Title: The Antidote
Author: Oliver Burkeman
Summary: 'Countering the conventional self-help focus on relentless cheerfulness, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to a diverse range of people who share one big, surprising insight into happiness - that trying so hard to be positive is the problem, not the solution. Whether experimental psychologists or terrorism experts, Buddhists, anthropologists or hard-headed business consultants, they all recommend and alternative, 'negative path' to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity and uncertainty - the very things we spend our lives trying to avoid.
The Antidote is a thoroughly liberating, enjoyable and happy journey - a celebration of the power of negative thinking.'
My thoughts: I will begin this review by stating that I read quite a few self-help books. I generally steer clear of the ones that offer to fix your life in ten easy steps, or the ones that indicates different genders are from specific planets, but I do read some of them. I could defend myself by saying that I like to research the psychology behind them (which I do) or that I only read them when forced to at gun-point (which I don't), but to be honest, most of the time, it's because self-help books make me happy. Plain and simple. And the first time I saw this book, I picked it up, read the blurb, and then put it back down. It wasn't because I thought anything within the book would be fake or vapid, but really because I felt threatened. I felt like perhaps the very self-help books I enjoyed reading would be 'picked on' by the author of this book, and I would end up either hurling the book across the room (I hate doing this to any book - even if I hate it) or questioning my whole reasoning for liking self-help books in the first place. After all, there is a certain stigma attached to anyone reading them.
Oliver Burkeman surprised me with an amazing, thoroughly-researched and overwhelmingly logical book. He didn't use his writing as a way to pick on the other self-help books out there - merely to question their effectiveness in doing what they promise: making people happier.
He starts off by talking about the current trend in self-help books and seminars - unfailing optimism. While I like to consider myself optimistic, I agree that being optimistic all the time just leads to being in denial, and Burkeman was clever in his approach of this. He didn't try to point fingers or dispose of the optimistic viewpoint, but just began with a simple question - is this truly making us happier?
I liked that Burkeman consulted many different points of view and multiple professionals in the writing of his book. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Buddhism and it's use of non-attachment.
I also enjoyed the chapter 'Memento Mori: Death as a way of Life.' as it seemed so very related to a lot of things I have been dealing with lately, and have thus grown to develop an interest in. Burkeman not only fed my interest, but has given me a drive to find out more in the area of the Western world's rejection of death as a constant.
As the book went on, I found myself becoming more and more thoughtful about the views that Burkeman was presenting, and how they seemed to give an overwhelming sense of cohesion. Here was something I had read about in other books, such as those researched and written by Brene Brown - that at the root of all our good emotions (happiness, joy, contentment) was the willingness to be insecure, vulnerable, and in the moment. That we need to observe negative emotions instead of putting our fingers in our ears and yelling 'I'm not listening' every time they appear. I feel as if I'm reading so much about these topics lately, and I am only becoming more fascinated by this call to be more open, more flawed, more HUMAN.
This book is a fascinating journey for anyone to read, and, while I did have a little trouble at times following the way Burkeman wrote (that may have been due to sleep deprivation), I found the way he wrote to be fascinating. I wouldn't necessarily call this book a 'happy journey', as detailed in it's summary, but it has definitely led me further along a path of learning that I am thoroughly enjoying.