Book Review

The aforementioned “more book reviews” never turned up even though I’ve been reading like a man possessed, or like a man laid up in bed because he twisted his knee under himself while cutting down a massive tree (and holding a chainsaw that he somehow managed to put down without cutting an arm or leg off). Moments ago, I finished reading The Upside of Your Dark Side by Todd Kashdan and Robert Diener. The topic of the book is fairly easy to surmise from its name, but pretending we’re all idiots for a moment, it’s about the beneficial qualities of the emotions that are generally thought of as negative. This ranges from guilt to anger to mindlessness (intuition). This book is so refreshingly accessible while always taking the time to support the ideas they discuss by referring to specific research. Every problem I had with Happier – in regards to how it was written, not the content – was perfect in this book. It never drifts into the self-help platitudes, but doesn’t weigh itself down with overly scientific, dry analysis. It’s still a quick read even though all the materials are there if you feel like diving deeper into the concepts and research (and I do).
I don’t want to just summarize the book but I’ll give a few bullet points I found interesting.

Benefit of confusion – Students who were initially confused by the material but worked through their confusion did better on tests than peers who understood it right away.

Benefit of not forgiving – “Spouses who forgave physical or verbal aggression were likely to receive more of it, whereas those who were unforgiving enjoyed the precipitous decline in spousal aggression.”

Experiential avoidance. Attempting to bury unwanted thoughts or feelings.

Research by Kate Harkness “shows people prone to depressed moods also tend to notice more details.” Especially facial expressions. Better at seeing danger approaching and lying.

Benefits of guilt – June Tangney found criminals that felt guilty had much lower rates of recidivism. Also, people in general are less likely to drive drunk, steal, use illegal drugs, or assault another person.

Bad Happiness:
“1. Your happiness can interfere with long-term success.
2. The pursuit of happiness sometimes backfires, ending in unhappiness.”
Happy people are less persuasive, are too trusting and are lazy thinkers.

Lastly, there’s something called the wanting/liking bias. This bias was only briefly mentioned but I loved it. The example they used in the book was when someone might really want a dog, but not particularly like having the dog with all the less enjoyable jobs necessary to take care of it. Who can’t relate to the wanting/liking bias? How many times have you really, really wanted something, got it, and didn’t derive the joy you thought you would? Frequently the idea of something is a lot better than actually having it. It’s unfortunate we aren’t better at noticing this tendency naturally. It might take a lot of disappointing purchases before you start to consider the importance of the downsides, and some never do.

There’s much more in the book and all the claims are backed up with plenty of research. Loved it.

Book Review

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