Monthly Book Review September 2016 – The Happiness Trap (Illustrated Version)
This is the premiere of the new Health Vibed Monthly Book Review feature! Find out more about how I choose books for this section and the specific criteria here (page in creation).
For this month's book review I'll be discussing the wonderfully helpful book written by Australian ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) expert Russ Harris. It's the illustrated version of Dr Harris's excellent introduction into the work of ACT.
I felt that the illustrated version is a perfect choice for the premiere of this feature, because it's just such a HUGELY helpful book for pretty much anyone. Especially for those of us who are maybe going through a challenging time, and need some help in dealing with our thoughts and feelings that are coming up as a natural response to that stressor, no matter what it may be.
Introduction into ACT and the overall idea of this book
Book Layout and Illustrated Style
The Main Benefit of This Book – Speed of Reading
Book Pro's Vs. Cons
The Illustrated version Versus the Full Version
Final thoughts – My personal summary
Other resources to get more familiar with ACT
What about you? A Discussion on this book and ACT
A Simple Introduction Into ACTI have written a more in-depth overview of the principles involved in the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy approach on this page here. For that reason I will not bother repeating myself too much, but i will say that this book is a very very easy way to learn what ACT is about within the space of a few hours. I read about a third of the full length of this book in about 45 mins the other day, and I'm not really a fast reader, it's because it's an illustrated book and that's really the whole point 😉
But in an attempt to try and summarize the work provided in the ACT model, I would simply say that it's set of principles and skills, that once learned and applied allow you to live with less resistance to your own internal reality and take action on the things that the REAL YOU cares about (the person you are when you're cool, calm and focused on what you want, not the fearful reactive version of yourself).
For example, if you have anxiety issues, ACT will help you to stop judging yourself and stop fighting the feelings of anxiety themselves. It will help to teach you the skills of mindfulness (which is something that's broken down into 3 separate parts in ACT), which will in turn lower your anxiety.
So you may decrease the amount and occurrence of difficult thoughts and feelings in your life using ACT, but paradoxically that's never the goal of this work. The goal is to accept what is, and then learn how to respond in a way that's more helpful and beneficial to both yourself and those around you.
It's an elegant, and yet very realistic model, and has it's roots firmly planted in clinical psychology.
Book layout and illustrated style
The layout of this book is extremely “reader friendly”. It's obviously an illustrated version, and for that reason I was looking for simplicity, a quick read, and easy to grasp concepts without a lot of text to read. This book delivers that very well.
As you can see from some of these sample images, the concepts are easily (and often humorously) communicated by the simple cartoon images.
This kind of illustration is universally appealing and is just perfect for the way in which the concepts of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy are intended to be simplified by reading the illustrated version of the Happiness Trap.
In terms of the way the information is divided into chapters in this book, it's following the same structure as the original version of the Happiness Trap. There are 17 chapters plus the “how to use this book” and introduction sections as you can see below, and they provide a simple walk-through of the basics of ACT from start to finish.
The book contains 166 easy to read cartoon style pages, and each page can literally be read through in seconds in most cases. The whole book could be read pretty easily within a couple of hours at a leisurely pace. Again, this is one of the reasons I decided to choose this book to be the very first book of the Health Vibed Monthly Book Review, because it's just such a simple yet concise, short yet enlightening piece of work.
The illustrated version of this book seems to have made the exercises more obvious, as in they are more clearly defined, whereas in the original he just asks you to do them but they're not quite as well marked and easy to find for later referencing (at least that's what I found).
Here's an example of how the exercises are laid out, and the kind of thing you can expect from the book:
Many of the exercises are very simple and won't take much of your time at all, but at the same time they are great tools in helping you develop the concepts of ACT in your own mind. In some ways that's what this kind of learning is really largely about, immersion. So the exercises help you to immerse yourself until it become more natural for you to start thinking this way in your day to day life.
