Bibliotherapy: The Healing Power of Books
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin, American author (1924-1987)
People all over the world use books as a therapy to briefly get away from reality, have a good belly laugh and get a good night’s sleep. Reading is also a recognized therapy for those struggling with mental health issues as a low-cost cure. Therapy conducted through literature, also called bibliotherapy, dates back to ancient Egypt. King Ramses II of Egypt had a “House of Healing for the Soul,” a special chamber of books that he used. Aristotle also believed in the effect books have on the mind and talked about how it can be used as therapy. In the nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud incorporated literature into his psychoanalysis practice. It wasn’t until 1916 did the term “bibliotherapy” come about. Samuel Crothers, an American minister, using Greek words to define the term described bibliotherapy as, ‘process in which specific literature, both fiction and nonfiction, was prescribed as medicine for a variety of ailments.’
We’ve all felt anger, heartbroken, and sad at some point in our life. Keep reading to see why some of the greatest minds in history believed in the healing power of books.
Mental health issues treated with bibliotherapy
Bibliotherapy is sometimes not taken seriously, but for those struggling with their mental health, it can be a starting point. In a conversation with the Huffington Post, Dr. Hoi Cheu, a humanities professor at Laurentian University, describes the basic mechanics behind bibliotherapy. “Our brain is a network — it connects everything. If you know how, you can overcome a lot of pain by Buddhist meditation, for example. Books can do similar things … but mostly for the mind.” Bibliotherapy isn’t a cure-all for all mental illnesses, but for many struggling with depression, anxiety, and stress, it can be helpful along with talking to someone.
Book recommendations for bibliotherapy
Depending on what you’re dealing with will determine what book will provide the right therapy. A broken heart? Read a book of poetry or a romance novel. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding is a fun, uplifting book that can cure a broken heart with laughter. A nonfiction piece can remind you that others have gone through what you’re going through, or maybe they had it worse. Angry for no reason at the world? After reading the rantings of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, you’ll see how being angry can get real old, real fast. The general idea is to find a book that goes along with what you’re currently dealing with. Funny books will bring anyone out of whatever funk they’re dealing with!
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