Happiness? What's that?

I've been in therapy for many years (about 26 years on and off) for complex PTSD.  I've tried talking, Gestalt, CBT, medication and I've even had Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).  The one that has worked best for me is DBT - Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.  But it's hard and complex and I practice it every day.

I've read many self help books, some wishy washy and some hard core text books.  The one I read a couple of years ago that actually made sense and gave me lots of "a-ha!" moments was The Happiness Trap by Dr Russ Harris.  It's based on ACT - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy which kind of dovetails nicely into DBT.  They don't contradict each other the way CBT and DBT can.

It's written in a way that's easy to understand and explains why our minds work they way they do.  It describes various happiness myths and how we get so caught up in them.  It's not a cancer survivor specific book but I think there is a lot of transferable information in there.  It's written in a very conversational way and has lots of activities.  And it doesn't promise a happily ever after.  It take the very sensible approach of try, fail, try, fail, try again, fail again, try one more time....

After reading a lot of comments here, I get that sense that a lot of people are asking, what now? What next? How do I move forward? Why can't I go back to my old life? Why am I stuck with a body that is barely holding together and doesn't work like it should?

 What this book is advocating is looking at your life and working out what are your values?  How do you live a life that's consistent with those values?  I think for a lot of us, having such an earth shattering disease that has completely disrupted a life that was going along just fine thank you very much, has thrown everything into chaos and turmoil.  So what do we do to just get through the next day, hour, minute?  And for me, like I didn't have enough physical and mental health problems already....sure chuck some bc in there as well, why the hell not??  It's not like my other issues make it hard enough to just get out of bed.

I wouldn't recommend the book to anyone going through active treatment.  Just keep your head down and plough through.  But for those now in the "survivor" mode, perhaps this is something you might want to take a look at.

The book is available in council libraries.  Dr Harris also has a website with some free resources on it.

Here's an excerpt from the book.  https://www.actmindfully.com.au/upimages/The_Happiness_Trap_-_Introduction_and_Chapter_one.pdf

He also has lots of short and long videos on YouTube if you search on his name.  

Has anyone else come across any other books they would recommend?


  • kmakm
    kmakm Member Posts: 7,974
    Thank you @KarynJ. I'll be looking into that book.
  • Beryl C.
    Beryl C. Member Posts: 270
    KarynJ years ago I experienced PTSD after a car accident and had many sessions with a clin.psych. - very beneficial. Over the years I've read extensively and attended many workshops on what we might call 'personal growth'. I learned to take what I want and leave the rest - my rural childhood provided me with an accurate 'bullshit barometer'. Post diagnosis I read a book written by Matthew Carr, title, "Battle Scars: A soldier's Strategies for ........... Cancer". For me it turned out to be the most valuable example of how to  shape and affirm my adjustments to this new life, new me. (I think the book is out of print). He found that he needed to find something that was 'utterly' him - to be totally himself in the moment - so he took up surfing. In other words, its important to find something to do in which you become so immersed you actually 'let go'. Its actually a form of meditation which for me is knitting, reading or just staring at the trees. Thanks for your post.
  • KarynJ
    KarynJ Member Posts: 193
    @Beryl C. I know what you mean.  That sounds like a good book.  For me it's reading or doing a jigsaw puzzle or watching cute YouTube videos.  In today's psych speak it's called a flow state.   "the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time" - Wikipedia. 

    I've been working with the same registered psychologist for a few years now and she has helped me enormously.  I've finally got some practical tools that help me. 
  • Zoffiel
    Zoffiel Member Posts: 3,372
    I find digging holes is beneficial. Unless it's too hot. Or too cold. Or too dry...
    If it is a good day to dig I can become totally self absorbed. There is something about the rhythm of crowbar and shovel and rake which I find very soothing. Then there is the satisfaction of a new garden or a new fence or the transformation of a rough piece of land into a smooth area that will later become lawn (or at least mowable)
    I try to conquer, or ignore, the frustration of being so much weaker than I used to be. It takes days to do what used to take hours and motivating myself to start is a problem. There are so many obstacles. But, eventually, the digging gets done. 
    Maybe that's a strange way to get happy, but it's quieter and less technical than my other source of satisfaction, the maintaining of the woodpile. What ever rings your bell--even if it's just a wee little jingle of a very small one. Mxx
  • Afraser
    Afraser Member Posts: 4,328
    I am reminded of someone I know who, after a very traumatic and unhappy period, 'ran himself sane'. Same theory - self imposed immersion in something very physical, demanding and ultimately satisfying to re-set your emotional and psychological state. Worked for him. Sane and happy. 
  • arpie
    arpie Member Posts: 7,450
    Yep - I agree, @Afraser - Being totally busy and absorbed in any sort of 'outside' activity - it just fills your brain & doesn't allow negative thoughts to creep back in.

