The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to A.C.T.
“The Happiness Trap” by Doctor Russ focuses on life and the struggles that we as humans go through.
Doctor Russ uses his knowledge to gradually take the reader through a journey as they read through the book. This in turn assists individuals to live an authentic, full, rich and above all a meaningful life where they understand true happiness.
Doctor Russ explains the meaning of happiness as an experience or state that almost every individual strives to attain. Unfortunately, every person wants to gain happiness but rarely do they experience it.
He further articulates the notion that happiness can be bought.
If we try to buy happiness, the resulting ‘feeling of happiness’ is normally a short-lived experience.
We often tend to think that material things generate happiness, it seems true at the time, but the feeling erodes away quickly.
An example is when we manipulate someone to be in a relationship with us while focusing on the material aspect to be gained from being in this relationship. Eventually, the relationship falls apart because it lacks key requirements such as love.
According to Doctor Russ acceptance is the foundation of happiness. In his book, he defines acceptance as being contented with what one has.
Why is Happiness Important?
What is happiness and why is it so important for us as human beings?
Happiness is a sense of gladness, gratification, and pleasure. It is a feeling that everyone aspires to yet struggle to achieve.
Happiness does not always last for long: it eventually slips away after time. The more we try to get the happiness back or relive these happy moments, the more chance of suffering from depression increase.
But happiness can also be defined as living a full, rich and meaningful life. We achieve a meaningful life when we live worthy and valuable lives by acting in a way that we think society expects us to.
Happiness is not out there – it’s in YOU!.
Pain is the opposite of happiness. Pain rids us of happiness. We can deal with pain by developing and sticking to a “Happiness Trap” as suggested by Doctor Russ.
This consists of formulating a ‘trap’- essentially by creating ways which result in happiness.
This ‘trap’ is an escape route based on psychology. This involves applying Mindfulness.
The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, ( a form of Mindfulness based therapy) focuses on something totally different. This therapy states that in a healthy person, the mind will often lead to psychological suffering because of the mind.
Acceptance and commitment therapy teaches an individual to adapt to these changes of the mind eliminating any possibility of suffering from depression.
ACT teaches you to stop the struggles and avoidance of inner emotions and learn that acceptance of these emotions is natural.
The denial and subsequent suppression of these emotions is what causes the pain and suffering regardless of the cause.
ACT focuses on 3 areas:
Accept your reactions and be present.
Choose a valued direction.
ACT teaches you to allow feelings or thoughts to just be without buying into them.
Be aware of your weaknesses but also your strengths.
Be kinder on yourself and accept we all have our weaknesses.
Accept the difficulties in your life without trying to avoid them.
Know that you can at any moment be in control of your thoughts and thinking and your reactions to those thoughts.
ACT teaches you three techniques.
2. Being present in the moment.
3. Defusion Techniques.
The Simplicity of Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not difficult to master because it is something that does not require us to be or do something we are not doing already.
Doctor Russ has simplified this topic making it easy to grasp.
Overtime, you will notice that you will be able to deal with stressful situations and control your emotions in a more accepting approach rather than avoidance and resistance.
Individuals learn the means to focusing their attention in a way that is not thinking but which is aware of thinking in a more sensory way.
You will learn not to try and eliminate emotional pain in your life but instead transforming the relationship you have with that feeling and emotion, regardless of the complexity of the matter.
We can find happiness no matter the circumstances and Mindfulness is the way to achieve this.
It is not about changing what is or questioning what is or what we think something should be – it is about being the ‘Witness’ of all that is around you and taking place in that moment. Nothing more, nothing less, just witnessing.
As an example – think of yourself watching waves out to sea and them crashing into shore. There is nothing you can do with the ocean but watch and observe. You cannot control or change it but watch as it goes about doing what it has always done.
This is the same with your thoughts and feelings. Just watch and observe without judgment.
The Definition of Happiness – IS – Conquering Depression.
Statistics show that almost thirty percent of adults suffer from depression, and one in four adults suffers from drug addiction caused by depression.
Some of these individuals can engage in drugs after many failed attempts of trying to be happy. Some victims in extreme circumstances consider suicide.
The Trap of Wealth and Happiness.
Trying to be happy can at times make one actually miserable. For instance, buying happiness by buying the latest new outfit vacation or new car, simply does not work since it is short-lived and only lasts for short periods.
Doctor Russ goes further to explain about the relation between wealth and happiness. Does happiness go hand in hand with wealth?
Doctor Russ enunciates that in some aspects working class to middle-income level people live better than the rich. This is because the middle income or working class levels live in relative contentment and have learned (in most cases) to adapt and to be satisfied with whatever they have. This simply means that they do not have as many expectations hence worries as compared to the rich, due to the perceived horror of loosing your fortune can bring.
The Happiness Trap offers a way to help an individual avoid emotional tortures and gives guide towards living a meaningful and rich life.
For an individual to be able to ‘trap’ happiness; one must be able to understand some of the myths associated with it as explained by Doctor Russ.
These myths appear true, but let no one fool you, they are completely misleading.
1. One of the myths states that happiness is a natural state for every human being. Statistics disapprove of this statement.
Culture still insists that all humans are naturally happy. If this was true, why do statistics show that one in five adults suffer from depression while others contemplate suicide? There are other reasons that may cause unhappiness in human beings including divorce, relationships issues, and domestic violence. These causal factors vary from individual to individual.
2.The second myth is that to create a better life one must get rid of the negatives that come with it. This statement may see true to most of us.
Take the case of a relationship or marriage: regardless of how much one loves their partner, there are bound to be disagreements in the relationship. This is because each individual has his or her own flaws. No one is perfect. This does not mean that one has to get rid of the partner to be happy.
One must learn to embrace such things or circumstances and let go of wanting to control your partner/spouse children. Relationships are lost or enriched through this idea.
3. The third myth is that one should be able to control what they think and feel. Human beings have little or no control over their thoughts. You can control actions but this is not the same for thoughts or feelings. For an individual to be happy they must learn how to replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts which are depicted in actions. Some negative thoughts include insecurity, guilt, sadness, and anger.
No matter how hard we try, these thoughts still come back which ascertains the point that it is impossible to control our thoughts and feelings and mindfulness teaches you how to just allow your thoughts to come and go without judgment and trying to control them.
4. The fourth myth is if one is not happy then he or she is defective. What this means is that when an individual has negative thoughts or painful experiences; they tend to think that they are stupid or weak or perceive that others will see them in this negative light.
This attitude has shown to be counter productive leading people to suffer in silence based on how they think others will view them.
PROS AND CONS
PROS: “The Happiness Trap” offers a lot of positives to its readers. It motivates the reader to be brave in every circumstance in life whilst managing your struggles.
The book helps us focus on the positive side of life by changing our views, perception, opinions and the overall outlook of life as a whole.In other words, it enables us to manage any so-called negatives in a much healthier and productive way.
The Happiness Trap is taught in an easy to follow systematic way through thirty three bite-sized chapters.
CONS: The act of ‘Witnessing’ rather than ‘Reacting’ would seem to some an alien concept when responding to a difficult situation and an almost impossible task.
It will take a leap of faith for someone, in particular someone with concrete thinking, to even acknowledge that such a supposedly simple act could be so effective.
Mindfulness can be viewed by some as a religion. Though Mindfulness has it’s origins way back thousand of years in Buddhism Hinduism, Taoism and Stoicism, many of our religions today practice a form of silence and contemplation and attention that is not unlike Mindfulness.
It doesnt belong to any religion, it is just a natural way of being that we have lost touch with over the decades.