Thursday, 12 September 2013

What Bibliotherapy Means to Me

Another amazing vintage library ad from
Brain Pickings!
Bibliotherapy is a word I use a lot here on Tolstoy Therapy. However, it's important to note that I didn't even know the word existed when I first started the blog in June 2012. My blog originated primarily as a way for me to share my thoughts on books, but I also wanted to use it as a way to gather my thoughts on how literature has affected me.

    I wrote my first post shortly after finishing my first year of university, which in itself had been a difficult time for me. I was coming to terms with my PTSD, and I wasn't quite sure what direction I was going in. Keeping this blog, and connecting with all of you lovely enough to read it, made such a difference on my attitude towards myself, my past, and my goals.

    "Tolstoy Therapy" meant the same to me back then as I'd define "bibliotherapy" now: the use of literature, in this case Tolstoy's, to help me through difficult situations, feelings and thought-processes and to allow me to appreciate the beauty of words and skilled writing.

    I would define bibliotherapy as...

    • A sure-fire way to get to know yourself
    • One of the easiest ways to relate to others when you feel isolated
    • Something that allows you to be inspired by others...
    • Yet to also learn from their mistakes
    • The result of reclining on a sun lounger with a trashy novel
    • Or, sitting in a well-supported reading chair and learning from history's finest minds
    • A process highly linked to that incredible feeling of reading the last paragraph of a great book
    • The simple way you can be changed by words next to words on paper
    • The consequence of challenging, beautiful or iconic lives documented in text
    • A perpetual legacy that authors can share long after their passing
    • Something that must be accompanied by a good cup of tea
    • Not always a relaxing or welcome process, but one that is sometimes harsh and uncomfortable
    • A way to get your thinking back on track when you feel anxious or upset
    • Often born in a good bookshop
    • A lifelong companion and provider of guidance to all those who welcome it
    • Open entirely to interpretation.

    For me, a book can be therapeutic if you want it to be. If you need it to be, a book can guide you
    through any number of situations. Bibliotherapy is all about the relationship between reader and author, and I don't believe it's necessarily something that needs to be classified or named. 

    You know when you've found it, as you'll want to read everything else by the author, create the perfect reading nook, and spend all your money on novels. If you tailor-fit your reading material to your situation in life, your literary tastes and your feelings, you'll also find yourself changing far more than you thought possible. You may attribute this to more time spent in the gym or a blossoming relationship, but it might just be that amazing book you read on the train.

    “There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

    Like more of the same? Subscribe to the Tolstoy Therapy Newsletter and receive a round-up of the week's articles every Sunday to enjoy with your coffee. Click here to subscribe.


    Brian Joseph said...

    I love this post Lucy!

    All your points ring very true. In particular “Not always a
    relaxing or welcome process, but one that is sometimes harsh and uncomfortable” is something that many folks likely miss out upon but it is an important component to what I would call balanced reading.

    Those adds that you posted are indeed fantastic!

    Rivorniel Tinubelin said...

    Your posts are always so elegantly written :) I admit I am a bit envious, since my thoughts tend to ramble around a lot... I really like this idea of therapeutic literature, before I visited your blog I actually didn't give it so much thought.

    Steph said...

    I love this! You've broadened the definition of bibliotherapy in a wonderful way.

    tolstoytherapy said...

    Thanks Steph, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it!

    tolstoytherapy said...

    Thanks, Riv! I never really gave therapeutic literature much thought as a concept before starting my blog either, to be honest. I'm so glad I've learnt so much more about it since though.

    And I always enjoying hearing your thoughts, rambling or otherwise!

    tolstoytherapy said...

    Thanks, Brian. I'm glad you liked the post and that you agree with my point about balanced reading (and thanks for putting it so succinctly!) Over the last few years I've really come to realise that not all literature makes you feel good about yourself, but rather some texts help you to question and consider your own life from a much harsher, cutting perspective.

    melissa vizcarra said...

    I love this post, Lucy! I just suddenly realized than even though I already knew books were part of the way I deal with life, it is pretty much the very best therapy I've ever had. Your definition of bibliotherapy and everything that comes with it made me see that my sanity has a lot to do with my reading, haha.

    Wimsey Films said...

    Just happend upon your blog and I love it! You put into words just way I feel about books and reading and life. Thanks!

    tolstoytherapy said...

    Thanks so much, Wimsey Films! I'm so glad you've found the blog useful and something you can relate to :) I look forward to more of your comments!

    Happy reading :)

    tolstoytherapy said...

    Thanks Melissa! I feel exactly the same way - I never really realised how much they helped me (and how much I relied on them) until starting this blog and thinking about it more! Hope you're well :) x

    Elena said...

    So true! Like many other things in life, it's inside us to find them. You just have to look for them and, in a way, have faith.

    tolstoytherapy said...

    Thank you, Elena, you're so right!

    I hope your projects are going well - I'll keep an eye on your Twitter for any developments, that's for sure!

    Happy reading,