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The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self--Not Just Your "Good" Self--Drives Success and Fulfillment Hardcover – September 25, 2014
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“At long last, here’s a book on why happiness can make us sad and mindfulness might be overrated. The Upside of Your Dark Side offers a provocative, evidence-based case for a balanced life. If you haven’t read it yet, you should feel guilty—and it turns out that will be good for you.”
—Adam Grant, author of Give and Take
“With verve, humor, solid research, and lots of examples, the authors cut through prevailing myths about happiness to show what actually creates a fulfilling, contributing life. Brave, bold, and brilliant.”
—Rick Hanson, PhD, author of Buddha's Brain
“Anger, guilt, regret, and anxiety have no place in a happy life, right? Wrong. The Upside of Your Dark Side illuminates the essential role played by negative emotions. And then goes further, revealing the benefits of personality traits we tend to downgrade such as grandiosity and selfishness. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the hidden elements of a happy, fulfilling, engaged life.”
—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
“The Upside of Your Dark Side offers one of the most important messages of recent psychological science: that you don't need to avoid discomfort or distress to have a meaningful and joyful life. The authors provide a highly refreshing alternative to the idea that one must pursue happiness at all costs. There is much to be learned from the experience of negative emotions, and from this book.”
—Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author of The Willpower Instinct
“I feel like I have five new superpowers after reading this book. It turns out that leading a good and satisfying life doesn't mean we have to try to be happy, calm or optimistic all the time. We can learn to use uncomfortable feelings like anger, anxiety, guilt, sadness or boredom to be kinder, braver, smarter, more creative and more persuasive. The dark side does indeed have an upside -- and this book teaches us how to harness it, so we can truly lead more heroic and purposeful lives.”
—Jane McGonigal, PhD, author of Reality Is Broken
“Full of scientific research yet laugh-out-loud funny, this book is a must read. The authors turn everything on its head—questioning the wisdom of positive psychology and the pursuit of happiness—all in order to help us flourish and be happy!”
—Kristin Neff, PhD, author of Self-Compassion
"My experience with hundreds of clients tells me that happiness and well-being result from facing and accepting bouts of fear, shame and self-doubt. I am so glad that Todd and Robert chose to illustrate the science behind embracing negative emotions in this engaging book. It will help you live a deep, rich and meaningful life.”
—Pamela Slim, author of Body of Work and Escape from Cubicle Nation
“Do we really need another book about happiness? Don’t we all already know those ‘10 Steps to Certain Happiness’? The answers, surprisingly, are "Yes" and "No".Yes, we need this book by Todd and Robert because No, we don’t know it all about happiness. It turns out there’s a hugely under-utilized tool to increase your capacity for happiness. The very Dark from which we run away is often the path to the Light. If you’ve ever wondered how you can use what’s Difficult to get closer to what’s Good, this just might be the book for you.”
—Michael Bungay Stanier, Senior Partner, Box of Crayons and author of Do More Great Work
About the Author
Dr. Todd B. Kashdan is a recognized authority on personality, well-being and social relationships. He has published more than 150 scholarly articles and trains professionals to become emotionally and socially agile. He has been honored with the Faculty Member of the Year at George Mason University and the 2013 Distinguished Scientific Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association. His work has been featured in several media outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. He says the things other people want to but are afraid to.
Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener has published more than 40 scholarly articles and has trained thousands of professionals on six continents. He is known as the “Indiana Jones of Positive Psychology” because he has conducted research with groups typically overlooked by psychologists, including Amish farmers, sex workers in Kolkata, Maasai tribes people and seal hunters in a remote corner of Greenland.
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Top Customer Reviews
The authors begin by observing that most people don't know what makes them happy. We estimate the effect events will have on us, and typically don't experience the highs or lows that we expect from events. So rather than striving for happiness all the time, the authors suggest going for something closer to 80/20, 80% positive to 20% negative, taking advantage of the benefits of perceived negative concepts like anger, guilt, anxiety, and mindlessness. This leads to social, emotional, and mental agility, the ability to function optimally across the wide range of human emotions rather than unrealistically pretending to be happy all the time.
The authors focus on the downsides of being happy, such as that happy people are less persuasive and less likely to spot lies. Happy people tend to take mental short cuts and thus when things get stressful, happy people are more likely to rely on stereotypical views of others. They also explain the benefits of negative emotions. For example, anger can lead to greater creativity and guilt can cause positive change in people. The authors provide ways to effectively use anger and guilt, avoiding rage and shame, which are rarely effective accomplishing anything.
The quest for happiness at all costs, evidenced by our "comfort at all costs" culture, is actually hurting our ability to be happy. In fact, studies show that doing things with the expectation to be happy actually decreases the happiness we get from them. In fact, our own brain gets in the way of us being happy, and there is nothing wrong with this, if you know how to deal with it.
They also explain the benefits of mindlessness (more creativity and instant access to our valuable subconscious mind), the downsides of being polite (polite people get their way less than assertive people), and the upsides of following one's impulses (taking risks that lead to great rewards). What about "dark triad" traits like Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy? Yes, they too have a place in our mental toolbox, demonstrated by the fact that the most effective presidents possessed these traits in greater amounts than the least effective.
The authors are careful to admit that there are limits to embracing our "bad" sides, and that is why this book is so amazing, as it provides research-backed guidelines to making states like anger, mindlessness, impulsiveness, narcissism, etc, work for our benefit.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. It has opened up a new realm of possibility for me. Rather than effectively pretending I don't have a bad side, I have the tools to make *all* of myself function optimally. This is quite possibly the best book I have read in 2014.
This book is extremely well written and an easy and enjoyable read. It makes intuitive sense and I think will appeal to reasonable people who are tired of the happiness and mindfulness fads.
First, I agree with the authors that all our emotions have a good side to them, if balanced properly. Calling these emotions (like anger or guilt) "dark" might be misleading. It is the abuse of these emotions that are "dark."
Second, it demonstrates how "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9).
Third, this book summarizes the theme of Ecclesiastes: Have a long-range purpose in life (in the case of Ecclesiastes, "Fear God and keep his commandments --this is the whole duty of man," 12:13) and enjoy the simple pleasures of life (Ecclesiastes 9:8-10), and even avoid being "overly righteous" [tediously right -- 7:16). It is amazing how psychology seems to be heading toward Ecclesiastes.
Anyhow, this is a helpful book, adaptable to a number of differing world views.
Oh and one side note: I found it amusing that at one point in a section on anger, the band Rush was singled out alongside Metallica as "hard-core" and "angry sounding". Um, not really!