Tag Archives: Willingness

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.”

Learning Psychological Flexibility since Young

Our education taught us to work so hard to​ score 96 on maths, 95 on Chinese, 100 on moral, 90 on science etc. On top of that, it’s very common in Asian countries that children are​ sent to tuition classes, music, art​, martial art​ classes etc.

We’re a generation with blessings​(?)​, nothing much to worry about, parents,​ teachers, or the government will plan the route and do the worries for us, what’s better, problems are solved before we even​ realised it.

But what if we fall? Fall so badly​?​ ​Being in big trouble? Facing major life challenges?

​Sometimes we read in the news – A teenager of 17 years old committed suicide because “my girlfriend wants to breakup with me, life is meaningless”, the other one because she is one A short to make it a straight As in SPM. We see depression, mood swing, anxiety-related problems, OCD, insomnia in younger and younger age. We thought they are supposed to be having fun at that age​, but they don’t seem to be able to have fun?!

​Why never we learnt psychological flexibility since young? Why the environment was never created to learn that since young? Why English, Maths, Science, (even) Moral, Volley ball, etc, but never about how to bounce back, how to be emotionally resilient? ​Or in other words, how to stand up when we fall? Why for over 10 years we’ve been attending schools and universities, but the educational system never taught us this?

Prevention is better than cure, but we aren’t even preventing the happening of mental disorders, quite often people only start to learn about resilience after they suffer (like our patients who wished that they knew this and that long time ago).

How do we create that kind of environment for our next generations? Where (whether positive or negative) thoughts and feelings are taken lightly; where we understand negative and positive events, thoughts, feelings are just equally likely to happen as the positive ones, so we face them all and accept them all; where we allow children to explore their feelings and thoughts during difficult times; where even a young child understand what value is and changing or persisting his/her behaviour in serving of the values; where we are able to adapt to changing environmental and situational demands and get the balance in them?

Can you control your thoughts and feelings?

Many of the self-help books out there teach people how to change their thoughts, physical sensations, feelings etc in order to feel better (including traditional CBT which targets automatic negative thoughts), if you’re one of those who have tried many of these techniques, how workable do you think they are? Do you think you really have so much control over your thoughts and feelings?

Try these:

(1) Try to recall something happened in the past week, anything — a dinner you had, a movie you went, a talk etc. [continue when you've got one] Now try to remove it completely from your memory, get rid of it so you will never think about it again in your life… Can you do it?

(2) Now, do not think about chocolate. As you read this, do not think about how a chocolate tastes, smells; do not think about its colour and texture; do not imagine how it feels when it melts in your mouth and how it feels when your tongue and teeth contact with it. Is it possible? Try again with honey maybe?

(3) Think about past experiences, whether when you have to give a public talks and feel very nervous; when a loved ones passes away and you feel really depressed; when your results doesn’t come out as good as expected and you feel disappointed etc etc. You hope you aren’t that nervous, depressed, disappointed, you try to get rid of these negative emotions as how they’re labelled, was the attempt successful? Did trying to control your emotions make it even stronger, ironically? So you’re more nervous trying not to be nervous?

So why ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)? Because in ACT, we understand in life negative emotions, thoughts, experience, sensations are all just as likely to happen as the positive ones, they are all part of our life, they are what make our lives meaningful, educational and contented. So in ACT, people learn to accept them, to live with them, instead of struggling with them, challenging them, changing them, getting rid of them.