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The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self--Not Just Your "Good" Self--Drives Success and Fulfillment

by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener

ISBN: 9780147516442
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ISBN: 9780147516442

Publisher Description

Audible Best Seller of 2017 Inc. 11 Great Business Books New York Magazine Best Psychology Books LinkedIn 's 12 Books on Leadership to Read Two mavericks in the field of positive psychology deliver a timely message Happiness experts have long told us to tune out our negative emotions and focus instead on mindfulness, positivity, and optimism. Researchers Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., and Robert Biswas-Diener, Dr. Philos., disagree. Positive emotions alone are not enough. Anger makes us creative, selfishness makes us brave, and guilt is a powerful motivator. The real key to success lies in emotional agility. Drawing upon extensive scientific research and a wide array of real-life examples, The Upside of Your Dark Side will be embraced by business leaders, parents, and everyone else who's ready to put their entire psychological tool kit to work.

Author Biography

Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University. His work has been featured in the "New York Times", "Wall Street Journal", and "Washington Post", and on NPR and PBS. He lives with his wife and twin daughters in Fairfax, Virginia.

Review Quote

"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

Excerpt from Book

INTRODUCTION THE PROMISE OF WHOLENESS PERHAPS THE MOST difficult test commonly used for recruiting elite special forces soldiers has nothing to do with marksmanship or proficiency in hand-to-hand combat. It''s a simple jog down a remote road. Young men are instructed to don full gear and report to the starting point early in the morning, often sleep deprived and hungry. What makes this particular run unusually challenging is that none of the candidates are told the length of the course. Is it three hundred yards? Three miles? Thirty miles? The stakes are high as the recruits begin their jog into the unknown. Some sprint forward in hopes of being first if the run is short. Others pace themselves, carefully conserving energy in the thought that the run could turn out to be a marathon. Some keep to themselves, trusting in their resolve and determination. Others jog together as a group, shouting words of encouragement. Running with sixty-pound packs is tiring, but the physical exertion is less demanding than the mental strain. The pressure of not knowing the distance to the finish line pushes many to the breaking point. Ambiguous tasks are a good place to observe how personality traits bubble to the surface. Although few of us are elite soldiers, we''ve all experienced the kind of psychological distress these trainees encounter on their training run: managing unclear expectations, struggling with self-motivation, and balancing the use of social support with private reflection. These issues are endemic not only to the workplace, but also to relationships, health, and every aspect of life in which we seek to thrive and succeed. Not surprisingly, the leading predictor of success in elite military training programs is the same quality that distinguishes those best equipped to resolve marital conflict, to achieve favorable deal terms in business negotiations, and to bestow the gifts of good parenting on their children: the ability to tolerate psychological discomfort. This is what psychologists refer to as distress tolerance, a quality found in people who can handle the emotional equivalent of camping (no shampoo, flush toilets, or walls to keep out creepy crawlers), who don''t shy away from anger, guilt, or boredom just because they feel bad. Instead, they withstand the discomfort of those feelings and--when appropriate--even draw from this darker palette of emotions. You might be asking, why would I want to do that? Pain hurts. I''d rather be happy. If this question occurs to you, we''re nodding our heads in full agreement. We want you to be happy too. Distress tolerance is important not just because it makes you a better camper or soldier, but also because it allows you to become stronger, wiser, mentally agile, and, most important, happier in a more resilient, and therefore durable, way. After more than a decade of working with patients, clients, students, small companies, and organizations as large as the military and the Fortune 100, we, the authors, are putting forward a new way to pursue what is desirable in life; it''s not happiness, exactly, although it does have the side effect of making us happier. We call this state wholeness. Beyond Happiness, Becoming Whole There will always be experts--especially in psychology--who argue that one particular way of being (happy, hardy, optimistic) is a cure-all. In this book, we take a different approach. Instead of suggesting that one state is best, we suggest that they all are. We believe--and new research supports--the idea that every emotion is useful. Even the ones we think of as negative, including the painful ones. Anger is a good example. Research shows that only rarely does anger turn into the kind of overwhelming rage that leads to violence. Instead, it tends to bubble up when you perceive an encroachment on your rights as a person. Anger stirs you to defend yourself and those you care about, and to maintain healthy boundaries. Similarly, embarrassment is sometimes an early warning sign of humiliation. More often it''s a signal that we''ve made a small mistake and that a small correction is required. Even guilt is not as awful as you might guess. It''s a signal that you''re violating your own