Sane new world, Taming the Mind
By Ruby Wax
Ruby wax, Who once had a glittering career as a comedian , (she will be sat conjuring up ways to kill me slowly for phrasing that in such an unadorned manner) now boasts a degree in mindfulness based cognitive therapy from oxford university, and gives us an insight into ‘taming the mind’.
Now an advocator for mental illness, Ruby outlines in this book the concept behind taming the mind from the envy, rage and constant non stop chattering. (I can totally relate to this part of mental illness, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve wanted to scream on social media in capital letters and act out arguments in my head).
Im so glad I was brought this book as a Christmas present. I hadn’t read any books for awhile, and I admit, it was a couple of months before I started reading it. I need to be in the right frame of mind to read a book focused around depression… normally I have to be feeling pretty low, then there’s that natural desire to reach out for some kind of self help.
So as I found myself falling into the February blues I reached out for some inspirational reading. And once I started reading, I found it very easy to construe, working my way through it quickly, taking it with me everywhere to glimpse a few more pages when I could.
Ruby has amiably, with an injection of humour, outlined for us how the human brain works.
Let off a sigh of relieve as you discover that it’s mostly the way our brains are genetically programmed that makes us all so different, but there are external variables that can improve our perceived weaker components….including mental illness.
I’m fascinated by our neuroscience and the way it effects us individually. Why some of us are naturally happier or cleverer than others, and then theres the people that have great memories or are very talented or creative…. Then there’s me, forgetful, not particularly clever or talented, with all or nothing tendencies and relapsing depression .
I was overwhelmed by how I could relate to this book. understanding our psychology is, I feel, a key component to living with and understanding mental illness. And I applaud ruby for searching for answers by digging deep into neuroscience. I remember at one point during my own personal struggles I purchased a book on CBT and announced that I wanted to be a Psycologist…. but then realised that wasn’t what I wanted at all (nor do I have the brains to learn it all!) but I was simply yearning to understand why I was the way I was, and was in awe by the small snippets I learnt from books.
Ultimately, much like Ruby, my believe is that mindfulness is the true secret of happiness. But only by understanding the neuroscience behind mindfulness, can you really begin to see why and how it works.
“Here’s a depressing thought. Suppose your life expectancy is 90 and your 38 now, that means you have appropriately 52 years left. Now let’s say you’re only aware of a minute every three to five days, this might mean you only have about 12 years left in conscious time.. I may not have this exactly right but you see my point? (I hardly do) but what I’m trying to say is that if you were more attentive to your life rather than simply getting through it, then even if a doctor told you you only had 6 months to live, if you were awake to every minute, it would be longer than if you had 100 years to live in an unconscious state. Billions of dollars are spent on longevity. If we lived more mindfully, relishing each moment, think of the saving. We could toss away those vitamins, moisturisers and surgical appliances because it would seem as though we were living forever. ( I point the finger at me on the surgical front.)”
Myself, as someone who suffers with depression, mourned for Rubys afflictions, whilst I also had sense of relief at the similar daily struggles that she has, and been able to describe so well on paper. I also inwardly smiled at the injected Witt through this relatable read.
Humour, a valuable asset to mental illness. It’s great to see so many celebrities with mental illness coming forward , and to have a proffesional comedian is refreshing! I don’t understand why some people seem shocked at the humour content! Seriously, lighten up… You want mental illness to be normalised yet moan when someone pokes fun at it!
You lean a lot about the author herself as you read on, with regular ‘my story’ snippets. Contrary to other reviews of her book, I feel this is so valuable, as it’s what makes depression relatable. Learning of others struggles is what will ultimately ‘normalise’ mental illness. (What is normal anyway as ruby also suggests in her book)
But even if you don’t suffer from mental illness, this book is a great insight into understanding the science behind mindfulness , something we perhaps should all strive for.
“Many of us suffer from the pressures in today’s world that drive us from burnout to depression. We are slaves to our busy-ness with an insatiable drive for money, fame, more tweets- you name it, we want it. The problem is, it’s only in the last 50-100 years that humans have lived with such abundance. We’ve gone from scarcity (when we were probably somewhat normally and had appetites to match) to the limitless demands we have today. You could say that multi-tasking has driven us mad; like leaving too many windows open on your computer, eventually it will crash. We are simply not equipped for the 21st century. It’s too hard, too fast, it’s too full of fear; we just don’t have the bandwidth. Evolution did not prepare us for this. It’s hard enough to keep up with who’s bombing whom,so we have no room to understand our emotional landscapes; our hearts bleed because we hear of a beached whale while the next minute we’re baying for the blood of someone who stole the last shopping trolley “
This book contains it all, facts, statistics, relatable content, advice and humour and whilst It may not be to everyone’s taste, I found it a very helpful and a good read. I do find that it’s like ruby ‘thinking out loud’ , as if by putting her thoughts into words she can make sense of it, and perhaps so that we can understand her. which isn’t a bad thing at all. It will give the normal mad brain an idea of what goes on in the mad mad’s brain ….