My Awakening, The Happiness Trap

Going in the Opposite Direction…

Whoa, it’s been two months since I posted!  Every time I return after a blogging hiatus, I say something like… “life has been full and busy lately,” which is once again true this time!  Between the kids adjusting to the academic rigors of The Cambridge School, regular busy season busyness at my office, plus the addition of regular travel for my new role at work, we’ve had a very full winter and early spring.


Yesterday I took my second (and probably last!) train trip up to our Oxnard office.  This long day starts with catching the train from Solana Beach at 6:33 a.m., so I have to leave my house before 6:00 a.m. to get there.  If all goes well, I’d get back to my car in Solana Beach by 10:30 p.m.  The trip is about 4 hours up and 4 1/2 hours back.  Unfortunately, I got on the wrong train in Oxnard for the trip home!  The train came through the station right at 5:40 p.m., so I didn’t even question it.  Also, there’s only one track you can board in Oxnard, plus I find it very disorienting to figure out if the train is headed north or south!  These Amtrak trains travel in both directions without a clear “front”.  It’s very confusing!   It wasn’t until we were in Ventura and the conductor said, “Be sure you’re on the right train, we are headed northbound to San Luis Obispo” that I realized my error.

By the time I gathered my things, we were moving again.  So, I found the conductor and explained the situation.  He told me to get off in Santa Barbara and catch the 7:00 p.m. train south to San Diego.  He wrote me a little note to give the conductor of that train. I felt like a kid getting a note from a parent!  Poor little lost traveler.  Fortunately, it was nearing sunset and we were traveling along the coast.  The beauty of the view helped soften the blow that I’d added over 2 hours to my already long day of train travel.  Sigh.

When situations like this occur, I’m so grateful for the mindfulness practices and work I’ve done to accept the present moment and let go of my illusion of control.  This was an annoying mistake, but all-in-all, I was fine.  I had some extra time to talk to my boss, talk to my mom, read, and listen to the audio book of Pride and Prejudice.   I’m fortunate to have the option to work from home in my pajamas today, after getting about 5 hours of sleep last night.

The book I was wrapping up on the train is actually a psychology “primer” for therapists, written by Russ Harris, the author of The Happiness Trap.  It’s an introduction to using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (“ACT”) with patients.  Obviously, I’m not going to be treating folks formally with ACT, but I figured what better way to learn something than to “teach” it?  Even if just academically.  It has deepened my understanding and appreciation of this amazing technique of mindfulness, acceptance and valued-focused living.

I’ve been thinking lately about how much our pain in struggle in life is caused by the gap between what we think life ought to be like and our current reality.  We’re so often angry, frustrated, sad or disappointed when our expectations aren’t met or the current moment isn’t aligning with our hopes and desires.

The fundamental, essential, most important lesson I’ve learned over the past several years has been acceptance.  Accepting my thoughts and feelings, but also the situations and circumstances of life, my own mistakes and failings and the frustration of other people’s behavior!  Not having to control my inner world has lead to not having to control the world around me.  It’s a tremendously freeing place to be.  My “struggle switch” still gets activated now and then, but I’m able to accept my thoughts and feelings much more easily these days.  Which is extremely helpful when you’re trapped on a train taking you the opposite direction that you want to be going!