The Main Benefit Of This Book – Speed Of Reading & Simplicity
I won't spend too much on this as I will really just be repeating myself, but I do want to drive this point home for those who are interested in this book. I have never read a book that encapsulates so much common sense, and practical and helpful information on how to approach your internal life with skill and elegance, instead of resistance, strain, and stress.
I'd guess that by now I have probably read hundreds of self-help books in my life, probably starting from when I started reading some of the Zen Buddhist philosophy books that were lying around my father's lounge. This book has to be in the top 5 in terms of how quickly it can actually help you to see things differently, and give you new skills and mindsets to help you deal with your internal life in a more effective and positive way.
Book Pros Vs. Cons
For those who don't want to read this article I thought a quick Pros Vs Cons would be helpful so you can just quickly skim through if you're in a hurry.
- Excellent life changing information
- A great overview of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Easily teaches you new skills
- Exercises throughout to get you involved
- A VERY quick read (can be read in 1-2 hours)
- Excellent use of illustrations via simple cartoon imagery
- A great quick reference of the original Happiness Trap
- Too simple if you want a deeper understanding of ACT (get the full book)
- May simplify things so much that you don't value them as highly
(As mentioned, this is one of the best self-help books I have ever read, so finding cons was not really that easy)
The Illustrated Version Versus The Full Version
The illustrated version is a great overview and intro of all the basic concepts in the original. That being said, it's much shorter and to the point (obviously). The illustrated version is 166 pages compared to the 240 pages of the paperback version of the original.
Each page is EXTREMELY quick to read, as you can see from all the images of the book's pages that I've included on this page. As mentioned previously, the whole illustrated version can be read in literally less than a couple of hours, probably more like under 1 hour if you're fast and in a hurry to slam all the information up into your skull.
Another imporant fact to mention on the difference between the full version and this illustrated version is that the latter is not just a summary of each chapter in the original, as in there are much less chapters in this version than the original, about half in fact. So I highly recommend that unless you have already thoroughly studied ACT, you either get the full version at the same time to use as a proper reference and better learning tool, or get it later on once you have that initial introduction into the principles of the illustrated version of the book.
Final Thoughts – My Personal Summary
As you can probably gather, I think this is a really great book that can help people deal with a large variety of different life challenges, whether it be stress in general or if you're dealing with a difficult situation or even things like depression and anxiety.
It's really meant to be a quick introduction and summary of the concepts within ACT, and it delivers on this beautifully.
I think this book should be given out in high schools all around the country/world. If people had this fundamental understanding of how they work, how their minds work, and how to skillfully manage oneself with the techniques learnt, the world could be a vastly more friendly and peaceful place.
I believe it has to all start with education, and without going off on a tangent, the skills taught in this book are that important to well being on both the personal and larger scale, that I truly believe if many more people had this information it would make a big difference to how we relate to not only ourselves, but with everyone else we interact with.
So yeah, I like this book, I like it a lot. You can pick it up here on Amazon.com.
Other Resources To Get More Familiar With ACT
Here's a list of some great further resources that you should definitely check out if you like the idea of ACT so far, or already know a little about it but want to get more familiar (this list will be constantly updated):
- Our intro page on ACT
- The Happiness Trap website
- Interesting look at the difference between ACT and CBT
- Original Happiness Trap paperback/kindle version
- “The Reality Slap” also by Russ Harris (great overview of self caring methods)
- Amazon's listing for all Russ Harris's work
- Big think interview with Steven Hayes (founder of ACT)
- Really interesting interview with Hayes on ACT and OCD
What About You? A Discussion On This Book And ACT
Have you read either the illustrated or original version of Harris's The Happiness Trap? If so, what are your thoughts on this book? Did you think it was as brilliant as I obviously did?
Also, I'd love to hear from you if you are already familiar with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and you've been applying it in your life with any results.
Please leave a comment below and join the discussion on this book and the wonderful healing approach found within the work of ACT.