The reality slap - Happy + Well : Happy + Well

The reality slap

Written by on March 16, 2015 in Happiness with 1 Comment

imagesIf you live long enough, fate trips you up sooner or later. Your marriage ends, you lose your job, someone close to you dies or the doctor tells you your blood test results are positive. Such trials and tribulations beset all our lives, and can be our undoing if we don’t have the skills and tools to help us process and manage them.

Dr Russ Harris is one of Australia’s leading psychotherapists. Having lived through his own personal meltdown some years ago when his son was diagnosed with autism, Harris who is being interviewed here and will be presenting at Happiness & Its Causes 2015, is passionate about uncovering how humans can thrive and not merely survive when life hurts.

For the purpose of communicating his message, Harris has coined some new terms, among them ‘the reality slap’ (also the title of one of his books) which describes “a shocking, painful event that is usually unexpected, turns your life upside down and begets a lot of pain”, and ‘the reality gap’, that disconnect between the reality we want and the reality we experience post reality slap.

As Harris says, we all know intellectually that being human isn’t a walk in the park, and that terrible things happen. Yet when the proverbial poop hits the fan, many of us fall apart. Fortunately, there are coping methods available when life is at its lowest ebb such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a scientifically proven approach to help people develop resilience, and yes, even flourish, in the face of life’s reality slaps and gaps.

Harris explains that ACT principles are structured around four steps:

1) Hold yourself kindly. “When we’re in great pain and stress, many of us are not compassionate to ourselves. This is a skill that needs to be learned. You can be there for yourself.”

2) Drop the anchor. Harris describes contact with the present moment as dropping anchor in an emotional storm. Such contact with the present moment is also called mindfulness. “This allows us to let pain flow through us without getting overwhelmed by it. It also allows us to detach from painful or difficult thoughts and let them flow on by without getting caught up.”

3) Take a stand. “This is about clarifying your values, your heart’s deepest desires for how you want to behave as a human being, and using those to guide your actions in the face of reality slaps and gaps.”

4) Find the treasure. “This is the outcome we’re hoping for: how can we find some fulfillment and vitality in the midst of major painful life events?”


Dr Russ Harris will be speaking at Happiness & Its Causes 2015. For more information and to register, please click here.

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  1. Great points on this. I especially like #4. This is about looking for the good in everything that is apparently bad. It is amazing what we can find when we go looking for it. Since I began this practice in 2008, there hasn’t been anything I can find the good in, even if it takes a while for what I have come to call the “Divine Order” to come shining through. In this way, we can end unhappiness in my experience.

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