The Happiness Trap, was recommended to me on a girlfriend walk-n-talk. My friend is the most grounded person I know. She started practicing meditation in her 30’s, during a patience-trying divorce, and after a period of life where she had two babies, lost her mother to cancer, and was on the high pressure tenure track in academia. In other words, girlfriend needed a break! And she found it through meditation.
A “What am I thinking?” Workbook
As she was describing this book to me, she said, “I’ve been practicing the art detachment and acceptance for over 10 years, and while I practice meditation, I only felt like I really understood it after reading this book. It’s like a ‘what am I thinking?’ workbook!” That comment recalled for me a recent conversation with my daughter who is nineteen and navigating the brave new world of young adulthood. We both go to therapists and were having a discussion on the process of psychotherapy that they practice. “Sometimes I just wish there was a workbook.” I said. “Yes!” she said. “Just show me the map. Sometimes I’m like, ‘Am I doing this therapy thing right?'”
I would not trade my therapist for a book, but I do sometimes need a little more insight into why I’m doing what I’m doing. So, if you’re also wishing there was a workbook, here it is. The Happiness Trap. Written by Russ Harris, this book is based on Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT). In the foreward, Dr. Steven Hayes lays out the reality that we have a perception that happiness is a constant state, and equates some of the methods we use to “get” happiness to that of drug users or addicts because we are “trying to hold something in place” or get a “fix” on our happiness and sustain it infinitely. It makes me think of the U.S. Constitution and the phrase “the pursuit of happiness”. It does not say “attain happiness”. Yet, here we are, as a society, doing everything we can to get this fix – capture, trap – on happiness. In the process, “we engage in behavior that is the exact opposite” – shopping, relationship dependence, control of things or people. To avoid this trap, ACT helps us understand “how mindfulness, acceptance, cognitive defusion, and values can release us from it.”
Self-awareness, Self-kindness, & Self-love
Tribe of Women is founded on three pillars. I see you (accepting yourself and others), I hear you (connection and relationships), and I feel you (leading yourself and others). This book falls solidly under “I see you” and is our September Goodreads Book Club choice because we deeply believe that “to love others, you must first love yourself”, and how we treat and what we say to ourselves manifests into how we treat those around us. If self-knowledge through deep self-listening leads to self-awareness, self-kindness, and self-love, then The Happiness Trap might be a good place to start.
Author Amy Reeves Robinson is the Founder of Tribe of Women