Sane New World | Ruby Wax

Summary of: Sane New World: A User’s Guide to the Normal-Crazy Mind
By: Ruby Wax

Mastering Mindfulness

Mindfulness, a therapeutical practice that stems from Buddhism, is a proven solution to reduce stress. It involves accepting that the mind is always in flux, self-regulating thoughts and emotions, and gradually understanding negative emotions. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), founded by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal, has effectively treated emotional pain. It enables patients to disassociate negative feelings from themselves and enhance their self-perception. A perpetual state of stress can lead to a vicious cycle, which can be overcome by taking a step back and getting a clearer perspective of one’s situation. Practicing mindfulness can enhance self-awareness and help process past and present experiences in a more straightforward manner.


In Sane New World: A User’s Guide to the Normal-Crazy Mind, Ruby Wax navigates us through the confusing, often overwhelming landscape of our inner thoughts and emotions. The book reveals how our critical inner voices can prevent us from living fulfilling lives and examines the roots of stress, depression, and the impact of evolution on our emotions. Wax goes on to tackle the topic of neuroplasticity, demonstrating how it’s possible to ‘rewire’ your neural connections, and provides practical mindfulness exercises and cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to help combat stress and achieve a healthier state of mind.

Conquering Your Inner Critic

We all have an inner voice that often makes us insecure and unhappy. This voice developed when we were children and received guidance from parents and teachers. However, it can become a hindrance to change and progress as adults. For instance, in social situations, it may stop us from meeting new people as it fears rejection. This mental state also often leads to dissatisfaction and seeking temporary happiness. To avoid confronting this dissatisfaction, we adopt unhealthy habits and ignore our true desires. In this process, we lose sight of what we want from life and keep ourselves busy with jobs that we don’t enjoy. Consequently, we get burned out and even more unhappy. To overcome this inner critic, it is vital to recognize its existence and challenge its negative influence. Instead of avoiding new experiences, we must face them head-on and embrace change. By doing so, we can begin to rediscover our true desires and live more fulfilled lives.

The Unaddressed Rage and Envy

Humans have primitive emotions that have remained unchanged over millions of years of evolution. Anger, a basic emotion, helped our ancestors defend themselves and secure survival needs. However, today stress triggers most of our anger, leading to the accumulation of unresolved rage. Envy, another primal emotion, drove our ancestors to climb the social ladder and secure privileges, including more food. Today, envy drives us to strive for more and be better than our peers, although it may lead to perpetual unhappiness. Accepting that these emotions are natural is the first step towards learning better ways to cope with them.

Coping with Depression

Depression is more common than you think, but it can be treated with a combination of therapy and drugs. However, the stigma surrounding it makes people feel alone and helpless. The good news is that there is a way out. Reaching out to people who have experienced depression can give you a sense of belonging and provide meaningful advice. Also, learn to read your body’s signals, develop calming practices and practice mindfulness. It helps in increasing awareness around one’s emotions and seeing it for what it truly is.

Understanding Mental Health

Don’t blame yourself for negative emotions or depression, but understand how your brain influences your behavior. The brain consists of three different parts, the reptilian brain, the limbic system, and the prefrontal cortex, responsible for primal urges, nurturing children, and managing self-control and consciousness, respectively. Emotions and behavior are also affected by hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. People can suffer from too many or too few of these hormones, leading to conditions like Parkinson’s disease, and antidepressants may try to fill in for lacking hormones. However, this is complicated, and there can be serious side effects. It’s critical to understand how the brain functions to gain a deeper understanding of your mental health issues.

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