What is the book “The Upside of Your Dark Side” about?
Even the most optimistic people can’t entirely avoid negative feelings and emotions. We all get upset when our dreams do not come true, when reality falls short of our expectations and when we suffer from discomfort and disorder in our lives. Although, as authors say, resistance to psychological distress is a prerequisite for personal growth. It’s similar to physical training when you have to feel the pain in your muscles to make them stronger.
For many decades, psychologists have told us that the most critical thing in our life is happiness. Thanks to that people want to be happy no matter what, they want to avoid anger, guilt, boredom, and discomfort. However, a harmonious individual should be able to feel the whole range of emotions, including negative ones. At first, it might seem strange – why would we want to feel pain and discomfort when everyone else is pursuing happiness?
According to writers, the pain allows us to become stronger, wiser and more flexible. Furthermore, the happiness (Kashdan and Biswas-Diener actually call it ‘the wholeness’) is achievable through pains and trials of life. All emotions contribute to becoming a wholesome individual. Anger is generally avoided and considered as a counterproductive and dangerous emotion.
We are often told that we should control and suppress our anger. Nevertheless, violence can be used to set limits of actions towards us and to protect our loved ones. The feeling of embarrassment is a signal that says we made a mistake that we should avoid in the future. The guilt tells us that we are violating our moral code and we suffer because of that.
Instead of pursuing happiness (or rather self-complacence and comfort), the authors are recommending to embrace all real emotions. Only by balancing between negative and positive emotions an individual can achieve wholeness.
People who are able to use the full range of emotions are usually more successful. We should use both negative and positive thinking, thereby programming ourselves for success.
Nowadays the most of managers and executives of large and medium-sized companies are trying to create a happy and joyful working environment. But is it really useful? For example, 30 years ago Jack Welch became a CEO of General Electric.
He introduced a new philosophy called goal setting. He believed that the most uncomfortable, labor-consuming and responsible positions could speed up the personal growth of employees, thereby increasing their productivity. Today, many people think that a good mood and a positive attitude is the key to success. Supporters of a positive attitude often refer to studies that prove this idea. However, they never mention studies that show opposite results. They suggest that complacent workers earn less and are less diligent than their colleagues. Perhaps it’s because they’re too busy with positive thinking.
An individual should be able to cope with negative emotions. As the word goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. To prove that authors give an example of American long-distance runner Frank Shorter. He was supposed to participate in 10 kilometers long race at the Olympic Games 1972 in Munich, shortly after Palestinian terrorists killed a group of Israeli athletes. His competitors were demoralized by the tragedy, and Shorter managed to outrun them shortly before the finishing line. He managed to cope with mental and physical pressure, to cross the finishing line first and to win a gold medal.
According to the writers, every race consists of different stages. The beginning is always intense, the middle is focused, and the ending is time to do your best and use the primal energy of our ancestors. At the end of the race, runners often feel and handle negative emotions. Anger, self-loathing and the desire to crush the enemy can make you run faster. Long story short, sometimes negative feelings can help you win.
It’s impossible to become a wholesome individual without accepting your dark side. This doesn’t mean that the writers are against happiness, kindness, and positivity. They’re merely asking us to study all aspects of human nature, especially those that we usually ignore. This will help us to achieve emotional, social and mental flexibility.
Summary and 10 Ideas of “The Upside of Your Dark Side”
Idea №1: The pursuit of happiness can’t make us happy.
Idea №2: Usually we are overrating positive events and underrating negative ones.
Idea №3: Sometimes negative emotions can be more useful than positive.
Idea №4: A constant desire for comfort can become a global problem.
Idea №5: We can cope with psychological discomfort as quickly as we deal with the rainy weather.
Idea №6: Negative emotions can be motivating.
Idea №7: Controlled anger can help us to overcome the perils and trials of life.
Idea №8: Negative emotions can serve as a warning signal.
Idea №9: Guilt can help us become a better self.
Idea №10: Both positive and negative emotions can be used for our benefit.
Review “The Upside of Your Dark Side”
To some people, ideas that are described in this book may seem arguable and controversial. Nevertheless, the authors appreciate all aspects of human nature, without separating it from the social environment. Their fears concerning the global desire for comfort and troubleless life are entirely justified. In the book readers can find an apt quote from Carl Jung: «Every person is walking with God and fighting with Devil». There are traits we can’t get rid of, and there are emotions that we can’t resist. So the only thing we can do is use them for our benefit, rather than harm to ourselves or anyone else.
Pros and Cons:
- Curious ideas and examples, accessible narrative and clear structure.
About Authors Todd B. Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diner
Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D. is a scientist, public speaker and professor of psychology at George Mason University. He is director of the welfare laboratory at George Mason University. His research examines why people suffer, with an emphasis on the transition from normal to pathological anxiety. Other studies explore the nature of welfare with an emphasis on the critical functions of curiosity, meaning and purpose in life and psychological flexibility for human labor.
Robert Biswas-Diner is a positive psychologist, author, and teacher at the Portland State University. Father Biswas-Diner – Ed Diner, a psychologist. The Biswas-Diener study focuses on income and happiness, culture and happiness, as well as on positive psychology. Biswas-Diner’s studies led him to areas such as India, Greenland, Israel, Kenya and Spain, and he was named “Indiana Jones of Positive Psychology”. He received his PhD in 2009, Biswas-Diner is interested in studying the difference between a procrastinator and what he calls an “incubator”.