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I liked this book and got a lot out of it. The idea that thoughts are not within our control, do not have power over us, and do not mean anything about us as people are important concepts. I also am very much on board with getting out of your head and into activity. I like some of the metaphors given, the idea of viewing thoughts as a "story" and not "facts". I especially like the idea of saying "aha! here comes the "i'm a loser" story" (or whatever) - it cuts thoughts down to size, even deeply entrenched ones.
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 would generally be of the sceptical kind of people who would read a headline such as mine's and immediately class it as covert advertisement. I don't blame you if you do. To be honest, I very seldom type up reviews of my Amazon purchases. But this one clearly deserves a chunk of my time. That so much goodness can be compressed into a 270-page book at a starting price of only one penny for a used edition is exhilarating.
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!!