Let’s Disclose Violence II

Category: Publishing EN

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/Obrazovni rad/ Trainings & Education

Introductory Workshop on Book Therapy

Tell me what your are reading and I’ll tell you who you are…

… what you are like, how do you feel, what engages you, what is the way of your thinking, what are (not) your interests… Is it really a therapy or just a trick? How can books help and whom? Those unread can hardly be of any use, whereas home reading is an excellent reading repellent.

At our first book therapy session some notions shook off the dust from the dictionaries they are normally dwelling in and appeared before us in their (fairly) clear meaning:

BOOK THERAPY (or BIBLIOTHERAPY) – Therapy by books (straight /in/to your head); healing by reading; when a certain book coincides with a proper reader concerning just the right topic (issue and a chance for its resolution); interaction with the text; disclosing yourself by identification with a (like) literary character.

Book therapy as a (supplementary) method has a long history. Libraries of ancient peoples used to be marked as places of healing of souls. In ancient times, mythical stories and fairly-tales used to be told with an initiation function – an introduction into a new phase of life with its challenges and tasks (more easily manageable with a fairy-tale for a manual). In times of war, people noticed that soldiers who read recovered sooner that those not engaging in books. Contemporary research indicate that six minutes of reading – any reading? – reduces stress.

An illegible book, one we used to resist, might open up to us as a light and necessary text at some other time. What do reading habits depend on (at certain times) is a complex matter. The factors are many: like-mindedness of your sensibility to that of the writer, emotional structure, dominant mood, current life lesson we are working on (or keep avoiding it)… We can read ourselves (out) from a book (interpret ourselves through a literary meeting with another person). Reading a (well-chosen) book can take you into certain states (thereby not implying popular self-help books offering 101 ways who to read yourself to happiness). Literature (as well as other forms of art) is more intensive than any reality, so going through the literary world we acquire a certain kind of immunity to the reality we are living in; the reading experience equips us to outgrow our own problems. That is (supposed to be) the function of art…

Though seemingly completely passive, as an action demanding hours of peace and solitude (resembling a time of sick leave, indeed) reading is an (inter)active and creative act – we keep writing scribbling our impressions and interpretations on the margins, we build in parts of our own experience, our perception shapes the story… We have travelled without moving a muscle and discovered a part of ourselves – the therapy is a success. On the other hand, reading seems to be a tempting escape from reality. Book is a compensation for the world we are not satisfied with (and thereby we are distancing ourselves from our own selves, too). According to Freudian interpretation, if an artist/writer is a neurotic applying therapy to himself by writing, are not books contagious in such cases? They may have an effect of a wrong medication… Some books (and genres) have a lethal reputation. Just like, for instance, Don Quixote lost his mind (or conceived a sensory integration disorder) from (excessive) reading of picaresque novels. Some monks in our culture became anorexic (or sick from other eating disorders) due to reading saints biographies (too early for their age). (Dositej Obradović is a witness to that.) The Sorrows of Young Werther, acc. to chroniclers’ accounts, have significantly increased the incidence of suicide with the then youth. (Therapy successful, patient lost.)

All of this (and more, driven by association and digression) was the discussion topic of the first BOOK THERAPY workshop held on Friday, 6 February in the …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA organization. The moderator, Aleksandar Mrđen, PhD, presented us with a working concept based primarily on making readers’ compilations on certain topics, involving the readers’ experience collage method, making (urgent) reading lists, discovering intersections of emotional states and (needed) books…

His recommendations of books for certain feelings or mood are the following:

Tiredness – Naïve Artists of the World – An Anthology

Nervousness – Besede by Matija Bećković

Lethargy – The Book of Wisdom by Osho

Sorow – Myths & Legends of the World by Wilkinson

Joy – Dnevnik o Čarnojeviću by Miloš Crnjanski

Curiosity – Essays by Michel de Montaigne

Loneliness – Fires by Marguerite Yourcenar

Nostalgy – Oproštajni dan by Vladimir Tasić

Idecisiveness – Pan by Knut Hamsun

Shyness – Voices by Antonio Porkia

Inspired by this list, do examine your reading history and try your own variation to this topic… For instance… Hesse’s novel Under a Point is guaranteed to cure perfectionism (causes sobriety), while the (great) Folk Cookery Book (should) cure laziness.

The following BOOK THERAPY workshop is schedulef for Friday, 13 February at 16 h. We will deal with the Hamlet’s dilemma (to read, or not to read; or to read it all over again). It is still not too late to join us, let us know whether you will attend to office@izkrugavojvodina.org.

Meanwhile, find out more about applications of book therapy (in a school library): http://www.citaliste.rs/casopis/br23/mitrovic_jelena.pdf.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers a book therapy list that could provide additional support to children in accepting and creating a positive image of various disabilities.

Marijana Čanak

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