Friday, May 31, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Carl Jung & Memory simple breakdown of levels

The psychologist and philosopher Carl Jung saw memorization as an active process that he divided into five distinct levels (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1967). The farther you go along his continuum, the easier it is to learn.

FIRST LEVEL: SENSORY ~ This is the most basic of the five levels, encompassing what you see and hear. If you walk into a classroom, sit down, spend the class daydreaming, or staring out the window, and then leave, you will probably have a tough time remembering. But if you engage your senses, use your eyes and ears, and get involved with the lecture and discussion, you have mastered this step.

SECOND LEVEL: MEMORIZATION ~ Repetition. It’s how we learn our new phone number or zip code. It’s how most of us learned material in grade school, junior high and high school. While you’ll still use this skill in college, you may find that it plays a smaller role in overall learning.

THIRD LEVEL: ANALYSIS ~ This is the level where real learning begins. You are starting to integrate new material with what you have learned previously. This is active learning, not passive memorization.

FOURTH LEVEL: JUDGMENT ~ Your opinion is the key here. Once you form an opinion on something you tend to learn it better and remember it longer. To form an opinion, you need to be an active learner (see Level Three), and you need to be willing to ask questions and be receptive to the ideas of others.

FIFTH LEVEL: INTUITION ~ This is the ultimate level, where learning becomes connected to your experience. This is the stage where you begin to make connections between things you learn in one class, and things you learn in another. You begin to see that everything connects, in some way. You begin to see the way “the big picture” looks! You have to work toward this level, but the reward is a lifelong appreciation of the very process of seeking knowledge.
(created by S.Crawford)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Project Itoh's HARMONY

P. 128

...the mesencephalon, the midbrain, the part that governs the feedback system in our processes the signals that motivate us to do things. Every action, no matter how small, has its associated reward...a range of feedback...that inspiresvus to repeat certain choices...creat(ing) a vast variety of motivating desire modules that compete for our attention. We call the act of choosing between these our will. ... Think of the desire modules we all carry around as the people in (a) meeting, trying to get their opinions heard. (Human will is not an all-discerning soul but rather the heated debate.) It's the process...of all your desires clamoring for attention... if the reward associated with a particular desire is slight, it reduces our will to act on that desire... it's the differences in reward levels that change our will, and it's all mapped out.


P. 12 an infinite capacity for taking pains.

P. 58

...genius is simply the bringing together of two hitherto distinct spheres of reference, or matrices--a talent for juxtapositions.

P. 59

The mind defends itself against the disintegrative process of creativity...if genius doesn't reign itself in...common people take action...we put all our geniuses in one kind or another of isolation ward, to escape being infected.

Monday, May 20, 2013

CENTO poems

Cento (poetry) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Perfect for bibliotherapy!
Who knew there was a name for it? I have been doing it spontaneously...
It encourages digestion of ideas.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bibliotherapy in Counseling Practice (powerpoint)

