Jul 4, 2015

HELEN GAYNOR: Healing, Inspiring, Empowering: How Literary Therapy Transforms the Soul

(The following article contains conclusions and opinion of the author, and not necessarily that of the owner of this blog.)

This is an article submitted by Helen Gaynor:

Healing, Inspiring, Empowering: How Literary Therapy Transforms the Soul
We sit down, and open the pages of a well-loved book. From the first sentence, we are transported into a world where our senses are set on a heightened sense of awareness; our hearts and minds are instantly engaged, and soon this brave new world we are venturing into will become our universe in concept and absorb our psyche as we journey with our protagonists. Literature, popular fiction, non-fiction, poetry – our interconnectedness with the writing world is so intimate and infinite that books will always be a ritual from which we never part. But it’s not just about providing a pleasurable escape, a leisurely pastime, or even the inciter of revolutions and testament to manifestos – literature guides us in so many ways, and is often the door through which we travel in order to gain a greater understanding of ourselves. For what greater medium of expression of the very thing which makes us human is there than art?

We find ourselves unconsciously unraveling our own psychological experiences when we turn to books. Our protagonists disclose an overwhelmingly personal experience and as we travel with them, we too undergo revelations, pain, beauty, loss, rebirth. And perhaps this is why an art form as fluid as poetry in particular is such an ideal medium – as well as great writing – for literary therapy, or what is also known as bibliotherapy.

The Power of the Written Word
Used as a holistic, psychoanalytic, and cognitive form of therapy, bibliotherapy entails the use of books to help individuals work through particular mental and physical challenges like anxiety, depression, and PTSD by accessing a “safe” world through which they can express their struggles as well as find resolution within the text itself, and help specialists to identify particular problems. This can be used as a stand-alone therapy, but is also extremely effective in accompaniment with other treatments by helping individuals to work through their emotions and develop coping techniques, as well as provide a safe outlet which can be accessed infinitely.

Literature is a very unique outlet where we confide in ourselves. The malleability of words and their connotations release them from their inhibitions which is why novels, short fiction and poetry in particular are more “accessible” to people who struggle to express their emotions with more conventional word use. We explore words, we explore ourselves – without the confines of definition. Because of this, we can use bibliotherapy as a means to help understand and work through our emotions by reading and opening up a safe, inclusive discussion, and we can also harness the power of creativity itself and release ourselves through writing. The process of writing itself – one which has the potential to become a remarkable catharsis – is how many writers have burst through their own psychological cocoons and emerged, raw and beautiful, into a fresh new world ready to bear the light.

The Resonance of the Spoken Song
We can even venture further and give our voices a stronger appeal – poetry slams are powerful gatherings where social change takes place alongside personal epiphanies and experiences of pain and beauty. Performance poetry is bare, exposed, and it makes us vulnerable, and our experiences all the more poignant. And just as importantly, it opens up the floor for dialogue. When we have a safe environment to share our emotions with others and talk about them, then we have the chance to move through with recovery. And this is why creative communities are so vital – whether it’s online forums dealing exclusively with mental challenges, or expressive therapy venues themselves. We find like-minded people with diverse experiences, we forge friendships, we have a chance to speak, and we are supported as well as given the chance to show support for others. It’s this sense of community where individuals find solidarity with one another, whether it’s about confronting issues of abuse, race, religion, sexuality, the environment, and more.

While Indiana’s own poetry slam scene is not as emergent as it was a few years ago, it still retains a strong community within the greater arts spectrum with organizations such as VOCAB promoting great events throughout the region. And Indiana’s community for literature and therapy is building – from offering comprehensive literary programs to encouraging discussion about literature’s capacity as a therapeutic tool itself. Indiana – already heralded on the map as one of the most esteemed destinations when it comes to creative writing – is a great place to re-engage with this discussion.

Of course, it is difficult to argue against literature as therapy. From that integral moment when we open a book, our minds have already begun to transform. We have already begun to release ourselves, to lose ourselves in the wonders, the contours, the echoes and colors of words and meter, of how they dance and come to life, and how this beautiful new song resounds in our own hearts.

No comments:

Post a Comment