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The Comfort Trap (or, What If You're Riding a Dead Horse?) Hardcover – January 15, 2004

13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Don't get too comfortable, warns psychologist Judith Sills, who invites readers to jump over "the electric fence of anxiety" to find deeper satisfaction in their lives. Sills, the best-selling author of Excess Baggage, compares our rigid routines, bad habits, stale relationships, deja-vu jobs and family feuds to the futility of riding a dead horse. She offers seven clear ways of jumping off and changing direction. A first step is to understand "the dragons that guard our comfort zones and prevent change" including avoidance, blame, denial, fantasy and righteous indignation. Confrontational questions are essential: What would I do if I were not afraid? What do I desire? Have I done this before? For Sills, the capacity to change requires pairing desire with vision, looking back into your personal history—-but not staring--recognizing the difference between influence and control, and calculating the cost of your decision. Sills' writing, which bristles with energy, humor, and practicality, can be cluttered with too many change metaphors (dead horses, tightropes, and rowboats). But her insightful ideas will talk you out of your rut before you furnish it. --Barbara Mackoff


"A seriously smart and insightful look at how to get unstuck and move your life to the next level." -- Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul

"A very effective recipe for helping you push through your fears and change what isn't working in your life." -- Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., author of Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway and Embracing Uncertainty

"Dr. Sills' straightforward vision propelled me out of my comfort zone. This is a book that could change a life." -- Sharon Wolmuth, co-author of Sisters, Mothers & Daughters and Best Friends

"This is the book that shows you how to dig deep inside, muster the motivation and just do it." -- Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out

"…Real tools to use to disengage from unproductive, repeated behaviors that may seem inescapable." -- Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of Everything You Know About Love and Sex is Wrong

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (January 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670858471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670858477
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,300,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Ignore the editorial reviews of this book, which offer only glowing generalities. Comfort Trap offers the first solid guidance for a challenge faced by many.
Safety, says Sills, "limits the amount of satisfaction any experience can deliver." Yet inevitably, we cling to what feels safe and comfortable. There's nothing wrong with making do and staying put, Sills hastens to add. But if your job or relationship aren't going anywhere, you'd better face facts. Avoid reality and your subconscious may take over: you'll make mistakes that catapult you off the horse, ready or not.
Facing facts calls for creating a vision and studying your past to see if you have a habit of riding dead horses (or, she might have added, killing anything that starts out half-alive).
To her enormous credit, Sills reminds us that delving into the past can create yet another comfort trap. It is only by taking action, making decisions and facing fear that we can actually find a new horse.
To remove yourself, Sills says, calls for discipline, i.e., "the will to get over the wall." It is necessary to follow one's mind rather than one's short-term emotions. And, she recommends, create structures to help you reach your goal.
Most important, you must have a vision -- you thinking of moving to something rather than leaving the horse behind The vision must be under your control, which leaves out visions like "Make Harry a more sensitive person." And the vision must be motivational -- you must be excited enough to get moving.
Sills is a psychotherapist who has, she says, worked long enough to know when to question her training. Yet as a therapist, inevitably she sees clients with relationship rather than career or busines challenges.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Zinta Aistars on August 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We all get stuck. It's human nature to steer towards comfort, and when we find it, to stay. If I once thought--in my youthful verve and idealism--that we are driven first and foremost by the pursuit of happiness, with maturity has come the understanding and accumulated observation that it is often not happiness that drives us, but instead a sense of maintaining our security and safety (real or imagined). Of course, degrees vary with the individual. But it can often be astounding to see to what people cling in order to preserve what Judith Sills, Ph.D., in this book describes as "the comfort trap."

Change is crucial to life. Change is, after all, necessary to growth. While not all change is good, it must happen if we are to indeed find meaning (happiness) in our lives. Yet with change comes risk, and that's the place where we, sooner or later, become stuck. Change and the risk it entails by its very nature can feel like facing a very scary beast. To avoid doing battle with this "beast" (and make no mistake, it is a battle), some of us would do most anything... or do nothing at all, stagnating in place, dead weight floating on the river of life, pushed and pulled this way and that by default, rather than face it. But life does not tolerate stagnation. And so even when we choose not to do anything (and that, too, is a choice), life will make choices for us, force often painful change upon us.

How to deal with change in a more healthy manner? How to avoid getting stuck in a rut? Sills deals with this dilemma in her easily read book, lining out simple (not to be confused with simplistic) strategies. Magic formulas? Not at all.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By G. Reid on January 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Do not be afraid to get unstuck. Do not be afraid to take risk. Do not be afraid to make major changes in your life. Certainly, these points are easier said than done. The author provides 7 steps to help the reader get unstuck.

According to Judith Sills:

1. Face What Hurts - Stop distracting yourself from the pain.

2. Create A Vision - Visualize a new comfort zone.

3. Make A Decision - Is the horse really dead?

4. Identify Your Pattern - Have you done this before?

5. Let Go

6. Face Your Fear - Name, face and overcome the electric fence of anxiety.

7. Take Action - Change requires action.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen McCaddon on January 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is just about the best book I've ever read in the self-help category. It takes you step-by-step through whatever kind of "comfort trap" you're in: bad job, bad relationship, erroneous thought patterns, bad habits, and much more. It served as a "live-in therapist" for my problem, and it was better than counseling and medications. I went through the book and underlined the passages that applied to my problem, then I went back and copied those underlines into a notebook that served as a counseling stategy with daily goals. I even got a copy to give to my counselor!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nancy S. Graham on May 30, 2015
Format: Paperback
About 8 years ago, I had a knee replacement that kept me wheel chair bound for 6 months. On top of that I was facing the void of retirement without a clue of anything I was interested in. I had worked my brains out to raise two kids by myself. I was used to getting up at dawn and working on living a life. Never a depressed person, I found myself deeply depressed and suddenly struck with a sense of being lost and worse yet, insignificant. Nothing motivated me. I found the Comfort Trap and began to slug through it, claiming every morning that I must have some purpose.
I followed the steps - something I have avoided on every self help book I have ever read. Everyday I tried to do something new, however small.
I began to like myself again, little by little. The real payoff came when I started writing down and reading about areas that interested me but I had always been too busy to pursue. History, Writing a novel, Helping foster children, World child hunger, quilting. Some areas I was not good in - quilting - other areas I began to help and again create an effect - children's rights and writing. This book, so simple, changed my life
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