Literature and Mental Health

Pushkin day, the birthday of the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who is considered to be the founder of modern Russian literary language, revived my memory.

About five years ago I took a course called Literature and Mental Health, I wanted to better understand how bibliotherapy works.  I learned that through reading poetry, specific metrical stresses, rhymes, can help us cope with our emotional stress.  And that Sidney’s sonnets and Austen’s Sense and Sensibility can teach us about suffering and recovering from a broken heart. And Shakespeare’s Hamlet and poems by Wordsworth and Hardy can help us think differently about the grieving process. And PTSD, which is depicted in war poetry, can give an insight into other sources of trauma.  And that people choose particular texts during periods of depression, and that there could be a link between bipolar disorder and creativity.  And that Shakespeare’s King Lear is one of the greatest studies of ageing and that it might be helpful to think about this play in the context of dementia.

Bibliotherapy can be helpful because sometimes we need someone to put words to our experience, to what we feel.  By reading someone’s story, observation, reflection or emotional process we can make sense of our own situation and feelings. It can help us to self-reflect.  However, which material will bring relief or insight is subjective.  But the process of searching for the right words, in itself, can give a different perspective and a different angle to look at our experiences.

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