Fear of failure prompts motormouth Wax to go mindful
American comedian says 24-hour nature of modern living and the constant pressure to strive is leaving many of us burnt out
She describes mindfulness as “a trick’. “If you send your attention inside your body to feelings like your bum on the seat, nothing spiritual, your brain can’t be anxious at the same time.”
The theory is that as soon as attention is switched to a sense, our “fight or flight” emergency signals calm down. So if we feel stress, fear or anxiety and we send our attention to one of our senses, our heart slows down, adrenaline and cortisol gets lower, our oxygen increases and our mind gets clear.
“You can practise at a bus stop or wherever. Start by being aware of your feet on the ground or your breathing; then automatically the anxiety starts to subside. They can see that in brain scans.”
Lack of curiosity
Wax is amazed that we all aren’t more curious about how the mind functions. “Why aren’t people interested in their brain? I don’t understand why in 2013 they are still asking me what star sign I am, or there’s a book on your inner angel – how can that happen? How is it possible? It’s unbelievable to me.”
She is adamant that her book is not just for the depressed. “I am one of the one in four who have mentally unravelled; this book is for the four in four.
“Everybody has critical voices, there is nobody with voices that say ‘what a wonderful thing you are doing to humanity,’ or ‘you are so attractive’. Nobody has that so I wanted to know why.”
With what she calls an “endless tape” in our heads saying, “Don’t do that . . . why didn’t you . . . you should have . . .” she says we “whip ourselves to keep moving like an old horse, until we fall down exhausted”.
The book pokes fun at our obsession with making heroes of the busy too. “We hold those who are on the tightest schedules in reverence, the busier you are, the higher your status as a human being. We have sped ourselves up to such a frenzy of things to do that we make ourselves ill, just to avoid having to look inside and see that we might not have any point at all.” Wax says life should be about celebrating the wisest, not the busiest or richest.
So has the book transformed how she feels about herself?
“Well no, I still know I can hear, ‘you are going to be a failure, this book is going to go down the tubes’. I can still hear it, but I may at some points in the day now not buy into it.”
Sane New World: Taming the Mind is published by Hodder & Stoughton