Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACTThe Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT by Russ Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

adjective: (of a horse) wearing blinders.
having or showing a limited outlook.
"a small-minded, blinkered approach"
synonyms:narrow-minded, inward-looking,parochial, provincial, insular, small-minded, close-minded, shortsighted;

1. How would I act differently if painful thoughts and feelings were no longer an obstacle?
2. What projects or activities would I start (or continue) if my time and energy weren't consumed by troublesome emotions?
3. What would I do if fear were no longer an issue?
4. What would I attempt if thoughts of failure didn't deter me?

What troublesome thoughts and images appear when you contemplate these four questions? Do you visualize yourself getting hurt in some way? Does your mind tell you, "It's hopeless" or "It's too hard" or that you can't make these changes because you are too weak/inadequate/depressed/anxious/stupid/unlovable?

“If a Miracle could happen so that you automatically had the full approval of everyone who matters to you so you weren't trying to please or impress anyone, then what sort of things would you do with your life and what sort of person would you try to be?”

Unlike all of the "just smile" memes on Facebook, this book is actually helpful. Russ Harris doesn't advise distracting yourself from uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Instead he walks the reader through specific steps to allow, to expand, to make room for uncomfortable "bad" feelings. I found especially helpful the section that walks the reader through defining one's own values. And he points out that values, in addition to a set of guidelines to live by, are what's important to you, what your priorities are. For example, while listing my priorities I included reading, but I've been watching a lot of television and doing very little reading. Obvious perhaps, but seeing it written down has helped. Also, listing being healthy and strong as a priority helps me to get off the couch, knowing that's a value, even when I don't "feel" like doing it.

My only criticism is that when listing examples of behaviors, the author lists way more than I needed to understand what he meant. But I just read faster through those parts. Other readers might appreciate all of the examples. His explanations of his concepts are excellent otherwise. Highly recommended.

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