Friday, February 04, 2005

The Comfort Trap - Or, What If You're Riding a Dead Horse? by Judith Sills, Ph.D.

A Book Review by Zinta Aistars

* Hardcover: 241 pages
* Publisher: Viking Books, 2004
* ISBN: 0670858471
* $23.95

We all get stuck. It's human nature to steer towards comfort, and when we find it, to stay. If I once thought--in my youthful verve and idealism--that we are driven first and foremost by the pursuit of happiness, with maturity has come the understanding and accumulated observation that it is often not happiness that drives us, but instead a sense of maintaining our security and safety (real or imagined). Of course, degrees vary with the individual. But it can often be astounding to see to what people cling in order to preserve what Judith Sills, Ph.D., in this book describes as "the comfort trap."

Change is crucial to life. Change is, after all, necessary to growth. While not all change is good, it must happen if we are to indeed find meaning (happiness) in our lives. Yet with change comes risk, and that's the place where we, sooner or later, become stuck. Change and the risk it entails by its very nature can feel like facing a very scary beast. To avoid doing battle with this "beast" (and make no mistake, it is a battle), some of us would do most anything... or do nothing at all, stagnating in place, dead weight floating on the river of life, pushed and pulled this way and that by default, rather than face it. But life does not tolerate stagnation. And so even when we choose not to do anything (and that, too, is a choice), life will make choices for us, force often painful change upon us.

How to deal with change in a more healthy manner? How to avoid getting stuck in a rut? Sills deals with this dilemma in her easily read book, lining out simple (not to be confused with simplistic) strategies. Magic formulas? Not at all. There will probably be nothing here to surprise the reader, but even if one needs nothing more than to bring what is already known to the forefront of awareness, this can be an inspiring and encouraging read. Sills discusses how to recognize when we are stuck in a comfort trap, how to deal with fear that keeps us there, how to begin actively making healthy decisions that will bring about positive changes, how to stop fence sitting, how to start living again. With sample situations from therapy sessions in her own practice involving comfort traps of toxic relationships, career dissatisfaction, family issues, and more, Sills gives a soothing, rational approach that, if one can reach down inside for that elusive courage, can work.

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