moral code and therefore need to adjust either your actions or your code. All psychological states have some adaptive advantage. Rather than steering you toward a single feeling state, then, we urge you to consider the usefulness of many--especially the ones we turn away from--and to develop the ability to navigate every one. For some people, seeing the bright side of life is an uphill battle; for others, feeling sad is an unusual event. We don''t suggest an extra helping of happiness or a dash of negativity; we suggest both. It is by appropriately flipping back and forth between these two states that you can achieve a balanced, stabilizing sense of wholeness. Simply put, people who are able to use the whole range of their natural psychological gifts--those folks who are comfortable with being both positive and negative, and can therefore draw from the full range of human emotions--are the healthiest and, often, the most successful. Wholeness does not come easily, however. We get comfortable with pursuing a certain set of emotions. They make us feel good. Riding high in the moment is hard to pass up--think of a perfect kiss when your lips meld into the moistness of your partner''s, or of hearing the cheers of fellow employees when your name is announced for having won an award. Other emotions, like anger and guilt, are so painful that we avoid or suppress them. It turns out that the uncertainty, frustration, and occasional dash of guilt that stem from broken hearts, missed basketball shots at the buzzer, and botched interviews are the seeds of growth in knowledge and maturity. These often unwanted, negative experiences end up shaping some of the most memorable and inspiring experiences of our lives. By learning to embrace and use negative emotions as well as positive ones, we position ourselves for success. Two Authors, One Quest So who are we, the authors in whom you have chosen to invest your time and entrust your confidence? Both of us entered the field of positive psychology more than a decade ago, when this new scientific movement was just finding its legs. We were drawn to the promise of a fresh discipline with a new way of tackling old issues. In a discipline dominated by anxiety and depression research, we found the focus of positive psychology refreshing. We''ll give you just a single example: sex. In the years since Sigmund Freud made it the main event, human sexuality has been a bit sidelined from psychology. Scientists, like many people, can be prudes. Given the amount of time we think about sex, crave sex, have sex, or, more easily, purchase 50 Shades of Gray novels, you''d think that human sexuality would be the most researched topic in history: we should know more about sex than we do about the speed of light or genetic engineering. But when we recently entered the keyword termssex and depression into the leading professional psychological database, we found just over two thousand hits for the former and two hundred thousand hits for the latter. Now that''s depressing! The two of us went about investigating whether sex can serve as a free, fun form of therapy for anxiety. We were particularly interested in socially anxious folks who avoid making social connections for fear of rejection. In our study, we had more than a hundred participants report on hundreds of sexual episodes across a two-week period. We had people rate the degree to which they felt intimacy, experienced pleasure, and reached an orgasmic climax during sexual episodes. It turns out that people who suffer with social anxiety problems benefit from sexual contact, even as much as twenty-four hours after an anxiety attack. Sex that left people feeling intimately tied to another person lowered anxiety the following day by 10 percent. Even better, hot sex--escapades that were downright lusty--lowered anxiety by 25 percent! We concluded that there is a place, even a curative place, for talking about positive experiences in conjunction with so-called negative experiences like anxiety and depression. But even as we tilled the fields of positive psychology, both of us were also increasingly put off by the gung-ho happiology we often witnessed. Over the past fifteen years, positive psychology has been transformed from a reminder that "positive experiences are important" to a kind of smiling fascism. Nowhere is cultural shift toward the positive more obvious than in the world of business. It was only three decades ago that Jack Welch took the helm of GE and introduced the world to "stretch goals." His idea was that placing people in uncomfortable and demanding positions could accelerate personal growth and, ultimately, performance. Fast-forward to the present moment, when the latest business management fad is the idea that a good mood translates to business success. The so-called happiness advantage. Some data even back this up: happy employees get better customer evaluations, are more likely to help a colleague, and make more money. There are enough data that positivity evangelists feel comfortable touting an upbeat approach as a workplace panacea. Discussed less frequently, however, are the research findings that the most satisfied people of all actually make less money and are less conscientious in their work habits. Some companies that surfed the happiness wave to success have been wondering how to deal with legitimate discontent within the ranks. At Ruby Receptionists, for instance--a business that Fortune magazine rated the "#1 best small business place to work in America"--employees are rightly proud of their positive work culture. They are supporti

Product Details

Todd Kashdan, Robert Biswas-Diener
Short Title
Plume Books
Publication Date
Why Being Your Whole Self--Not Just Your Good Self--Drives Success and Fulfillment