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The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT Paperback – June 3, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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"Eminently practical and readable. This book reveals that when calibrating one's life according to acceptance and valued action, happiness is a pleasant sideshow in the larger carnival of an engaged and purposeful existence."—Zindel Segal, PhD, author of The Mindful Way through Depression
"An exciting alternative to the usual approach of so many self-help books. Harris explains how we can work with ourselves as we are, rather than aggressively trying to alter ourselves. I'm impressed by the simple and effective methods of ACT."—David Richo, PhD, author of The Five Things We Cannot Change
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I have learned several techniques that - as a high school teacher - have been exceptionally important in dealing with the incessant emotional demands (e.g. frustration, anger, excitement, etc.) of dealing with so many immature personalities.
And for my fellow therapists (and really any other human services/health professionals), this book is a great introduction to ACT. Dr. Harris' book, ACT Made Simple, is how I learned ACT (and highly recommended for professionals who wish to learn). The Happiness Trap is, essentially, ACT Made Simple made simple.
Enjoy, I hope this book brings to you as much of a positive change in your life as it did me.
This book is unlike any other "self-help" book I've ever opened up. From the beginning, it reads very modestly and very logically. This book doesn't claim to turn your life around (not without your own help at least.) It simply gives you a new perspective on dealing with stress, anxiety, depression and the overall struggles we deal with and let consume our lives on a daily basis, along with the tools to help create the life you want. I recommend this book to everyone. Even if you only take a few things from it, it's worth the $12. I have a list of people I want to loan it to when I'm completely done with it. Buy the book, take the exercises seriously and take your time and listen and give a chance to what the book tells you to do. It's a slow read, as it's meant to be by the author (and for very good reasons.)
Update: Amazon seems to be mixing together the reviews for the illustrated version and the original version. They are totally different books. Be sure you are buying the one you want.
Top international reviews
However - there were aspects of the book I really didn't like. Firstly, the thinly-veiled attacks on other therapies (particularly CBT). The author acts as if ACT is the holiest holy grail of therapies, and the rest are rubbish. This simply isn't the case. In my opinion, ACT is really CBT in disguise, or at best a nice add-on (it is essentially cognitively reappraising how you think of your own thoughts). Many of these ideas are around in CBT anyway. But even if ACT was brand new, it would still stand on the shoulders of the many therapeutic models which have come before and exist alongside it. CBT has helped me tremendously and yet the author here dismisses it out of hand - he does not believe there is any value in challenging negative thoughts, only in accepting them and making room for them. I believe the two things can go hand in hand. Sometimes making room for a thought isn't enough if it is built on a flawed and highly threatening interpretation - this interpretation needs to be chipped away at. If, for example, someone grew up with abusive parents and absorbed the view that they are bad/useless, it is unlikely to be enough to just see this view as a "story" - that person likely REALLY believes it, heart and soul. I really believe a cognitive strategy is necessary - "making room for" such thoughts isn't really going to cut it.
The style is also exceedingly smug and condescending at times. I understand the author is trying to cut thoughts down to size, but in doing so he comes across as trivialising very real pain. A bit of empathy wouldn't go amiss.
So - some good ideas here but it is not what the author seems to want it to be.
I stumbled upon Dr Harris' work in a moment of real darkness in my life. 25 years old, graduated in a degree with honours and about to graduate from a masters, living on my own with wonderful friends in an amazing city of a foreign country, working in a qualified job that attracted awe and respect from parents and acquaintances alike. Yet, for some reason, I started to feel increasingly miserable and blue, and I did all I could to run away from these feelings, telling myself stories about how inappropriate it was that someone as lucky as me was feeling that way. As it happens, these emotions could not be reined in for long, so they finally burst in the form of heightened levels of anxiety and panic attacks. Feeling desperate, I reached out to my close friends for support, and I also sought some tools from self-help books in Amazon. And "The Happiness Trap" had very good reviews, so I thought of giving it a try.
Boy, I think I've never spent £7.14 more wisely. Part 1 of the book sets for an interesting journey. Part 2 simply blows your mind: anybody who has ever had trouble with an anxiety disorder or depression will connect with Dr Harris' layman stories and explanations as if he had started to write the book only after returning from an expedition into your own mind. It makes you understand the source of all of your suffering and be more at ease with your thoughts and feelings, as you learn to value them simply for what they are: words and pictures created by your mind. Part 3 is inspirational, a super synthesis of the best coaching contents.
I finished the book an hour ago with a stupid smile on my face and I felt the urge to write this review. And because this urge is indeed helpful in building a more meaningful life, for me and for others, I allowed myself to fuse with it (readers will understand my choice of vocabulary best).
In summary, if you feel a bit lost in life, you're struggling with depression or anxiety, or you simply want to grow internally and understand your mind better, this book is a MUST. And to top it up, it's designed as a reference book, so it'll always occupy a preferential spot in your bookcase. As Americans would say, a no-brainer!!
I appriciate the exerices in the book, which I can adapt for my clients.
It's not 5 stars purely because the emphisis is on happiness, and what it is or isn't. And while I agree with much of the author states is holding people back or 'trapping them' from happiness, it's a little more complicated than applying ACT to every situation. There are other modalities that will suit peoples treatment more appropriately (NLP, TA ect).
With that proviso, a book that should be a part of anyone's collection who wants to continue to work on their personal (and professional) development.