Book Review of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking




The AntidoteOliver Burkeman combines his real life experience, world travel and psychological teachings and Buddhism philosophies into this glorious book that can give the power reader a chance to really examine the anxiety in their life. With social elements, analysis of some business teachings and the descriptions associated with business goal setting you are getting a very well rounded view of how individuals can master their sense of self to reach calm . . . not necessarily happiness.

So what is the difference between calm and happiness?

Calm is a state of being in which your mind can truly usher out negative thoughts and anxiety ridden ideas that serve no purpose for the present task at hand. That is MY definition of calm. When I was in my twenties, I wrote on my dating profile that my goal in life was to be happy. Now that I am a single mother at the age of 34, I YEARN and more like DESIRE with my utmost gut a need to experience calm in my life. I laugh at this because to be truly honest I get calm in patches here and there. Typically in prayer, meditation (which Burkeman describes his weeklong meditation retreat experience), in the shower, while jogging or watching the kids sleep – this calm is such a coveted experience for me that I highly prize calm over happiness.

I honestly think that if you couple this with your managing your finances and changing your lifestyle for better health, you will spend less time feeling defeated and giving up. If you have already broken your resolutions, this book can help you realize whether your resolutions were useful for your present life.

Happiness on the other hand is subjective. I have experienced happiness or that bliss of being in love, laughing at a great joke, accomplishing a goal, graduating from college, getting a promotion, winning in court against my ex (OK, I was ECSTATIC) about that one but nothing can truly prepare you for life’s downs the way CALM does.

The Antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking

The essence of this book is to introduce people to the concept of being prepared for the inevitable downsides to most situations. Burkeman describes that in the end there is death which is understandably an inevitable demise of our physical existence. He goes on to talk about how our individual minds and psyches can strike a lot of irrational fears in us that are unfounded and most of the time unnecessary. This works for me because I have been to countless motivational seminars, read The Secret and the Law of Attraction and those books offer up some great ways to get a quick fix of positive delight and affirmations they could never really settle my ANGST for understanding why.

This is a must read if you are experiencing life with anxieties

As a single mother, I have a lot of anxieties. Just recently I had to take an emotional break from a dating relationship because I was suffering so much anxiety and not giving him enough space. I wanted to do all the positive affirmations and do the exercise of picturing his face and surrounding him with white light and thinking positive thoughts, but that is so hard to do when you have so much anxiety about yourself, your past relationships, trust issues and more. After reading this book you can come away with a confidence that even if it doesn’t work out you can handle it and you will be ok with it. I also have a lot of anxieties with finances, and the kid’s futures along with my own retirement. How can one possibly handle the present day to day life when it feels like I will be so unprepared for the future? The Antidote, talks about ways that influential psychologists like Albert Ellis, father of rational emotive behavior therapy can help an individual control some of these anxieties. There are other topics discussed such as Stoicism, the propensity to make use of what’s around you in the slums of Kenya, to an approach to clear your thoughts at a Massachusetts meditation retreat, and more. I think one of the most engaging points is when Burkeman talks about the expeditions to Mount Everest and how goal setting and achieving those goals at all costs can kill you (or in most cases) still not make you happy. Burkeman even has a candid discussion with Eckhart Tolle.

This does not throw out modern conventional wisdom on happiness

I personally don’t feel like we should throw out all positive thinking because we should be able to utilize different resources for different situations in our lives. One of the things I have observed is that the multi-level marketers that sell you weight loss products love to employ the positive thinking models in their sales pitches. It’s identifying what you are doing with what you have now and how the consequences of bad events are really going to impact you.

I really liked this book and happily recommend it because it will introduce you to so many concepts of psychology that can adjust how you are thinking, if you want it too. This book is primarily for those that like a good intro to psychology and who have exhausted the positive thinking self help books. I think Burkeman’s adventures provide an interesting viewpoint on utilizing some of these techniques in the real world for small, mundane situations to large complex ones.

Would a single parent use this book? A resounding yes. Single parenthood can be riddled with many hardships and unrealized expectations and goals and being able to accurately assess your situation and determine what you have in the present can help with your finances, your relationships and your parenting. You just need the presence of mind to not give in to irrational fears.

Get your copy of  The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking on Amazon. Com here!

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of the book was provided for this review. All opinions presented are 100% those of Dallas Single Mom.