Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Self-Help Books

So, Really, What Is Bibliotherapy?


I’ve published two previous articles about bibliotherapy:

#Books and Your #MentalHealth

and

Can Fiction Really Be Good for What Ails You?

My Oxford dictionary defines “bibliotherapy” as:

“the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders.”

The other day, I discovered this article on the site, The MillionsBooks Should Send Us Into Therapy: On The Paradox of Bibliotherapy by James McWilliams, writer and historian.

This particular excerpt jumped right out at me:

“If we concede that books can be therapeutic, then it seems appropriate to explore the potential pitfalls of asking literature to serve that cause. Of initial concern is the inherent presumptuousness of the endeavor.”

Yet, a bit earlier, when introducing a few links to influential articles about bibliotherapy, James said:

“The concept of bibliotherapy — a word coined in 1916 — long teetered on the edge of trendiness. But lately it has tilted toward truth.”

And, a bit later, he has this to say about novels as therapy:

“They aren’t narrative prescriptions. Even when done badly, novels are artistic expressions necessarily unmoored from reality, expressions that ultimately depend on idiosyncratic characters who act, think, and feel, thereby becoming emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, and even physically embodied — quite differently — in every reader’s mind.”

Then follows commentary on a few of the previously offered links and a brief exploration of how bibliotherapy can veer into self-help…

Then, James deals with the “darkness” of literature and how bibliotherapy can’t really deal with it…

Mr. McWilliams begins his summary with:

“The good news for bibliotherapy is that there are too many hardcore fiction readers who know all too well that concerted reading enhances the quality of their lives. A single book might destabilize, tottering you into emotional turmoil. But books — collectively consumed through the steady focus of serious reading — undoubtedly have for many readers a comforting, even therapeutic, effect.”

This is, imho, an excellent article.

I hope you’ll go read it and, perhaps, come back and leave a comment :-)
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#Books and Your #MentalHealth


Should we talk to a psychologist whenever we’re haunted or challenged by mental provocations?

Bibliotherapy

Image Courtesy of Johanna Ljungblom ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/SheCat-53642

And, should we wait—keep plodding through a complicated life—till mental or emotional issues become full-blown mental health crises?

What if we could just find the right books to read?

And, what if they weren’t “self-help” or psychology books?

Back in March, I wrote the article, Can Fiction Really Be Good for What Ails You?

Here are just a few brief excerpts:

“You wouldn’t have a hard time convincing an avid reader that books are tools for life (not just escapist entertainment or exercises in abstract thought).”

“…that’s the thing about reading. Fiction has the benefit of allowing you to momentarily bypass the overwhelming burden of the self. It’s not about you. And yet it is.”

What’s being talked about in that article is Bibliotherapy—the Curative Power of Books.

What might trouble a few folks is that people set up bibliotherapy practices—what if they prescribe exactly the Wrong books?

Some complain about librarians acting as bibliotherapists.

In an article on a site maintained by workers at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh—Bibliotherapy and Me—this quote from the American Library Association is shared:

“The use of books selected on the basis of content in a planned reading program designed to facilitate the recovery of patients suffering from mental illness or emotional disturbance. Ideally, the process occurs in three phases: personal identification of the reader with a particular character in the recommended work, resulting in psychological catharsis, which leads to rational insight concerning the relevance of the solution suggested in the text to the reader’s own experience…”

The article also links to a listing of books related to bibliotherapy in their library

So, since I’m a person who’s learned to be wary of doctors (of the body or the mind) and cautious of folks who act like doctors, I thought I’d share links to those books (Not every book in their list—just the ones I feel an individual might use for themselves or their family…) so you could check them out (in a library if your book budget is broke…) and perhaps apply this therapeutic technique to potential mental/emotional difficulties affecting your life

Biblio-Poetry Therapy : The Interactive Process : A Handbook

Reading to Heal : How to Use Bibliotherapy to Improve Your Life

The Novel Cure : From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You

After the Crisis : Using Storybooks to Help Children Cope

Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Abuse Issues

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The Tortured Artist and A World Gone Mad . . .


It’s been said that to be insane in an insane world is the height of sanity

I used to believe that—back in my twenties

I’m now 67—survivor of three attempts at suicide, 11 months of hellacious medical treatment for Hepatitis C, and being involved in many extremely risky ventures.

I’m also still a survivor in a world gone mad

Today, I believe that to be insane in an insane world is a living hell.

This is a good point to give a link to a post with a video of Elizabeth Gilbert—Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?

Now, I’ll introduce a highly celebrated writer—David Foster Wallace—who once said, “I want to convince you that irony, poker-faced silence, and fear of ridicule are distinctive of those features of contemporary U.S. culture (of which cutting-edge fiction is a part) that enjoy any significant relation to the television whose weird pretty hand has my generation by the throat. I’m going to argue that irony and ridicule are entertaining and effective, and that at the same time they are agents of a great despair and stasis in U.S. culture, and that for aspiring fictionists they pose terrifically vexing problems.”

I contend that what Wallace attributes to a U.S. culture is now well-woven into many countries’ cultures

Despair

Stasis

Terminal culture-shock—numbed by the pressure of rampant materialism

Sadly, many writers attempt to create from this tragic space.

Wallace did.

Two excerpts from an article in The AwlInside David Foster Wallace’s Private Self-Help Library:

“Wallace seemed always to be trying to erase the distance between himself and others in order to understand them better, and trying visibly to make himself understood—always asking questions, demanding to know more details. He owned his own weaknesses willingly and in the gentlest, most inclusive manner. Also he talked a lot about the role of good fiction, which, he opined more than once, is about making us feel less alone. He offered a lot of himself to his readers, in all his writing; this generosity seemed like his whole project, in a way.”

“But those who followed his career at all closely always knew that there was another, darker part to his nature. A secret part. Wallace was fairly well known to have been very ill, to have been hospitalized more than once for depression, to have attempted suicide, and to have been in recovery for addiction to alcohol and drugs.”

Now, a quote from the commencement address he gave to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005, three years before he succeeded in committing suicide:

“…most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.”

Wallace lost in his battle with the Culture—he hanged himself—yet he left behind much to ponder


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