Bibliotherapy in Counseling Practice: Training Lecture


“One sheds one’s sicknesses in books —repeats and presents again one’s emotions, to be master of them.”
—D.H. Lawrence (The Letters of D.H Lawrence)
The idea that literature can provide solace, that it can help to ‘master’ the bleak places of the head and the heart and banish some of their wearying shadows, is nothing new: Plato believed that the arts were given to us by the muses to help us find harmony within ourselves, like a sort of handy creative auto-tune, and it is common enough to hear that someone’s grief was made a little bit more bearable by reading Tennyson, or that Meredith’s Modern Love offered solidarity in the middle of a divorce. The NHS have recently taken steps to solidify this notion, elevating it from a vague semi-universal truth to an almost medicinal level: bibliotherapy, the provision of services that quite literally prescribe certain literary works to patients suffering from afflictions like anxiety, stress and depression, has become increasingly ubiquitous, with almost every local healthcare authority in the UK now running versions. The schemes are, on the whole, experiencing a positive response, with most studies concluding that bibliotherapy is at least as effective as more acceptable modes of treating depression. Literature, then – or, more accurately, emotional engagement with literature – can clearly have a powerful effect on our mental health.
book books literature model reading 155268 BIBLIOTHERAPY, OR, CONSTRUCTING A LIFE OUT OF BOOKS
So far, so obvious; but if literature can strengthen our mental state and alter long-ingrained mental markings, the question really ought to be considered the other way round: does the literature we immerse ourselves in, particularly in our formative years, have the power to influence the way our patterns of behaviour and personalities actually form? Nick Hornby famously asked in High Fidelity “which came first, the music or the misery?” and this can be applied with just as much relevance to literature. Do we choose to read the things we do because we’re miserable (or argumentative, or content, or anything) or are we more likely to be these things because of what we have read? It is important here to clarify that by ‘reading’ I’m not talking about the huge variety of material that we casually consume every day, but the texts that we really engage with and invest in.
Being university educated in particular means you are likely to be surrounded by people whose heads are bursting with all the different representations of a human life that they have absorbed over the previous twenty-whatever years of their own lives, with the ones that have resonated the most remaining scored deeply into their minds. The echoes of this are unconscious, and leave an imprint on us as invisible and integral as our subconscious lives: even my own phrasing here echoes that of a book I loved intensely in my teenage years, Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song, with its talk of its protagonist’s first sexual fever as something that “scored her mind as a long drill scored the crumbling sods of a brown, still May,” an image that has embedded itself into my mind at some unobserved level and forever altered my perception of the verb “score.” Part of the reason for this could be that before we reach adulthood and have a fighting chance of actually experiencing something of the world, the most exciting emotional experiences offered to us are more likely to come from within the pages of a novel than the minutiae of a school day. This isn’t to say that the events of our actual
lives aren’t the key factors in our emotional development, but more that the sheer excitement of literary examples can shape the way you deal with the things that really do happen to you: I’ve never buried an unbaptized illegitimate child in my back garden or lost the man I loved to Brazil and then a murder charge, but when I was sixteen the hours I spent sobbing into Tess of the D’Ubervilles were directly proportionate to the time spent doing the same over boys I kissed fuelled by Caribbean Twist in other people’s parents’ houses who never texted me back.
Literature has long been charged with the ability to corrupt, usually to do with – as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and copious others illustrate – sex or death. In the 18th century, this is best evidenced by the way the phenomenon of ‘Wertherism’ seized the public imagination in a thoroughly contagious manner:  Goethe’s 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther became a veritable craze, and according to Eric Lane in his introduction to the text its popularity soon “led to a Europe full of young men wearing blue coats and yellow breeches and suffering from melancholy,” a delicious image that indicates both the glamour and the ubiquity of the trend. ‘Wertherism’ held a nigh-on hypnotic appeal for both men and women, as although Werther himself is a young man, the object of his suicidal affections, Charlotte, is never given a voice, meaning women could identify with the melancholy of the protagonist without the constraints of gender.
The Werther phenomenon has often been blamed for provoking a spate of suicide attempts, and although this too simplistic, the sheer popularity of the novel did allow its legions of readers to see that their mental disquiet was not as unique or as bizarre as they had previously thought, and provided them with a method of expression. This is something that has occurred time and time again, in varying modes, but the level at which people engage is the same: the feeling of seeing the way you feel spelled out in linguistic fireworks takes hold of both your mind and your heart in the same utterance. The popularity of The Smiths in the 1980’s made being lovelorn and lonely and a little strange more acceptable, just as the phenomenon of The Sorrows of Young Werther did, and people fell in love with lyrics like “Is it wrong not to always be glad? No, it’s not wrong – but I must add: How can someone so young sing words so sad?” in the same way people had with Goethe’s effusive prose two hundred years later.
The idea that the emotional effects of text on a reader can be used to ascertain the true value of a poem or a novel was challenged with Wimsatt and Beardsley’s ‘Affective Fallacy,’ but inverted it can be used to explain some aspects at least of the choices people make and the behavioural patterns they exhibit. Particular traits accumulate over the years and are most often picked up from those around us, whether our parents or our peers, but an early infatuation with Sylvia Plath could certainly cultivate a tendency towards introspection just as an obsession with Jack Kerouac could entice someone towards a nomadic lifestyle rather than a desire to settle down.
I grew up fascinated by books and plays and poems that revolved around female characters who could be categorised, reductively but tellingly, as ‘strong and difficult women,’ from the obligatory pre-teen identification with Hermione Granger (such an irritatingly smug demeanor! Such terrible hair!) to a pseudo-academic obsession with Charlotte Brontë: for a while, I think I genuinely believed in my heart of hearts that I was the modern day equivalent of Jane Eyre. Most significantly, I fell in love at around about the age of fourteen with Beatrice, the  indisputable heroine of Much Ado About Nothing, by way of the 1993 film (thanks for that, Emma Thompson) and somewhere along the line my affection for “dear Lady Disdain” developed into a deeply-rooted belief in the association between strength, attraction and argumentativeness. Even now, several years and many, many more library fines later, my immediate reaction to any situation in which I feel vulnerable – whether it’s meeting new people, intimidating social events or romantic relationships – is an argumentativeness that doesn’t even do a particularly god job of walking the tenuous tightrope between ‘stimulating’ and ‘abrasive.’
Yes, reading is a mental rather than physical event, but most of us spend far more time in our heads than anywhere else. As Lawrence wrote and as ‘bibliotherapy’ hopes, we can indeed “shed [our] sicknesses in books,” but the relationship between what we read and what we feel is more complex than that. Perhaps literature is not just important in efforts to improve our mental state, as the ‘reading cure,’ but can prove integral in laying the foundations of its construction in the first place.

