to find all four corners of the 'map' - if not to external happiness, but to consistent inner contentment.
I love the idea behind this book: positive thinking is not the best way to happiness. In fact, it often has the opposite effect. Trying too hard to be happy, fulfilled and motivated all the time can end up making us miserable. The book is well researched, informative, entertaining and I loved the author's sense of humour. It may even make you a little happier by encoraging you to embrace life's trials and get on with living.
"Great idea, badly executed."
This book starts with a great premise, that the positive thinking school of thought has got it wrong and that positive thinking does not work in every situation. I was looking forward to some solid examples, research and analysis of how 'positive psychology' does not work. Instead this book goes off on a tangent and discusses everything and anything but that. It then proceeds to develop a counter theory of negative thinking and how it might be more beneficial. But the problem is the writer picks and promotes the same principles and psychological studies that the positive psychologists and motivational speakers use...bhudhist-derivitives, mindfulness etc. are the en-vogue stuff most popular psychology titles talk about. So what's different about the 'Antidote'?
I feel a tad let down by the book as it could have made a great case by showing research that has demonstrated results contrary to the cult of positive thinking. If I was to write something like that, I would look at the important theories of positive thinking, pick the popular books and show through experimental and longitudinal research how they fail to work and why.
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