The Upside of Your Dark Side: A book review by Bob Morris

Upside:Dark SideThe Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self — Not Just Your “Good” Self — Drives Success and Fulfillment
Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener
Hudson Street Press/The Penguin Group (2014)

“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself: I am large. I contain multitudes.” Walt Whitman

The Whitman observation reminds me of the lyrics Joni Mitchell composed for one of her most popular songs:

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
from win and lose, and still somehow
it’s life’s illusions I recall.
I really don’t know life at all.”

I wish had a dollar for every time I have heard the comment, “What you see is what you get.” Møre often than not, what we see is what others allow to be seen and it is also true that many (most?) people are unwilling and/or unable to examine what is in what Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener characterize as a “human psychological knapsack” and then integrating into their lives what has been “previously ignored and underappreciated parts of who [they] are.” They wrote this book to help as many people as possible to bring wholeness within reach, “perhaps for the first time.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Kashdan and Biswas-Diener’s coverage:

o Why the Way We’ve Been Pursuing Happiness Won’t Make Us Happy (Pages 2-10)
o What Wholeness Looks Like, Beyond the Impostor Syndrome, and The Virtues of Throwing in the Towel (13-17)
o The Benefits of Fantasy (17-18)
o The Origins of Comfort Addiction (29-37)
o What’s the Alternative? and Psychology’s Holy Grail (44-51)
o Why Bad Can Be More Powerful Than Good (54-59)
o A Tour of Three Dreaded Emotions: Anger, Guilt, and Shame (66-84)
o Effectively Harnessing and Using Anxiety (92-93)
o Has Happiness Been Taken Too Far? (100-116)
o Three Mindless Paths to Success and Well-Being (128-147)
o Understanding the Three Parts of the Teddy Effect (159-163)
o All the World’s a Stage (177-181)
o Recognizing Your Positivity Bias (192-200)
o Broad Strokes or Fine-Toothed Comb (214-220)
o Beyond Happiness (220-221)

I agree with Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener: “To progress on your journey of personal growth, love, and meaning and purpose in life, you need to become aware of all aspects of yourself, including your darker tendencies, and be agile enough to integrate them into your behavioral repertoire as needed. Do not repress, ignore, or hide the darker gifts [and they really are gifts]. Be aware of them, appreciate them, and then you’re ready harness them. When you do this, you’ll find you’ve gained greater access to well-being. To do otherwise is to be enslaved by fear, to set an artificial limit on what you experience and accomplish in this, the one and only life we know for sure that you’ll have. Make the most of it. Become whole.”

Easier said then done? Of course. Will reading and then perhaps re-reading this book make anyone whole? Perhaps less incomplete, somewhat more fulfilled, but hardly whole. Each of us really is a “work in progress.” However, I am certain that the information, insights, and counsel provided in this book will help many of those who read it to gain access to everything or at least much of what they are hauling in their “psychological knapsack [by] unpacking and integrating previously ignored and underappreciated parts of who [they] are.”

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