compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
sold, and translated into 30 languages. The title reflects a key
theme in the book: popular ideas about happiness are misleading
or inaccurate, and will make you miserable in the long term, if you
base your LIFE on them.
“ What’s the last line of every fairy tale? You got it: ‘. . . and they lived happily ever after.’ And it’s not just fairy tales that have happy endings. How about Hollywood movies? Don’t they nearly always have some sort
of feel-good ending where good triumphs evil, love conquers all, and the
hero defeats the bad guy? And doesn’t the same hold true for most popular novels and television programs? We love happy endings because society tells us that’s how life should be: all joy and fun, peace and contentment, living happily ever after. But does that sound realistic? Does it fit with your experience of life? This is one of the four major myths that make up the basic blueprint for the happiness trap. Let’s take a look at these myths, one by one.”
Dr. Russ Harris from The Happiness Trap
Welcome to Chapter 1: “Fairy Tales.”
The myths of happiness that get us caught in the happiness trap.
Let’s take a quick look:
“Myth 1: Happiness Is the Natural State for All Human Beings.”
Russ makes the point throughout the book that our minds evolved over the last 100,000 years (and millions before it) as a “Don’t get killed” device—in charge of finding every little thing in our environment that may threaten our lives. We aren’t hardwired to write poetry and giggle as much as we are to stay alive. When we think it should all be sunshine and roses and eternal bliss, we’re in for challenges.
“Myth 2: If You’re Not Happy, You’re Defective.”
By extension of the first myth, we tend to think that if we’re not happy all the time something is inherently wrong with us. But that’s just not accurate. We evolved to be highly sensitive to the negative. If you’re not happy, nothing is wrong with you per se. Your psychological pain is an inherent facet of being human. Of course, there are ways to navigate the negative with more grace (which is what this book is all about), but telling yourself that something is wrong with you because you’re not happy every.single.moment is not helpful.
“Myth 3: To Create a Better Life, We Must Get Rid of Negative Feelings.”
Good luck with that! To function as flourishing human beings pursuing meaningful goals, we need to embrace the full spectrum of emotions. Big goals—whether that’s having a thriving long-term relationship, raising healthy kids, or creating a business—bring feelings of excitement and enthusiasm AND feelings of stress, anxiety, doubt and frustration. It’s not about *getting rid* of those negative feelings, it’s about being able to expand to make space for them while living in integrity with your values. More on that in a moment.
“Myth 4: You Should Be Able to Control What You Think and Feel.”
Although we can *influence* our thoughts and feelings, we cannot (!) CONTROL them. There’s a big difference there. Most self-help books tell us that if we just think enough positive thoughts, we can control how we think and feel. That’s an unhelpful happiness trap. Again, we evolved over a very long period of time to automatically think and feel negative stuff.
Those are the four myths of happiness that form the foundation of The Happiness Trap. We need to quit struggling against human nature—making ourselves wrong for failing to be happy all the time and for not controlling every thought and emotion.
It’s time to learn how to Accept and Commit.
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