Don't pop a pill, read a book
Everyone knows that curling up with a good novel is relaxing but what if reading can do more than just boost your mood? Experts believe reading can transform lives, helping people deal with a variety of psychological and emotional problems, from stress and anxiety to grief and depression.
Using books as therapy or bibliotherapy as it is known, is not a new idea. Sigmund Freud used literature during psychoanalysis sessions with his patients and books were used to help soldiers recovering from physical and emotional trauma following the First and Second World Wars.
Now reading as therapy is set to enjoy a resurgence. In May, a new pilot program, Books on Prescription, will launch in libraries across the Central West area of New South Wales. Under the scheme, funded by a $71,000 library development grant, GPs and other health professionals will be able to recommend self-help books on prescription from around 14 public libraries for people dealing with a variety of psychological issues.
The Secret Garden The Secret Garden
"Books on Prescription is a highly effective way of helping people with common mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, phobias and eating disorders" says Jan Richards, Central West libraries manager in Orange. "There is first class clinical evidence to show that books can be just as effective as other forms of therapy."
Richards says the concept for the scheme came from the UK's Books on Prescription program where doctors can prescribe self-help books or mood-boosting works of literature to treat those suffering from mild to moderate mental illness. She hopes the Central West's Books on Prescription scheme "will complement traditional medicine and that in partnership with the medical community we'll be able to provide positive health outcomes."
UK research has found that reading is more relaxing than listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent. Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis from the consultancy Mindlab International found that reading silently for just six minutes, slowed the heart rate and eased muscle tension in research volunteers.
Salvation Creek: An Unexpected Life Salvation Creek: An Unexpected Life
In Victoria, Susan McLaine, project coordinator at the State Library of Victoria, has been developing the State Library's Book Well program since 2010. She says that whilst there are similar Books on Prescription schemes at different stages of development in Australia there is no state-wide or national model.
Inspired by the UK's successful Get Into Reading program, the Victorian Book Well scheme uses literature in the form of fiction, inspirational stories and poetry within read-aloud reading groups to improve health and wellbeing. "I think bibliotherapy development using imaginative literature shows great therapeutic potential," says McLaine who is also a PhD candidate in the study of bibliotherapy. The aim, she explains, "is to assist people to think about more creative ways to solve personal problems, through reading about how fictional characters similar to them faced problems and resolved them. These characters often seem to speak directly to us; keeping us company, reminding us we are not the only one feeling this way and at times offering us hope."
Associate professor Vijaya Manicavasagar, director of psychological services at the Black Dog Institute, agrees that prescribing reading in mild cases of depression "if it is part of a concerted effort to lift someone's mood, is a terrific idea."
Overcoming Panic Overcoming Panic
Her own book, Overcoming Panic and Agoraphobia, is one of the books recommended on the UK's list of Books on Prescription.
"It would be wonderful to see a nationwide initiative" she says. Reading literature can give "a new perspective on life and problems that you might be encountering so you get to see how other people might have dealt with a similar problem or coped with a particular situation so it exposes you to new ways of thinking, a bit like cognitive therapy. As well as pure escapism, the experience of identifying with a character who comes through adversity may also build self-confidence."
Manicavasagar believes books can help a person de-stress by changing their emotional state. "You might start reading a book feeling quite strung out and anxious but if you really get into it you are transported to a different emotional state which is usually better than the one you started off with," she explains.
But, she stresses, "if you have got a serious psychiatric disorder like a major depression where your concentration is impaired and where you are finding it difficult to follow things or you have a psychotic illness for example, then of course prescribing reading is not going to be all that helpful."
For those dealing with the loss of loved ones Manicavasagar recommends Salvation Creek: An Unexpected Life by Susan Duncan. "It is a about dealing with grief — which in the case of the author has to do with the deaths of her brother and husband. I think it is an uplifting book which could be helpful for people dealing with major life changes."
(by Sandy Smith from the Sydney Morning Herald)

