HEALING BY READING AND WRITING
Cliff Gogh Publications
Copyright © 2016 Cliff Gogh. All rights reserved.
Let this word dazzle your mind: bibliotherapy. It’s a gorgeous word in itself, like that other remarkable word, bibliophilia, or the more archaic version of bibliophilia which has even more of the romantic in it: bibliomania.
It’s a form of self-help and self-analysis by means of reading and writing. In other words, it encompasses both reading therapy and writing therapy.
I’ve been practicing it for the length of my life, on late nights alone when all the world is only in my mind, when writing seems to open up the unimaginable, the unreal, sometimes the terrifying, the painful, even the broken in myself.
Bibliotherapy is the most natural form of self-work for bibliophiles.
To do it as a writer, simply reveal to yourself in words anything that arises in your mind, any problems, feelings, or thoughts, anything you need to contemplate. Write about pain, write about despair, write without reservation or repression, but finish the process with words that heal.
To do it as a reader, dig into self-help books, preferably those written by authors who are revealing their deepest selves to themselves, who are contemplating their psychological depths in words that heal.
Writing involves the building blocks of mental landscapes, imagination, dreams, places only the mind can delve into, places so deep inside that they may be more real than reality.
Those who take their own confused mess and write to give courage to people in similar situations help those who need to be lifted from the pits.
The words become a meditation. They are a focusing, a coming to a deeper awareness of those mental landscapes.
In my case, I spend hours and hours for months on end writing books, sometimes all day and all night. It comes down to me helping myself. The results have been some of the most life changing, even fantastical, moments I’ve had, as if under a spell and the words I write constitute the annihilating discovery of my pure being.
Writing causes you to focus, to think deeply, to consider yourself intensely, to unravel things deep in yourself, sometimes so deep that, previous to examining them, you’d likely been unconscious of them.
I started writing an autobiography one night just to get things out in the air. I wrote about myself in my younger years, about my dealing with the difficulties of younger years: learning to cope, growing into manhood, and finally embracing life with a certain peace. I was able to dig in deep and analyze my personal history.
My life story, the whole of it, is a story about traveling from anxiety to peace through love, unconditional love, love for the being in myself and others, love for all people no matter what. While I wrote my life out, examining my fears and pains, the process became a hundred or so page volume, Beyond the Furthest Edge of Night, and it was like a salve to heal wounds, the whole process an uninterrupted binge of self-healing, an elaborate ritual in which I discovered the essential elements of myself, my inmost self.
I found the immense and the invisible, as if I’d unraveled a spool of thread until nothing was left to unravel and had discovered inside the blissed out singularity of the whole of life.
That’s how I practice bibliotherapy.
Books have always been a symbol to me of self-help and psychological growth. I turned to them first when seeking a better life and a means to repair my own. I view them now as the best method to move toward a good, useful, more pleasant, more satisfied life.
Books represent quite a lot: knowledge, understanding, efforts at personal and worldwide improvement. Books can be therapy for the world as a whole. It’s almost natural to become a bibliophile, because reading and writing lead to picking up ideas and methods that help one to survive, or to take a path into the dark woods by way of words and wisdom – and arrive on the other side with renewed vigor, composed of hope, an untangled identity, and consummated understanding.
All things considered, reading and writing books frees the mind. To do either is to go on an introspective journey, often into the deepest places. The subject matter doesn’t have to have a light mood, but might even involve a brooding philosophy; unpleasant feelings; an airing out of the dark, dusty rooms; getting into thought processes that deal with pain and brokenness in an effort to overcome them by looking directly at them.
The subject matter might be about anxiety, fear, depression, loneliness, self-doubt, a difficult past, painful recollections. It can be about digging into unpleasant feelings and thoughts, then healing them with deeper understanding.
Bibliotherapy can be viewed as a spiritual practice, like meditation or the activity of communing with the self. The perfect reason to do it is to set free the mind, to illuminate it, to make transparent the complexes and complexities of the psyche, which ultimately mends wounds and makes conscious the buried things that might otherwise cause a lingering malaise.
Bibliotherapy is self-work, self-analysis in writing for the sake of self-development, learning how to live a happier life by reading books that explain life, the good and the bad. In the best cases, the writing involves a personal history, sorrows and all, the ugly and the uncomfortable as well, or an unraveled psyche written out by a writer seeking to understand the most fundamental aspects of life.
I don’t often write about being happy. Most often, I write about how to survive the darker moods, the down time, the depression, the gray clouds. My goal isn’t to show happiness, but to stumble about and write down the worst feelings, the subterranean wretchedness, the bleak trenches, the inevitable and even necessary times of unhappiness.
When I write as bibliotherapy, I look at the many ways I’m not at peace. I write my way out of unhappiness by investigating the causes of my unhappiness, a transformation of suffering by forming it into self-knowledge.
In a sense, bibliotherapy can be a survival strategy, a means to discover what it is that causes pain and to contemplate it, until it’s understood so much that it vanishes on its own, until a brand new mind is made, a little bit of enlightenment occurs, and there’s an arrival at peace, tranquility even, the lasting sensation that something has been discovered, a new understanding, a comprehension of feelings, a deeper education on the complexities of being.
Understanding the intricacies of life in this way tends to lead toward freedom. Healing is possible. The desired result is, finally, to heal – partially at first, a little more later, more and more over time and with practice, and finally to understand so much that nothing remains in the way.