Ruby Wax: How To Be Human – Review – Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
By Victoria Holdsworth, May 2019
So tonight is something a little bit different from the legendary Ruby Wax. The acidic tongue is still there, the sharp brain and quick wit, but I never thought I would see the day when I would be at a comedic-based lecture, learning about how to improve my mental wellbeing and life, from one of the Girls On Top, a Monk and a Neuroscientist.
Taking the stage to rapturous applause, Miss Wax looks ready for anything, and this tour, of course, corresponds with the release of her new book, How To Be Human.
So what is it all about? Opening your mind and understanding what it means to be a flawed human being, and accepting it. We learn how, from the very start of evolution, every emotion that anyone has ever had has somehow formed the society and world we live in today. So, what if you don’t want to think like everyone else? What if you could just change a few simple things in your thought process that could make you less of a worrier and less of a douchebag, or at least a little but happier. Well, Ruby has some pretty good ideas about how to go about it.
We start with Ruby at a lectern and a blank overhead projector, as she explains how she got to this moment on stage, and shares her own struggles and achievements with mental health, which is rather unique and touching. She goes back right to the start of evolution, taking in everything from thoughts and emotions, addiction and forgiveness, all wrapped up in her inimitable delivery style, which is helped all the more via the prop of the overhead projector screen, on which you can only see the red dotted pointer. We have to imagine the pictures she describes to us, which would have been up there, if the budget had allowed.
“Look at our minds”
Ruby explains to us concisely that our brains have two parts, the new larger section which is hardly filled, and this is fighting our primitive second brain’s thought process constantly, and therein lies the start of people’s issues. She tells us we will have addictions, we do have to be selfish in order to survive, we do have to have comparisons in life, but back in the cave age, we always knew everything we needed to know to get by.
It would appear that human beings experience great difficulty learning to adapt emotionally and navigating against the pressures and demands of modern everyday life. So along comes some additional help in the second half of the show, in the guises of renowned neuroscientist, Dr Ash Ranpura, and Buddhist monk Gelong Thubten.
After being told that we share 20% of our DNA with a banana, we’re then treated to the science and spiritual magic of our brains, which offers an intriguing insight into why we can sometimes get brain fry. We were asked to look at our minds closely to ask ourselves, can we solve our own problems?
Gelong explains that: “Once you understand your biology you understand why you do the things you do. If we can understand our thought processes and maybe even train ourselves to have different ones, our external life will change accordingly. It’s not only about solving particular problems, such as anxiety. That’s part of the picture but it’s more a journey of understanding who you are and why you react the way you do and seeing how to change that.”
“Empathy and compassion”
This was equally balanced with the science side from Ash by explaining: “If we can say that you are like this because of biology, it is not the end of the whole story. The biology can change through habit and through practice, which is a really empowering message, which happens to be extremely true.”
The advice given leads to the same message: Ultimately you have to start to learn to forgive yourself. Our Buddhist monk adds: “I used to be filled with self-loathing and I used to be one of these people who would beat myself up all the time for the way I am. Through learning these kind of techniques and this way of understanding, it’s helped me become a person who’s happier. It’s also given me tools through which I can help other people.”
The empathy and compassion shown tonight must have reached quite a few people, including myself, and has certainly given me lots to think about.
As Ruby says, you need to think of ways of updating your mind, and not your mobile phone or Facebook account…