    I am positive that it is having the responsibility of running my Uke Group and performing commitments as well as my love of getting out Kayak Fishing that has helped me stay 'relatively sane' so far (some may disagree!  LOL)    They were my rock both before and after my surgery.

    I guess, by playing at Nursing Homes every week - we could be called 'Volunteers' & I would recommend everyone to look at getting involved in a local Nursing Home in some way.  Some people never get visitors - so maybe just to chat with them, read the newspaper to them or play an instrument & entertain them - all these things are SO appreciated by the residents.  It also takes your mind off your own problems & shows empathy to others, for theirs.  We have about 30 residents turn up every week at our practises alone and they join in singing the songs they know!! We sing Happy Birthday to them - one lovely lady turned 90 last week!  When some hear their favourite song, sometimes they get very emotional & cry.  The power of music is just amazing.

    With uke, we have 2 uke practises every week & when we perform, can have up to 4-6 gigs in a given week, even more at Xmas.

    With my kayak fishing - I try to get out at least 2-3 times a week - and can be on the water for up to 6hrs, sometimes more.  So long as I can drag my kayak to & from the water ..... once out there, I have no aches or pains as I float around - I am FREE!  

  • Silba
    Silba Member Posts: 115
    Trying to get into a Happy place , but today is not working out , looking at my home loan  " overdue" , bills piling up,trying to get to work , but it won't happen for another 3 weeks ( HR has to sort stuff out) , off course no more leave of any kind, don't qualify for any social benefits and even if I did , won't get money before I get back to work (part time) .

     Husband after being my rock for the last 12 months is having trouble getting work ( self employed) no money to take on new contracts so working here and there, 

    My boys , who have just started their 1 st jobs after Uni have been wonderful in keeping us afloat, but I feel guilty about asking them for more, my brother rather suggested I take a holiday ( He'll pay airfare for myself only ), had to laugh at that, I rather have the money but that off course went over his head.(he is enjoying Singapore at the moment).

    Sorry to rant , but I can't afford to see the shrink .......
  • arpie
    arpie Member Posts: 7,450
    @Silba - can you speak with a Social Worker via your Breast Care Nurse?  When I was in distress from continuous bills this time last year ($6000 out of pocket expenses due to diagnosis & surgery) the social worker connected to the hospital arranged for one utility bill (to the value of $300 or thereabouts) to be paid for by the Cancer Council (from donations made by the public.)  It wasn't a huge amount - but it was a relief to me.  

    I hope your hubby can get some jobs in soon .... how wonderful that your boys have stepped up to the plate & are helping out. That is awesome.  xx
    Don't forget to check out the Otis Foundation (http://otisfoundation.org.au) for the possibility of having a holiday at no expense, other than getting there and taking food and drink.  I am going to Thredbo in 2 weeks for 5 days, thru Otis 

    PM sent

  • Beryl C.
    Beryl C. Member Posts: 270
    Silba I recall there has been discussion on dealing with financial difficulties. Giovanna can you advise on this?
  • Giovanna_BCNA
    Giovanna_BCNA Member Posts: 1,839
    Hi @Silba
    Sorry to hear that you are experiencing financial stress at the moment. I have attached a couple of links below with information.
    Cancer Council NSW offer financial assistance
    BCNA factsheet
    Please dont hesitate to call our helpline on 1800 500 258 if you would like to speak with one of the cancer nurses for some support and information.

  • KarynJ
    KarynJ Member Posts: 193
    This is why I recommend reading The Happiness Trap.  It certainly won't help everyone in every situation - particularly if you are in dire financial trouble.

    However, it will teach you about radical acceptance.  This is all about getting into that new normal place.

    It also has practical tools and tips for managing those spiralling negative thoughts.  You'll never be free of them, but the book helps you learn how to take a step back, distract and identify them for what they are.