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The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious: The Pursuit of Unhappiness

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Do you see the past through a rosy filter that makes it seem like Paradise Lost? Are you convinced that traffic lights always turn red for you? Do you have to win (so as not to lose)? After extricating yourself from a bad relationship, do you find another partner just like the previous one? If so, congratulations! You have the makings of an unhappiness expert. With the tec Do you see the past through a rosy filter that makes it seem like Paradise Lost? Are you convinced that traffic lights always turn red for you? Do you have to win (so as not to lose)? After extricating yourself from a bad relationship, do you find another partner just like the previous one? If so, congratulations! You have the makings of an unhappiness expert. With the techniques in this book, you can raise yourself to the genius level. A word of warning, however. Along the way you may begin to ask yourself, "How did I manage to turn myself into my own worst enemy?" Fortunately, this tongue-in-cheek (but serious) volume takes a look at that question too. Special attention is given to such topics as "Four Games with the Past," "Self-fulfilling Prophecies," and "Why Would Anybody Love Me?" Those who believe that the search for happiness will eventually lead to happiness will find much to ponder in the section "Beware of Arriving." All readers will be both amused and startled to find themselves in these pages, but there is a special delight and enlightenment for therapists and counselors. Although the author does not officially admit it, the book is one complex "symptom prescription," a therapeutic double bind as described and practiced by him and his colleagues.


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Do you see the past through a rosy filter that makes it seem like Paradise Lost? Are you convinced that traffic lights always turn red for you? Do you have to win (so as not to lose)? After extricating yourself from a bad relationship, do you find another partner just like the previous one? If so, congratulations! You have the makings of an unhappiness expert. With the tec Do you see the past through a rosy filter that makes it seem like Paradise Lost? Are you convinced that traffic lights always turn red for you? Do you have to win (so as not to lose)? After extricating yourself from a bad relationship, do you find another partner just like the previous one? If so, congratulations! You have the makings of an unhappiness expert. With the techniques in this book, you can raise yourself to the genius level. A word of warning, however. Along the way you may begin to ask yourself, "How did I manage to turn myself into my own worst enemy?" Fortunately, this tongue-in-cheek (but serious) volume takes a look at that question too. Special attention is given to such topics as "Four Games with the Past," "Self-fulfilling Prophecies," and "Why Would Anybody Love Me?" Those who believe that the search for happiness will eventually lead to happiness will find much to ponder in the section "Beware of Arriving." All readers will be both amused and startled to find themselves in these pages, but there is a special delight and enlightenment for therapists and counselors. Although the author does not officially admit it, the book is one complex "symptom prescription," a therapeutic double bind as described and practiced by him and his colleagues.

30 review for The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious: The Pursuit of Unhappiness

  1. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Brilliant. Quite simply.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ingrida

    I appreciated the whole ironic paradoxical take on the self-help literature, but on the whole it left me a bit disappointed with a feeling in my hands that only the surface of unhappiness was barely scratched. It must be a good read for those who need to be shown for the first time through the magnifying glass the ways we trip and stumble on faulty thinking. For those who are looking for a deeper approach on solutions for those faulty ways, this book might be too pop. So 3/5.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Philipp

    A very short, funny intro into how to be unhappy; as per the author, there are enough books on how to be happy, and nobody can define happiness anyway, unhappiness is much easier. Great literature is not produced by happiness. In short chapters you read through the mind traps people set themselves, things like glorification of your own past (Uncle Rico: 'I could've gone pro'), or 'warning of arrival' (what you imagine a goal to be always falls far short of what it's actually going to be like), or A very short, funny intro into how to be unhappy; as per the author, there are enough books on how to be happy, and nobody can define happiness anyway, unhappiness is much easier. Great literature is not produced by happiness. In short chapters you read through the mind traps people set themselves, things like glorification of your own past (Uncle Rico: 'I could've gone pro'), or 'warning of arrival' (what you imagine a goal to be always falls far short of what it's actually going to be like), or all the way relationships go wrong around various mindgames ('if you would really love me, you would do...'), treating treating relationships as zero-sum-games etc. It's best when you find yourself in these mind-traps, I recognise 16 year old me quite often... and it does work as a manual for happiness as it's full of things you better avoid doing. P.S.: For some reason Watzlawick is much more popular in the German speaking world than in the English speaking world, even though he worked in Palo Alto. The German Wikipedia article is much longer, the books are more readily accessible in German - it seems he wrote this book in German first, even though the English translation came out the same year. Strange.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tooba

