Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Oliver Burkeman discusses how our constant effort to eliminate the negative can cause us to feel anxious, insecure, and unhappy. In The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Burkeman talks to life coaches, maverick security experts, and “backwards” business gurus, who suggest that happiness and success can come from embracing things we spend our lives trying to avoid.


Oliver Burkeman

Comments [12]

don't fear negative thoughts!

My cancer metastasized and I'm devastated but I'm working through it - felt at first like PMS-on-steroids out of control. There's a centeredness and deep breaths factor in all of this - I htink the guest is articulating some very well and I appreciate it.

Nov. 29 2012 01:31 PM
don't fear negative thoughts!

Very good conversation! As a late stage cancer patient who refuses to accept doom I've been developing an acute awareness of the power of all thought - and studying ways to process thought. Tapas Fleming ( knows a lot about this - she says don't fear negative thoughts, they are there!

I think one trick is to be able to separate a thought from my identification with it.

Nov. 29 2012 01:27 PM
Richard from New York City

"She knows there's no success like failure
and failure's no success at all."

- from "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" by Bob Dylan

Nov. 29 2012 01:27 PM
Henry from Manhattan

There’s Powerball mania right now.

Part of my dislike of the lottery is the mass speculation of people musing about winning where the odds are so very slim.

I wonder it such wishful thinking is more harmful than helpful. If anything, it seems like a waste of thinking cycles along with the cash spent on the ticket.

Nov. 29 2012 01:25 PM

Overly positive thinking is draining because if you experience a series of disappointments, it's a steep fall from the "high" of forced positivity to rock bottom. Managing your own expectations with practical thinking or humorous pessimism keeps you grounded, and allows you to truly appreciate good fortune.

Nov. 29 2012 01:25 PM
steve from scarsdale (midtown now)

Zig Ziglar, the pioneering motivational speaker, died just yesterday. I wonder whether your guest can talk about the rise of "motivational speaker" as a job category. It seems like the best thing you can become according to a motivational speaker is - a motivational speaker.

But a lot of them got in trouble in the real estate bubble...

Nov. 29 2012 01:25 PM

According to the Stockholm-based World Values Survey, Puerto Rico is the happen nation.

Happiness rankings


1. Puerto Rico

2. Mexico

3. Denmark

4. Ireland

5. Iceland

Least happy

78. Russia

79. Armenia

80. Ukraine

81. Zimbabwe

82. Indonesia

Nov. 29 2012 01:24 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The advantage of pessimism is that either you get to be right or you get to be pleasantly surprised.

Nov. 29 2012 01:22 PM
Jim B

European debt crisis due to "irrational optimism" imported from the US?

Nov. 29 2012 01:14 PM
Robert from NYC

You asked if the rest of the world things the US looks at things positively and your guest answered that across the Atlantic the UK does (he says with his Britich enunciations) but the UK is not the rest of the world, in fact it's a very tiny part of the rest of the world. Where do these people come from.

Nov. 29 2012 01:14 PM
Michael from Passaic NJ

Can the guest give examples of contexts in which it might make more sense to use pessimism or positive thinking in approaching a task?

Nov. 29 2012 01:12 PM
Meredith from Manhattan

Please ask Mr. Burkeman....

Isn't it true that part of positive thinking used in therapy was started in the first place to deal with depression, which has a large component of exaggerated negative thinking, where depressed people magnify the hopeless aspects of their situation, and can't see any way out of their problems at all?

Nov. 29 2012 12:29 PM

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