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Let’s Disclose Violence II

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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 KRUGAVOJVODINA 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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