    Pursuit of unhappiness is not easy. It takes blood and sweat to become an unhappy person. It takes heaps of misunderstandings, overthinking, and tons of false judgements to make one’s life living hell. It requires bad assumptions, negativity, and continuous struggle to ruin simple things with undesired complexity. Yet, if you want to learn some proven techniques in this pursuit, this book is for you. It is hard to hold the book till it is finished.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Leni

    Brilliantly puzzling, and puzzlingly humorous.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Clementine Sunshine

    WOW.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I was hypnotised by the book. So much fun and irony....to describe techniques making one miserable...and really, these are techniques that may be used everyday and meticulously by many, even the “less talented ones” :) I also liked his description of "nevrosis", seems very straightforward definition and easy to understand. I was hypnotised by the book. So much fun and irony....to describe techniques making one miserable...and really, these are techniques that may be used everyday and meticulously by many, even the “less talented ones” :) I also liked his description of "nevrosis", seems very straightforward definition and easy to understand.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Erick

    If you really want to be miserable on life this book is a excellent guide to, with daily examples you will be identify in one or more of them, its funny how the author makes you jokes about our personal way of ruin our lives and how we do not want to do anything to change that, instead we prefer to continue with our daily embittering attitudes. This is a must read book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    Very readable thoughts about paradoxical communication with others and yourself.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Axel Beyer

    Loved the irony and sarcastic undertone. Raises some good questions that seem to be obvious but people tend to overlook. Certainly a recommendation!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Well, this was fun and quick. It would've been quicker, but I annotated it, so that was fun, too. It talks about some concepts that I love to read about (like self-fulfilling prophecies and paradoxes). It's never really deep, since the book is so short, but it provides some thought-provoking impulses, and even if it wouldn't have done that, it's stil funny. So yeah, I'm glad I read this after deciding that I didn't wanna read anything else this month. I just felt like it and it proved to have been Well, this was fun and quick. It would've been quicker, but I annotated it, so that was fun, too. It talks about some concepts that I love to read about (like self-fulfilling prophecies and paradoxes). It's never really deep, since the book is so short, but it provides some thought-provoking impulses, and even if it wouldn't have done that, it's stil funny. So yeah, I'm glad I read this after deciding that I didn't wanna read anything else this month. I just felt like it and it proved to have been a good hunch.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Zaravive

    There’s something like perfect timing. I had this book on my shelf since 2014. Not once did I pick it up. Yesterday it called to me and I answered it’s call. I’ll gift this to people in the future, hoping it’ll find them at the right time as well. (also can we talk about “timeless” books? this 30-something pal seems like one.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Osterbrink

    That was a short read with nothing too new for me. But it was worth reading for having it compiled in one place. It definitely helped me to understand myself a bit clearer.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bartelomeo

    The situation is hopeless, but not serious.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bernard

    Nice little read that reverses the logic of becoming happy by showing how to become an expert at creating unhappiness. Makes it easier to recognize oneself ´s behaviours

  16. 5 out of 5

    SecondMe80

    A classic of practical philosophy, using the paradoxical approach to demonstrate ways for us readers to avoid unhappiness.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Angel

    A quick lighthearted read, became a little repetitive by the middle of the book. Regardless, some good points on human behaviour and short, so great for reading on a flight. 🤓

  18. 5 out of 5

    Liam Klenk

    Simply fantastic! Silently chuckled my way all the way through, whilst at the same time realising and absorbing the reverse wisdom of this little gem. Highly recommended.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ariana♢

    3.5 stars actually.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stefan

    Highly ironic. Sketches, taken from literature and from life, illustrating how to make life difficult for oneself and/or one's partner. Highly ironic. Sketches, taken from literature and from life, illustrating how to make life difficult for oneself and/or one's partner.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Neda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This felt like I’m speaking to my therapist. Fun fact: My therapist technically recommended me this. Maybe it’s time to change my therapist.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Tomislav

