The power of words
Have you read a book lately? Did the words jump out from the page, make you cry, shock or scare you? Heartbreak, humour, fear or murder. For most, a book is therapy, a bond, a relationship which is a stimulant, a sedative, soporific or even an irritant.
The heart-wrenching war-time narrative of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, the hilarious romances detailed in Bridget Jones’ Diary, the mind games of solitary confinement scripted in An Evil Cradling, all manuscripts of contrasting subjects that have left lasting impressions, provided life-like characters and inside knowledge to convey different perspectives on life.
Books bring meaning into our lives. Characters come alive, they have personality. Bridget Jones’ Diary brought her life’s obstacles and challenges to our pages and made them real. Failed relationships, a calorie diary, a diet of chocolate and the embarrassment of over-sized pants had us giggling, laughing and crying. We sympathised over her love life, followed her energetic career as a journalist, the single woman, alone and hurting, ambitious yet open to honesty about her life’s trials and tribulations.
There are some books that have a significant influence and can be life-changing. The Evil Cradling revealed the haunting experience in captivity. The Irish journalist, Brian Keenan, was kidnapped by Islamic Jihad in 1986 and held for just over four years. During this testing time he wass blindfolded and chained by hand and foot. His powerful book is an outpouring of raw, soul-searching and honest narrative of confinement. It exposes his interpretation of life from within his head rather than within his cell. The words speak of a version of reality saturated with a strong determination to live and a therapy to strengthen mental agility.
A book can be searching, alarming, addictive and scary, a book such as The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The reality of horror from true experiences brings to life the pain of others, the hope and faith in humanity. The novel leads us into the heart of the concentration camps as a tattooist who was forced to carve numbers on fellow detainees using a painful procedure. We feel the sadness, the hurt and despair, bringing us to tears for the past acts of violence and tears of joy for the heroic deeds of others. A compelling heart-wrenching work which internalises grief through words from the soul.
The power of words has filtered into different aspects of our life. Based upon a genuine interest for the written word, book clubs bring friends together and form a community for others to meet new people with this shared interest. Book clubs are used in prisons as literature courses and reading circles for the elderly who suffer from dementia.
From words to film and screen
The success and popularity of novels have led to the cinema screen and to our televisions. But our individual translation from the books we have devoured can affect our personal visualisation of the characters described from the pages. Film adaptations either enhance or shatter our version when translated and transformed onto the screen.
Book to movie adaptations:
The Kite Runner
To Kill a Mockingbird
Murder on the Orient Express
A Game of Thrones
Book to television series
The Handmaidens Tale
His Dark Materials
The Trials of Christine Keeler
So, the word is out – words matter! The power of words encased in books and written on every subject bring energy and truth, fiction and characters from its pages into our own lives. Reading is good for our mental health and relationship with others. It opens our mind to new subjects out of our grasp or the capacity to experience ourselves. From global destinations to crime, books bring the experience to us. They transport us to another place and comfort us at home, curled up as our companion.
The Novel Cure – an A-Z of Literary Remedies. This is a recommended handbook full of literary solutions to life’s challenges.
For other therapies to relieve stress, read here
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Bibliotherapy is a very broad term for the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect. It establishes a relationship which shares experiential knowledge between the reader and the character and a form of escapism from the ordinary and from pressures of everyday life. A book resonates with individual experience and held beliefs.
The Scientific theory:
From a 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology, it was found that when people read about an experience they display stimulation. People draw on the same brain networks when we are reading stories as when we are trying to guess at another person’s feelings. Mirror neurons fuel our brains when we perform an action such as reading and when we read an action performed by others. This is known as the neuroscience of empathy.
Literary art echoes the belief that writers and readers are friends and can rehearse the interactions with others. There is no forced sociability.
The definition of bibliotherapy
The creative arts includes Bibliotherapy, a term given to poetry therapy or therapeutic storytelling with the main aim for healing. It involves an individual’s relationship with a book’s contents. The term is not confined to reading, it relates to writing too.
Jane Wilson is editor of Thehealthcareholiday.com and TheWellnessTraveller.co.uk