Author: Dimitra Paraschou
Psychologist – Psychotherapist
Translation: Evelina Koutsikopoulou
“A room with no books is like a body without soul”
Marcus Tullius Cicero (Roman philosopher)
A good book can takes us to its world, travel us to a different reality, in which, sometimes, we find similarities with our own. Description drives us into a sequence of events where we become witnesses if every second, breath bated. Many times, we identify with the main heroes, who unconsciously become part of us. It is as if we experience with them the adventures, the concerns and the joy that (we wish to) comes at the end. Reading a good book seems like an internal cleansing process, since the reader, along with the hero or the heroine, goes through various psychological thresholds until reaching the end of the adventure.
Thanks to psychological influence of books, the priest and writer, Samuel McChord Crothers in 1916 officially formulated the idea of “Bibliotherapy”. He believed that reading books can help someone feel better and get new ideas on the world and life itself. Within a few years, educational programs made their appearance in the USA and UK, usually associated with medical schools and hospitals. Since then, bibliotherapy was expanded all over the world, with books being considered useful in examining, explaining and understanding, through the stories they narrate, conditions such as depression, anxiety, mourning and shock,
Even though it is equally healing to see a movie or watch a play, when reading a book, our brains need to actively supplement missing or artfully concealed cues. One’s imagination can create more and complex details or even focus on things that someone else would not necessarily notice. That has been demonstrated through differences in activated brain regions between readers, besides the essential brain regions relating to reading. What makes bibliotherapy so special is that anyone can imagine things, be healed and change in his own way, through a book. The reader has the time to absorb the details of the story, assimilate them with no haste, in his own personality or subjective circumstances, over time. After all, we can read a good book over and over again, and each time we focus on something different, depending on what we need at that very moment.
Each book is in essence a unique “medicine” for each one of us. It affects our inner world and through the its heroes, it comes to show us, parts of ourselves, known and unknown. A book can be relaxing or bring back memories. A book is a potential healer, but also a friend who holds our hand and takes us on a journey. It makes us learn and eventually changes us, one page at a time.
Crothers, S. “A Literary Clinic“, The Atlantic Monthly, Vol.118, No.3, (September 1916), pp. 291–301
Joshua, J. M., & DiMenna, D. (2008). Read Two Books and Let’s Talk Next Week: Using Bibliotherapy in Clinical Practice. New Jersey: Wiley