Monthly Archives: January 2016

Introducing “The Happiness Trap”

by Russ Harris

by Dr. Russ Harris

I completed this book in 2014. It was bought at Popular Bookstore at the price of RM34.90 (before 10% off for members). Just thought it’s really a good basic and entry book to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) that I’ve been mentioning everywhere in my blog, also an easy read, and the chapters are really short. It definitely gives a grasp and basic concepts of ACT, using metaphors (so it can be a bit like reading stories!).

I’ve introduced and lent it to non-psychology backgrounds readers. What I realized is that they can usually get the ideas and benefit from them, but they don’t really know how to practice these concepts in real life (how to accept? how to defuse from my thought? etc). So if you get the ideas and are liking ACT after reading this book (just like me), you shall take a look at “Getting out of your mind and into your life: The new ACT.”

Introducing “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life: The New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy”

Got this book from Kinokuniya, Kuala Lumpur in September 2015 (RM101.84).

By Steven C. Hayes

By Steven C. Hayes

I’ve been mentioning a lot about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT, see here for all the related posts), now finally, it’s an ACT workbook.

It’s written for the general public (especially those with pain and suffering), hence considerably readable though a lot of times it may go against your common sense. It talks about human suffering (why do we suffer? If we don’t struggle with the pain, is it still pain?), why and how language leads to suffering (do the birds or dogs think that they’re suffering? Or do they just feel it?), “experiential avoidance”, acceptance and willingness (how?!!), being the observing self (I really like getting in touch with my observing self, this is something that I tried to explain to my sister when we were much younger, it was a struggle because we didn’t have a term for it back then, but she got me), values (life direction) and committed action etc.

This is a workbook so there are plenty of exercises (meditation, mindfulness, getting detached from your thoughts/feelings, letting go, metaphors etc) in it, you will almost definitely find some that you like and some that you don’t quite like.

I’d recommend it to anyone, and especially to stick to and really hands on the exercises and practices (otherwise there’s no point to just “read” a workbook). If you have some suffering/pain that you’ve really been struggling with in your life (or in your mind, in a sense), it seems easier for you to practice the workbook. Nevertheless, if you’re like me – thinking you’re fine in general – it’d still be beneficial to go through and work on it.

Watch Your Thought Come and Go

Meditation Exercise: Leaves on the stream (by far my favourite and what I practice most)

This is an eye-closed exercise. First read the instructions and then when you are sure you understand them, close your eyes and do the exercise. (Or you can use the recordings at the end of this post)

Imagine a beautiful slow-moving stream. The water flows over rocks, around trees, descends down-hill, and travels through a valley. Once in a while, a big leaf drops into the stream and floats away down the river. Imagine you are sitting beside that stream on a warm, sunny day, watching the leaves float by.

Now become conscious of your thoughts. Each time a thought pops into your head, imagine that it is written on one of those leaves. If you think in words, put them on the leaf as words. If you think in images, put them on the leaf as an image. The goal is to stay beside the stream and allow the leaves on the stream to keep flowing by. Don’t try to make the stream go faster or slower; don’t try to change what shows up on the leaves in any way. If the leaves disappear, or if you mentally go somewhere else, or if you find that you are in the stream or on a leaf, just stop and notice that this happened. File that knowledge away and then once again return to the stream, watch a thought come into your mind, write it on a leaf, and let the leaf float away down the stream.

(It doesn’t matter how vivid or clear the imagery is, as long as the concept is there, that you notice your thoughts, and let go of your thoughts once you notice them)

Continue doing this for at least 5 minutes. If the instructions are clear to you now, go ahead and close your eyes and do the exercise.

(Continuing reading AFTER the exercise)

You can think of the moments when the stream wouldn’t flow as moments of cognitive fusion, while the moments when the stream does flow are moments of cognitive defusion. Many times we become fused to a thought without even being aware of it. Thoughts about this exercise can be especially “sticky”. If you thought “I’m not doing this right” or “this exercise doesn’t work for me,” these too are thoughts that you may become fused to quite easily. In many cases, you may not even notice them as thoughts. Other particularly sticky thoughts are emotional thoughts, comparative ones, and temporal or causal ones.

A recording of the exercise in English (starts after 5 seconds):

Leaves on the stream - 12 minutes

Leaves on the stream – 11 minutes (starts quicker, less guidance towards the end)

A recording of the exercise in Mandarin: