About the book


In The Upside of Your Dark Side, two pioneering researchers in the field of psychology show that while mindfulness, kindness, and positivity can take us far, they cannot take us all the way. Sometimes, they can even hold us back. Emotions such as anger, anxiety, guilt, and sadness might feel uncomfortable, but it turns out that they are also incredibly useful. For instance: Anger fuels creativity, guilt sparks improvement, self-doubt enhances performance. In the same vein, we can become wiser and more effective when we harness the darker parts of our personality in certain situations. For instance: Selfishness increases courage. Mindlessness leads to better decisions. The key lies in what the authors call “emotional, social, and mental agility”, the ability to access our full range of emotions and behavior—not just the “good” ones—in order to respond most effectively to whatever situation we might encounter. Drawing on years of scientific research and a wide array of real-life examples including sports, the military, parenting, education, romance, business, and more, The Upside of Your Dark Side is a refreshing reality check that shows us how we can truly maximize our potential. With an appreciation of our entire psychological toolkit, we become whole—which allows us to climb the highest peaks and handle the deepest valleys.  Goodreads

Year published:  2014

Buy book: Amazon

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Quotes from the book

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The Upside of Your Dark Side (Todd Kashdan & Robert Biswas-Diener)

The rising tide of anxiety is because we expect life to be comfortable, and will avoid discomfort at any cost 

  • We don’t just enjoy our creature comforts; we are addicted to them.
  • …we are increasingly stressed because we put such an emphasis on comfort.
  • Two types of avoidance cause problems for people: avoiding pleasure and avoiding pain.
  • …the more comfortable your life is, the less patient you are likely to be with perceived problems.
  • People who fear rejection avoid meeting others; people who fear failure don’t take risks; and people who fear intimacy turn to television and e-mail when they get home from work. Avoidance is the tectonic issue of our time.
  • Given so many amenities available to us today, we’ve developed a tendency to avoid discomfort. We whip our smartphones the moment we’re left alone – boredom vanquished! We jockey for the fastest line on the freeway – no frustrating waits! We flip on the television when get home from work – no other unwinding and de-stressing needed. What most folks don’t realize is that this seemingly natural attraction to an easier life is rooted in avoidance of discomfort.
  • Unfortunately, avoiding problems also means avoiding finding the solutions to those problems. Can you imagine the historic fights for racial equality without a touch of anger? Can you imagine living in a world in which no one felt remorse? Can you imagine a trip to an exotic country in which everything proceeded according to plan? Or a life in which you never wrestled with the tough decision to give up on a goal but, rather, just continued to plug away despite the low change of success?
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Distress tolerance makes you happier and more resilient 

  • Distress tolerance is important not just because it makes you a better camper or solider, but also because it allows you to become stronger, wiser, mentally agile, and, most important, happier in a more resilient and therefore durable, way.
  • If Western societies can open themselves to a little more danger, a bit more risk, a touch more hardship, and even a little more failure, then we stand to regain some of the mental toughness that goes hand in glove with such experiences.
  • The leading predictor of success in elite military training programs is the same quality that distinguishes those best equipped to resolve martial conflict, to achieve favourable deal terms in business negotiations, and to bestow the gifts of good parenting on their children: the ability to tolerate psychological discomfort.
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Emotions are an essential source of information 

  • Emotions – all emotions – are information.
  • Simply put, quit labelling your inner states as good or bad or positive or negative, and start thinking of them as useful or not useful for any given situation.
  • Your emotions are like a GPS monitor on the dashboard of your car, giving you metaphorical information about your location, the terrain in front of and behind you, and your rate of process.
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Uncomfortable states aren’t bad or wrong, they make us real and human

  • Choose to numb the negatives and you numb the positives too.
  • Happiness sometimes backfires, and bad states are sometimes good.
  • Anger itself is neither good nor bad; it’s what you do with it that matters.
  • Positivity alone is insufficient to the task of helping us navigate social interactions and relationships.
  • Do not repress, ignore, or hide the darker gifts. Be aware of them, appreciate them, and when you’re ready harness them.
  • Without so-called negative feelings, we would be living in a world devoid of fully functioning humans.
  • Anger is a powerful element that is maligned by the mistaken notion that a healthy society is an anger-free society.
  • In fact, most modern scholars differ from their lay counterparts in that they view uncomfortable states not only as an inescapable aspect of self-growth, but also as tools for success in their own right.
  • 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.
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Guilt is not bad; it makes us more socially sensitive

  • Guilt adds to our moral fiber, motivating us to be more socially sensitive and caring citizens than we might be otherwise.
  • In contemporary society, people have come to think of guilt much the way they think of being fat – as a dreaded state that is both unhealthy and socially unacceptable.
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Wholeness is the acceptance that both positive and negative emotions are valuable tools for self-growth and wisdom    

  • Wholeness is to psychology what enlightenment is to spirituality.
  • You’re more capable of handling unpleasant emotions than you give yourself credit for.
  • Expressing feeling, including the negatives ones, is a big part of the human emotional experience.
  • The trick when wholeness is concerned is not avoid negative emotions, but to take the negative out of them.
  • Being whole is about being open and accommodating of all parts of your personality: the light and dark passengers, the strengths and weaknesses, the successes and failures.
  • Whole people have the ability to approach goals flexibly by continuing to invest when progress occurs at any acceptance pace, and by swapping old goals out for new ones when failure is almost certain.
  • There is a not so hidden prejudice against negative states, and the consequence of avoiding these states is that you inadvertently stunt your growth, maturity, adventure, and meaning and purpose in life.
  • People who are whole, those of us who are willing and able to shift to the upside of the downside to get the best possible outcomes in a given situation, are the healthiest, most successful, best learners, and enjoy the deepest well-being.
  • …people in therapy don’t simply experience fewer negatives and more positives and then, lo and behold, describe themselves as happier. What actually happens is that success in therapy begins when people start to become comfortable experiencing mixed emotions (happy and sad) about their work, their relationships, and any situation they enter.
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We can wrongly predict what will make us happy

  • When it comes to how we’ve going to feel in the future, we most often guess wrong.
  • You can’t always be happy, but you can almost always be profoundly aware and curious.
  • In one study, Mauss and her colleagues found that people who value the pursuit of happiness actually feel lonelier than other folks.
  • Humans are horrible at guessing how happy we will feel in the future, and yet we base important life decisions on these flawed decisions.
  • Researchers have found that when you enter into a situation with the goal of becoming happier, you actually make that less likely to occur.
  • It turns out that we all tend to exaggerate how positively we’ll feel in response to positive events and under estimate our capacity to tolerate distress.
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Taking a risk is part of the creative process

  • The first risk of creativity is that you must be able to risk being wrong, risk making mistakes, and risk public scrutiny.
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