How reading stories can save your life.

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

How reading combined with coaching, can help you be the best character in the greatest story ever told.

Why would you pay someone for Bibliotherapy, or more simply book coaching? Surely you can choose your own books. Of course with the plethora of choice, and time-limited nature of our lives, choosing the books has becoming increasingly difficult. Sometimes it helps to have a helping hand.

A book coach is not a teacher, and yet you can learn a lot. You not only learn about literature, you also get to passionately share and discuss why it matters. In the classroom the question's academic: Books are important because they reveal timeless human truths. However, in book therapy it's personal. Why does this particular book matter to you? Does it give you strength, courage, inspiration? Does it help you solve complex problems, or perform tasks more effectively? Does it make you feel less alone? Elucidating the reasons can be quite complex, but if you know why books matter, your own story can change completely.

1/ Books build character

It's called Modelling, and it is the means by which people learn by imitation rather than instruction. Books lend themselves quite naturally to this approach, and by observing fictional characters we can, if we like, imitate them. We copy what's helpful and ignore what's not. We solve complicated problems, and perform tasks by watching others. So whether we go on a journey like Don Quixote, or become a magician like Faust, imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

2/ Books help us become mind-readers.

Reading stories helps us 'mentalise' more effectively. Mentalisation is a scientific word used to describe a person's capacity to infer, or even imagine the thoughts, feelings and motivations of ourselves and others by their observable behaviour. Sometimes if we've suffered trauma or adversity, we lose the capacity to mentalise. Books can help us recover it. Through stories, we see how and why characters act they way they do; and in turn we also reconnect with our own selves and other people. The recovery of mentalisation means better relationships, and emotional freedom.

3/ Books are instructive.

As the old saying goes 'knowledge is power.' However it is the implementation of knowledge which truly counts. When we read books we not only learn facts, we also learn why they matter. The meaning behind such trivia is what drives strategy and innovation. So whether it's Sun Tzu or Marcus Aurelius, Lao Tzu or Buddha, pick up an instruction manual and learn how to live.

4/ Books bring us home.

Of course every good book means escaping to faraway places. As the great Herman Melville once said, 'where we are going we don't need maps.' However, books also give us a reason to travel back home. What do we mean by this? In postmodern world of fabrication, reading fiction paradoxically reveals the truth. We see once and for all that life is complex. That it's not just about happiness; alongside positive emotions of joy and contentment, there is also fear and anxiety. Knowing that life is complicated is very validating. We return to the fundamentals, and in doing so return home, back to the truth. Everything is teaching us, but by reading stories, our own 'storied self' comes it being. After travelling far, we inevitably come back to where we belong.

As a resilience coach, I encourage reading, because it can help you attain all of the above. Beyond that, the meaning of any individual work of literature, is up to you; and yet the books you choose (or rather the books which choose you) do contain lessons. In the imitate relationship between you and the text, a path is formed leading to self-discovery.

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