The Upside of Your Dark Side

Dear Reader, We want to offer a counter-intuitive idea about the human condition: the cultural message that “you should feel good and try not to feel bad” is one of the most toxic pieces of advice in modern psychology.

Americans are not fans of anger, sadness, guilt, and other negative emotions. Just take a tour of the bookstore aisles and you’ll see countless titles about positivity and happiness. We invite you to take a closer look. We think that you can gain more from accessing the full range of your emotions. You don’t have to avoid discomfort to live a meaningful and engaging life. In fact, a bit of occasional anxiety or guilt can propel you to do great things.

Do we think no one should pursue happiness? Of course not. But if you’re constantly trying (and failing) to feel happy, you might want to consider an alternative life objective: be present, with an attitude of curiosity, and do what matters most to you. We want to show you the wide variety of psychological strengths that are being ignored because they feel uncomfortable or on the surface, are socially undesirable. In certain situations, what seems to be intuitively good is unhelpful and what seems to be intuitively bad is helpful. Our goal in writing The Upside of Your Dark Side is to help you become agile and whole, and by doing so, access your full potential for success and fulfillment.

Sincerely, Dr. Todd B. Kashdan & Robert Biswas-Diener

Praise for The Upside of Your Dark Side

“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


  • Chapter 1: The False Nose of Happiness

    Chapter 2: The Rise of the Comfortable Class

    Chapter 3: What's So Good About Feeling Bad?

    Chapter 4: How Positive Emotion Can Lead to Your Downfall

    Chapter 5: Beyond the Obsession with Mindfulness

    Chapter 6: The Teddy Effect

    Chapter 7: The Whole Enchilada

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Wake Up Happy interview with Kashdan on emotional and social agility

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I offer workshops and keynotes for business organizations, government, professional communities, continuing education for various disciplines, and the general public. With cutting-edge knowledge and humor, I offer practical suggestions for how people and organizations can flourish.



My books Curious? and The Upside of Your Dark Side offer the new message that the greatest opportunities for joy and personal growth do not happen when searching for happiness, certainty, or safety. When we acknowledge negative emotions and impulses, and use them wisely, and are open to new experiences, we attain greater success and become a better person.



In my Well-Being Laboratory, we conduct research to better understand strength use and development, social relationships, optimal performance, happiness, meaning and purpose in life, resilience, emotions and their regulation, and stress with a focus on how to apply this knowledge to better people's lives.