How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division – Book review

We live in a complex world. Some say that modern challenges for people, particularly the young are greater than they have ever been, others say that current generations never had to live through wars and rationing. The reality is, the pressures of the post-modern world are particular to the times and produce unique pressures that have an impact on people’s identity, morale, affiliations within society, emotional repertoire and mental health.

We live in a time of ever-increasing polarities as debate is stifled in favour of people adopting perspectives so crystalline, they can inhibit our ability to listen to one another. Modern technologies feed these polarities through the proliferation and garnering of opinion in a modern “like” culture of selective bias and group closure. There is a paradox that people have access to more information than ever yet this does not necessarily create wisdom, kindness or an ability to listen. The cumulative result is people’s narratives being unheard and unaddressed as they feel increasingly disempowered within political and social processes.

These issues are ably and eloquently explored by Elif Shafak in her new book: How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division. It addresses life in an uncertain Covid and post-Covid world. We live in an age of contagious anxiety in a constant state of overwhelm. How do we nurture ourselves and stay sane in an age where division is greater than it ever has been before whilst paradoxically opportunities for communication have never been as abundant?

This beautifully written, inexpensive book is only ninety pages long. Once begun, it is truly hard to put it down. It skilfully summarises many of the dilemmas that living in a post-modern world lays down for so many people, particularly the young.

The psychotherapist Irving Yalom described group processes as offering “universalisation”, a sense of not being alone in one’s experience. This book very much mirrors that process and encapsulates dilemmas many of us face in a world that is transitioning into one of ever-increasing complexity. Our future is not a simple one and yet this book simply states the many dilemmas we face and the need to embrace complexity as we seek solutions.

It is quite rare to read something in recent years that has been so chock-full with resonant and well-stated perspectives in just a few short pages. If humankind is to address the many dilemmas that exist that inhibit a sustainable future, but also one that is kinder and more humane, it will owe much to the debate fostered by authors such as this.

How to stay sane in an age of division by Elif Shafak, ISBN 9 781788165723, £4.99

Dr David Cliff is a leading-edge coach, business mentor and personal development specialist. He was awarded mentor of the year by the North East Entrepreneurs Forum in 2017 and has an office based in Houghton-le-Spring. Website: