What Bibliotherapy Means to Me

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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

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    It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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