    A rather short book (125 pages), with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, great wit and chosen anecdotes, examines the fascinating spectrum of techniques people use in making themselves miserable. " Happiness" is not well defined, is actually poorly understood, means different ideas to different people and has a much bigger accent in our culture than in others. BE HAPPY! A casual look at world art and culture shows us we're much better at imagining terrible things than joyful ones. Medicine, culture and A rather short book (125 pages), with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, great wit and chosen anecdotes, examines the fascinating spectrum of techniques people use in making themselves miserable. " Happiness" is not well defined, is actually poorly understood, means different ideas to different people and has a much bigger accent in our culture than in others. BE HAPPY! A casual look at world art and culture shows us we're much better at imagining terrible things than joyful ones. Medicine, culture and religion all perpetuate the cycle by teaching people more ways of being helpless and unhappy. One of the better examples is the "but I don't want it anymore" syndrome, when even when getting something that was supposed to make us happy, we deny ourselves happiness in the face of getting it. Related is a theme of being careful not to arrive - like certain European men who persistently charm a woman, but if she yields too soon, he is disappointed. What I take from this book is that happiness is something we don't need to pursue, it's an immediate experience we manage to deny ourselves in many a self-deceitful way.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gapag

    Short and funny. What else are books for?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fumi

    I kept thinking what it is that frustrates me when talking to Japanese women with a few exceptions. While I go through my old teenager literature I was reminded by a book I read when I was 16. It was in early Summer, and I was sitting on the blue Hollywood chair of our weekend-house in Chiemsee, when my then-friend I forgot her name told me she has just finished reading "The Pursuit of Unhappiness" by Paul Watzlawick. Despite her conjunctivitis she enjoyed it so I knew it must be entertaining. A I kept thinking what it is that frustrates me when talking to Japanese women with a few exceptions. While I go through my old teenager literature I was reminded by a book I read when I was 16. It was in early Summer, and I was sitting on the blue Hollywood chair of our weekend-house in Chiemsee, when my then-friend I forgot her name told me she has just finished reading "The Pursuit of Unhappiness" by Paul Watzlawick. Despite her conjunctivitis she enjoyed it so I knew it must be entertaining. Around that time I was much into those mystery books you can get in the train-stations, in other words I didn't care so long as I was well entertained. So I started reading it. I cannot quite remember the details, for I was fascinated at the wit. All I do remember is I found myself just sitting on this Hollywood chair till dusk and by the time the barbecue was ready I was feeling uplifted and motivated through this book. I knew the book changed me in ways a mystery books couldn't. Now, when I think back, there is probably no such book as this that has so much guided me through good and bad. Somehow I began choosing my friends according to this book. My decision-making was based on it, yes it was my kind of Anthony Robbins and Dale Carnegie...It suited me more because of its humor. Interestingly it is anything else but a self-help book. It teaches you the opposite of what you're supposed to do. I now realized why I am so irritated by my Japanese women pals. It is because I see them practicing exactly the way it's described in this book. And that went against my morals that I had build up through this book over the years.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christophe Addinquy

    The author is a famous name among the "Palo Alto School of philosophy". It's a short but dense book and not so easy to read. It's all about unhappyness. The author is going through the long list of reasons to be unhappy. But in the end, it's our decision to be unhappy, and it's up to us to decide to stop it. The author conclude by "the situation is desperate, but the cure is disperatly simple". Ma note de lecture en Français ici The author is a famous name among the "Palo Alto School of philosophy". It's a short but dense book and not so easy to read. It's all about unhappyness. The author is going through the long list of reasons to be unhappy. But in the end, it's our decision to be unhappy, and it's up to us to decide to stop it. The author conclude by "the situation is desperate, but the cure is disperatly simple". Ma note de lecture en Français ici

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bloodhound_omega

    Charming and refreshing, but it could have been a bit more snappy for my taste. Nonetheless I enjoyed the rather inverted approach of showing how we all are prone to make the very worst of every day situations. I found myself in many described passages, which in itself alone is a healing and positive experience. Actually a book I would recommend to people who usually are against "self-therapy" literature. Charming and refreshing, but it could have been a bit more snappy for my taste. Nonetheless I enjoyed the rather inverted approach of showing how we all are prone to make the very worst of every day situations. I found myself in many described passages, which in itself alone is a healing and positive experience. Actually a book I would recommend to people who usually are against "self-therapy" literature.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Great Book. The author shows how to ruin your relationships. He takes one step after the other. From perception over communication over behavior to the view of the world. I liked it very much. I will use it as reminder to maintain healthy relationships.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ignacio Usaola

    Very good. Not ever double means better.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    Absolutely fascinating and amazingly true. It opened my eyes concerning many things.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Catty

    Still my favorite book in the world, I recommend it to everybody.

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