The Antidote

  • by Oliver Burkeman
  • Narrated by Oliver Burkeman
  • 6 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Antidote is a series of journeys among people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. What they have in common is a hunch about human psychology: that it’s our constant effort to eliminate the negative that causes us to feel so anxious, insecure, and unhappy. And that there is an alternative "negative path" to happiness and success that involves embracing the things we spend our lives trying to avoid. It is a subversive, galvanizing message, which turns out to have a long and distinguished philosophical lineage ranging from ancient Roman Stoic philosophers to Buddhists. Oliver Burkeman talks to life coaches paid to make their clients’ lives a living hell, and to maverick security experts such as Bruce Schneier, who contends that the changes we’ve made to airport and aircraft security since the 9/11 attacks have actually made us less safe. And then there are the "backwards" business gurus, who suggest not having any goals at all and not planning for a company’s future.
Burkeman’s new audiobook is a witty, fascinating, and counterintuitive listen that turns decades of self-help advice on its head and forces us to rethink completely our attitudes toward failure, uncertainty, and death.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The Antidote explores the negative path.

I used to do the lab. work for a local group of oncologists, and one evening I heard someone crying in the waiting room. The rest of the staff had left and the doctors were doing rounds, so I went to see what was going on. I found a patient, sitting there, crying quietly. She had been in remission twice, but had recently relapsed. She said she needed to talk to one of the doctors because she didn't know what she was doing wrong. When we talked further, she said she had been using some visualization tapes, where you are directed to imagine that lasers or your vigilante white cells are killing your tumor. She had also been using some “positive thinking for cancer patients” tapes where you are told to repeat, “I am healthy” and “I am cancer-free.” She was incredibly upset, not so much by the cancer, but because she felt that her inability to cure herself with positive thinking meant that she was doing something wrong and it was her fault. For me, that moment confirmed that positive thinking, used in the wrong circumstances and for the wrong reasons, can do more harm than good. The Antidote explores that interesting idea.

Oliver Burkeman is not out to bash positive thinking, but rather to explore “the negative path”, the idea that the more we search for happiness and security, the less we achieve them. This is done through chapters on Stoicism, the ways goals can be counterproductive or destructive, insecurity, the nonattachment of Zen Buddhism, failure, and our fear of death. He presents ideas about what might make our lives less unhappy, but this isn't in the typical self-help form of strict rules or a program to be blindly followed.

The conclusions Burkeman seems to come to are to embrace insecurity, and stop searching for happiness and quick fixes. Rather than thinking about everything in a positive way, it is much better to see things realistically, accurately, and truthfully. That is a philosophy I wholeheartedly agree with.
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- Bonny

A really worthwhile listen; a truly helpful book.

I really enjoyed this book. I’m going to listen to it again so that I can soak up the points better. Don’t be fooled by the title into thinking this book is negative in theme—it really is about happiness. It brings together philosophies we are (probably) already familiar with like Buddhism and Stoicism in ways that are easier to understand and apply to everyday life and that refute the nauseating mantras of the ‘cult of optimism’ and reveals it as the hunt for fool’s gold that it is.

I’ve listened to many ‘self-improvement’ books. This book has already done more to ‘improve’ my ‘self’ than all the others combined. A truly helpful book.
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- Claire

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-11-2012
  • Publisher: Audible Studios