(Video link here.) We are always on the lookout for people, books and sites that give an honest view of what it takes to make or do or be something. So were intrigued by this video trailer for The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking. The book is Oliver Burkeman’s exploration of various kinds of  “inspirational, success-oriented thinking” and new research that posits that “positive thinking” might not be as useful as we thought. It lead him to a radical take on happiness and success: the power of negative thinking, in which we learn to “bathe in insecurity, uncertainty and failure.”

We’re definitely gonna check it out as we’ve long thought that these principles are actually keys to the creative process. This Guardian piece distills a chunk nicely.

…it is our constant quest to eliminate or to ignore the negative – insecurity, uncertainty, failure, sadness – that causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy in the first place.

Yet this conclusion does not have to be depressing. Instead, it points to an alternative approach: a “negative path” to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.

The book, available in the UK will be released in the US in November. It you can’t wait, the UK version is available used and new from Amazon sellers or for Kindle.

via Brain Pickings

Related posts: ruth asawa: adversity allowed time for art
louis c.k on being broke (with su tung-p’o)
on making mistakes (in public, no less)
on the rightness of being wrong via TED
tool for improvising: embrace mistakes
‘harness the power of being an idiot!’x

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7 replies on “discover the ‘negative’ path to happiness

  1. Pema Chodrun has been suggesting for years that the key is to be wherever you are emotionally, to accept and even embrace uncertainty and the “negative” emotions as part of life.

  2. yes to Pema Chodron and


    “out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”


    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing,
    and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    ~ Rumi ~
    (The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks)

  3. Thank you for the reminder. Pema Chodrun is a light!

  4. Jody, Thank you so much for transcribing this. Completely on target and inspiring.

  5. I read recently about an inventor (I think of the Dyson vacuum cleaner) who said it took him nearly 6000 tries to get the final version. That may sound terrible but he emphasized that he learned something with every failure so he didn’t think of them as “bad” things.
    I’ve thought for a long time that learning to embrace all of your experiences (eg, the paths–how ever many they may be–to making something) is the surest way to liking yourself, rather than are you happy, sad, have lots or no friends.

  6. Or as Keats famously said:

    . . . several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.

  7. Hi Deborah, We actually featured Dyson and his many failures, and love him for it. And really like your philosophy of embracing EVERYTHING that happens, both good and bad. Thanks for your great comment.

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