BIBLIOTHERAPY and. CHOICE THEORY to assist At-Risk. Girls

What to read? Bibliotherapy

The history of bibliotherapy
Photo by Shelley Rodrigo.
Photo by Shelley Rodrigo.
Over the past weeks I’ve been looking at how reading can be a means of pleasure, education, and self-development. But I also happen to believe – and I’m not the only one, not by a long shot – that a relationship with books can increase wellbeing. The right book at the right time can be a powerful thing, not just amusing and teaching, but also reassuring and even healing. Indeed, an ancient Greek library at Thebes bore an inscription on the lintel naming it a “Healing-Place for the Soul.”
The term “bibliotherapy,” from the Greek biblion (books) + therapeia (healing), was coined in 1916 by Samuel McChord Crothers (1857-1927). Crothers, a Unitarian minister and essayist, introduced the word in an Atlantic Monthly piece called “A Literary Clinic.” The use of books as a therapeutic tool then came to the forefront in America during the two world wars, when librarians received training in how to suggest helpful books to veterans recuperating in military hospitals. Massachusetts General Hospital had founded one of the first patients’ libraries, in 1844, and many other state institutions – particularly mental hospitals – had followed suit by the time of the First World War. Belief in the healing powers of reading was becoming more widespread; whereas once it had been assumed that only religious texts could edify, now it was clear that there could be benefits to secular reading too.

