Book Review: A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax
Ruby Wax recently released A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled – we were intrigued by the book, and asked Billy Burgess to write a review of it for us. Here are his thoughts.
Hi, we are Happy
We are leading a movement to create happy, empowered and productive workplaces.
How can we help you and your people to find joy in at least 80% of your work?
If you’re somewhat dubious about Ruby Wax’s suitability to educate the masses on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), consider this: in 2013, the actor and TV personality gained a Master’s degree in MBCT from Oxford University; she’s spent much of her latter career raising mental health awareness; and A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled follows her earlier mental health novel, Sane New World.
To compile this book, Wax referred to an extensive catalogue of academic sources (all of which are listed in the back of the book) as well as calling on a number of professors and neurologists to verify the meatier scientific information. However, Frazzled isn’t an academic manual nor is it aimed at people already comprehensively acquainted with MBCT.
As the title suggests, Wax wants to impart guidance to people who are overcome with stress and constant worries. She outlines the principles and fundamental practices of mindfulness and then exhaustively promotes its efficacy in soothing mental unrest, improving self-understanding and contributing to continued human evolution. As well as self-improvement, the book covers social mindfulness and ways mindfulness can assist with raising children and dealing with teenagers.
In the book’s second chapter, Wax provides a simple encapsulation of mindfulness: “Mindfulness is a way of exercising your ability to pay attention. When you can bring focus to something, the critical thoughts quieten down.”
She explains that this process equips us to soberly observe our thoughts, rather than simply getting bossed around by them. Subsequently, we can learn to face up to our feelings without any fear – “they’re just feelings and nothing to be scared of.”
Wax’s angle is quite personal – she has a background of severe depression and endured a tough, loveless childhood. Her most significant mental breakthrough came after applying the mindfulness practices that are laid out in chapter five’s six-week mindfulness course.
Now, you could be forgiven for presuming mindfulness is something practiced exclusively by self-absorbed mystics with dreadlocked hair and a wardrobe full of hemp robes. Self-help books, similarly, could prompt a decisive scoff. Wax realises the prevalence of these kinds of reservations and devotes a considerable number of ink to conveying the scientific vindication for MBCT.
She proposes the notion that stress only exists by virtue of humankind’s advanced evolution (it doesn’t affect our cousin, the ape). But, while we’re capable of wonderful ingenuity and each in possession of a ratatouille of emotions, we’re still animals and thus prone to automatic, primal responses.
These responses are often integral to survival, but they can also lead to panicked thoughts that are detrimental to our mental wellbeing. Rumination, in Wax’s reckoning, is an insidious vice. So instead of ruminating – that is, getting stuck in an infinite loop of neurosis, flickering between self-hatred and misanthropy – mindfulness can help us achieve a calmer, more productive and healthier relationship with the chaos fizzing around inside us.
Wax is careful to remind us that mindfulness isn’t just about “sitting in a chair marinating in your own thoughts and loving yourself.” Conversely, she emphasises the need to relinquish self-obsession and start thinking in more communal terms.
We’re all incredibly sensitive and receptive to the feelings of others, even if it’s not consciously apparent. She claims mindfulness will help prevent us from unconsciously passing our negative feelings onto others.
A slight criticism can be directed at Wax’s somewhat volatile tenor. Much of the book is written in a conversational tone, which contrasts to the sections relating neurological findings. Her jokey, conversational style does make Frazzled more immediately accessible, but the attempted humour generally feels contrived.
That said, the humour is effective in underlining Wax’s erstwhile scepticism towards mindfulness and associated activities such as silent retreats and day-long meditation sessions. And although she comes across as self-absorbed at times, she speaks with sympathy and concedes that a lot of her psychological recommendations are easier said than done.
Foibles aside, Wax is undoubtedly sincere in her avowal of the positive outcomes that can arise once you commit yourself to mindfulness. Frazzled is suitable for anyone looking to gain a more consistent and relaxed self-understanding, which will lead to stronger connections with friends, family and workmates.
Why not sign up to our newsletter?
Sign up to our monthly newsletter, full of tips, tricks and news to help you to be happier and more productive at work.
Billy has been writing blogs for Happy since 2017, covering mindfulness, stress management, confidence building and emotional intelligence as well as offering handy tips for Office 365 users. As an arts, culture and lifestyle writer, his work is regularly published in Music Feeds, VICE, RedBull.com, Beat magazine and Mixdown.
Testimonials from happy Customers
Rick Smallman1 day ago
good delivery & pace - communication after the course could i prove with follow up check in's being offered - perhaps 1 per candidate to review usage/questions
Leigh Urban2 days ago
Knowledgeable and engaging facilitators, delivered the course very well online.
John Lloyd2 days ago
The course was overal well presented via Teams which can be difficult. Some minor logging in issues. The course pdf supplied separate beforehand would help, i.e. ...
Fiona O'Neill2 days ago
Practical tips on using liberating structures. Chance to meet people from other sectors as well as my own. Relaxed and friendly.
Steve Woodruff2 days ago
Well presented, good pace course
Amanda Middleton4 days ago
yes, the course was well structured and the trainer was competent. It was a little cluncky being on line but that was niotv Happy's faault
Marjory Mackay6 days ago
Engaging and stimulating day - with useful methods for virtual networking.
Andrea Randall-Smith11 days ago
I enjoyed their conference and how interactive it was. Excellent communication with attendees and interesting topic.
David Engle11 days ago
Had some problems with getting the right link to the conference, but it was handled relatively well.
Trusted Customer12 days ago
Replied promptly to emails, were very helpful.
Susanna Farley12 days ago
The course was a good one, and the tutor was knowledgeable. However, for me it would have been so much better had it been face-to-face rather than online. I had a numbe...
Caroline Grant13 days ago
Good overview of 365 but would have like more interaction. Being shown things and them trying them out. Not clearly structured