Literature can be a valuable tool for healing as it offers an emotional outlet to the reader and opens a door to discover the inner world, as well as giving the option to view things from multiple perspectives. These are just some ways in which literature can be used to support the healing process:
- CATHARSIS: Reading literature can be a cathartic experience in which readers can understand, identify, and connect with characters who undergo similar experiences. This shared experience can help readers feel validated and less alone.
- MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING: Reading can help to alleviate feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Literature is known to offer a form of escapism, which allows the reader to disconnect from reality for a short time; this can be an important temporary respite from challenging emotional issues.
- ENCOURAGING SELF-REFLECTION: A good book can offer life-lessons and challenge the reader to consider their beliefs and values. This reflection can encourage self-awareness and personal growth.
- IMPROVING EMPATHY: Stories, characters, and fictional worlds can help the reader to step outside of their personal experiences and understand other perspectives and alternative experiences. This crucial aspect of emotional intelligence is a building block of empathy.
- STRENGTHENING RESILIENCE: Literature can help to strengthen resilience by providing the reader with an example of characters and their struggles. Seeing how characters navigate their challenges and overcome obstacles may encourage the reader to face adversity with perseverance and fortitude.
These are just a few good reasons to consider literature as a tool which can help emotional healing. Obviously, subject matter is a vital part of the choosing process, but relevant literature can provide an emotional outlet and significantly improve mental and emotional well-being. The relatability and beauty of literature provides a reliable and empathetic portrayal of life, and a source of motivation and inspiration. In providing access to multiple viewpoints and experience, books can encourage us to change those outdated opinions which we all tend to hold on to. If you are looking for some much-needed solace, literature can be a soothing way to feed the soul.
There are so many books which have provided me with emotional support at difficult times. I will list a few purely because of their importance to me, but literature resonates differently for each individual so my list is simply what worked for me.
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach: Teaches you to go beyond your assumed limits.
- The Myth of Sisiyphus by Albert Camus: An important exploration of the human need to have hope.
- The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer: A powerful way to deal with a destructive inner voice.
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne: Simple life lessons from a very wise, unassuming bear.
- White Noise by Don DeLillo: A funny, relevant novel which exposes the shallowness of modern life.
- This Messy Magnificent Life by Geneen Roth: A poignant example of why we try to fix what isn’t broken.
- The Essential Rumi: Any work by Persian poet Rumi will resonate deeply with lost souls.