Tuesday, 15 March 2011

book review: the happiness trap

I have just finished reading a self-help book by an Aussie author, Russ Harris, called The Happiness Trap. The underlying theme of this book is that unhappiness is caused by failing to live in alignment with our values and that living a values-based life will result in a rich and meaningful life with experience of a full range of emotions. The book also provides skills and techniques to deal appropriately with unpleasant emotion and guides the reader to identify their values.

Written in 3 sections it first describes how our underlying beliefs can create a trap of unhappiness and identifies these to help recognise and avoid this trap. Secondly, there is a significant section on ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy which provides skills to respond positively to unpleasant emotion, skills for acceptance and something called defusion which helps unhook emotion from unpleasant thoughts. The Third and final section helps the reader to identify their values so they can deliberately align their behaviours to these.

Something I didn’t like about this book was the writing style which laboured each point. However the usefulness of this book would rate very highly on the Cardinal-Cyn-Scale-of-Usefulness.

Interesting how I found this values thing – I felt quite uncomfortable reading it. Apparently this is because there’s a gap between values and current reality! No shit Sherlock. Anyhoo one of the value domains is about employment and it was this that triggered my decision to quit with the sole trader idea and get a ‘real’ job. I felt so good about being proactive! Like I’ve moved closer to a value which I was avoiding before – it feels... sort of right. Very interesting to note. I’m feeling positive and chirpy about the job thing. In fact I feel a lurking sense of excitement!

Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Click ‘comments’ and tell us about your happiness levels.


  1. i think I'll add this one to my 'to read' list. Good luck with the job hunting

  2. Hi Helen. Thanks for your comment and well wishes. Yeah I found this book really very good and learnt heaps from it - very practical stuff with good, solid skills for defusion and acceptance linked to values. It is well worth the investment. C x

  3. Hi Cyn - I haven't read this one yet. How does it compare to The Happiness Handbook by Timothy Sharp and the theories and strategies he sets out?

  4. Hi Jipster! Nice to hear from you here. I have attended a webinar by Timothy Sharp and was totally engrossed in the SBS series about Making Australia Happy (in which Russ Harris, author of Happiness Trap made an appearance) as well as another show about food which was fascinating. I haven't read the Happiness Handbook however. I had a couple of sessions with a psychologist during breast cancer and she told me she had both books, and recommended the Happiness Trap to me. So that's how come I had it. I don't imagine they would be too far apart in their approaches, being contemporaries and also buddies. Cyn x