Working my way through "The Happiness Trap" by Russ Harris - Anyone want to join me?

A couple of months ago, I started working my way through The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. It is centered around Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (AKA ACT), which is a completely different approach from anything I've tried so far. I was / am willing to suspend skepticism and actually give it a go. For whatever reason, every other approach I've tried has failed. It's time to try something different. And this time it will have to be without the aid of a therapist because I can't find one who is 1) compatible, 2) affordable and 3) not a scary Christian. There's a tiny chance I might find a compatible therapist, but I'm operating on the assumption I will have to do this by myself and right now motivation is a huge problem.

Unfortunately, I hadn't got very far into the book when my life fell apart. I tried to "rejoin society" with a more open mind toward Christians and people in general. I failed miserably, falling back on avoidance and distrust. I went into full panic mode, couldn't bear the feeling (it was taking me to a very dark place) and retreated on three different fronts.

Try number one ended in failure.

Instead of viewing my recent meltdown as further proof I'm royally fucked, I have decided to call it a "strategic retreat" and have another go at The Happiness Trap while the pressure is off. I still have plenty of negative thoughts to contend with on a daily basis, so I'll still get plenty of practice. I just couldn't make changes while life was giving me a severe bitch-slap. I hadn't yet gained the skills laid out in the book.

Like I said, I want to suspend skepticism and give this approach a real chance. I want to make The Happiness Trap and other ACT workbooks my "gospel" for awhile. I don't want to give up too early or too easily. I want to make a real difference in my life and I'm cautiously optimistic about the exercises laid out in the book. 

Does anyone want to join me? And I mean seriously join me. We could work through the book together and compare notes as needed. I think it would help a lot to be held accountable. I need someone who will encourage me to actually do the exercises, not someone who will criticize my thoughts, feelings and emotions. That means it has to be someone currently more stable than I am. I'm sorry I'm not stable right now, but that's why I need to give this a try. 

A warning is in order. I am terrified of people because they tend to make judgments that echo the negative thoughts in my head. Outside input of this kind is devastating to me. It confirms all my negative thoughts and helps solidify them as "true." Even if they are true, they are unhelpful. I'm hoping the exercises in the book will eventually keep me from panicking when someone else judges me.

Another warning: When I'm feeling fairly stable, I am a really good person. But when I'm panicking, I lose control and lash out. I recognize this pattern, but haven't been able to prevent it from happening over and over again because I don't have the right tools. This book is promising to give me those tools if I actually work at it. I know it won't come easy, but I want to try. I just failed miserably at three different things -- important things -- and I'm still willing to try again. That has to be worth something.

I tried working through my personal issues with a friend once, but we reached an impasse. I lashed out and lost that friend forever. This incident was extremely painful and provided further "proof" I was broken and couldn't be fixed. During that attempt to help myself, I was using techniques that do not work, at least for me. I'm hoping the ACT techniques will be of more help.

Still, I'm currently very volatile, like nitroglycerin. As long as you leave me on the shelf, everything is OK, but if you shake me, I might explode. I hate this as much -- if not more -- than anyone who happens to be in the blast radius. I want to change. I don't need to be best buddies with someone to work through this book, but anyone willing to take the risk needs to be aware of this aspect of my illness. I don't want to call it a character flaw because doing so means it is part of my personality and cannot be changed. I want to believe I can change.

If I do explode, the best thing to do is 1) give me some room so I can calm down and 2)  be kind even if I really fucked up. Deep inside, I will already be beating myself to a bloody pulp, even if I appear to lay all blame on someone else. During such a meltdown, criticism is unbearable when added to the self-torture. However, if someone is kind and respectful and withholds judgment, I will relax. At that point, it becomes "safe" to admit my failings. I've only had one person in my life who was willing to accept me, flaws and all. We were able to explore our disagreements and own up to our respective failures. There's no one in my life like that right now.

Yes, I am aware I'm asking a lot, but my inner turmoil is very serious right now. You need to be warned.

I'll totally understand if no one wants to do this, but if you do want to do this, I will be grateful.

-LH

P.S. I apologize for fixating on my own issues, but in my current state, that's all I can see. I need to learn to accept myself before I can accept others and in order to do that, I need new skills.

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