Read this for what ails you
Clinical bibliotherapy is still a popular strategy, often used in combination with other medical approaches to treat mental illness. Especially in the UK, where bibliotherapy is offered through official National Health Service (NHS) channels, library and health services work together to give readers access to books that may aid the healing process. Over half of England’s public library systems offer bibliotherapy programs, with a total of around 80 schemes documented as of 2006. NHS doctors will often write patients a ‘prescription’ for a recommended book to borrow at a local library. These books will usually fall under the umbrella of “self-help,” with a medical or mental health leaning: guides to overcoming depression, building self-confidence, dealing with stress, and so on.
Books: a matter for the health service.
Books: a matter for the health service.
Books can serve as one component of cognitive behavioral therapy, which aims to modify behavior through the identification of irrational thoughts and emotions. Bibliotherapy has also been shown to be an effective method of helping children and teenagers cope with problems: everything from parents’ divorce to the difficulties of growing up and resisting peer pressure. Overall, bibliotherapy is an appealing strategy for medical professionals to use with patients because it is low-cost and low-risk but disproportionately effective.
In addition to clinical bibliotherapy, libraries also support what is known as “creative bibliotherapy” – mining fiction and poetry for their healing powers. Library pamphlets and displays advertise their bibliotherapy services under names such as “Read Yourself Well” or “Reading and You,” with eclectic, unpredictable lists of those novels and poems that have proved to be inspiring or consoling. With all of these initiatives, the message is clear: books have the power to change lives by reminding ordinary, fragile people that they are not alone in their struggles.

The School of Life
Photo by jmage.
Photo by jmage.
The School of Life is pop philosopher Alain de Botton’s brainchild, a London hub where trendy, angsty types can come to learn tactics for how to live well. Classes, psychotherapy sessions, secular ‘sermons,’ and a library of recommended reading tackle subjects such as job satisfaction, creativity, parenting, ethics, finances, and facing death with dignity. In addition, the School offers bibliotherapy sessions (one-on-one, for adults or children, or, alternatively, for couples) that can take place in person or online.
School of Life founder Alain de Botton (Photo attribution: Barry Carlyon and Danielle Tanton)
School of Life founder Alain de Botton (Photo attribution: Barry Carlyon and Danielle Tanton)
A prospective reader fills out a reading history questionnaire before meeting the bibliotherapist, and can expect to walk away from the session with one instant book prescription. A full prescription of another 5-10 books arrives within a few days.
In 2011 The Guardian sent six of its writers on School of Life bibliotherapy sessions; their consensus seemed to be that, although the sessions produced some intriguing book recommendations, at £80 (or $123) each they were an unnecessarily expensive way of deciding what to read next – especially compared to asking a friend or skimming newspapers’ reviews of new books. Nonetheless, it is good to see bibliotherapy being taken seriously in a modern, non-medical context.

A consoling canon

You don’t need a doctor’s or bibliotherapist’s prescription to convince you that reading makes you feel better. It cheers you up, makes you take yourself less seriously, and gives you a peaceful space for thought. Even if there is no prospect of changing your situation, getting lost in a book at least allows you to temporarily forget your woes. In Comfort Found in Good Old Books (1911), a touching work he began writing just 10 days after his son’s sudden death, George Hamlin Fitch declared “it has been my constant aim to preach the doctrine of the importance of cultivating the habit of reading good books, as the chief resource in time of trouble and sickness.”
Indeed, as Rick Gekoski noted last year in an article entitled “Some of my worst friends are books,” literary types have always turned to reading to help them through grief. He cites the examples of Joan Didion coming to grips with her husband’s death in The Year of Magical Thinking, or John Sutherland facing up to his alcoholism in The Boy Who Loved Books. Gekoski admits to being “struck and surprised, both envious and a little chagrined, by how literary their frame of reference is. In the midst of the crisis…a major reflex is to turn, for consolation and understanding, to favorite and esteemed authors.” Literary critic Harold Bloom confirms that books can provide comfort; in The Western Canon he especially recommends William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson as “great poets one can read when one is exhausted or even distraught, because in the best sense they console.”

Just as in a lifetime of reading you will develop your own set of personal classics, you are also likely to build up a canon of favorite books to consult in a crisis – books that you turn to again and again for hope, reassurance, or just some good laughs. For instance, in More Book Lust Nancy Pearl swears by Bill Bryson’s good-natured 1995 travel book about England, Notes from a Small Island: “This is the single best book I know of to give someone who is depressed, or in the hospital.” (With one caveat: beware, your hospitalized reader may well suffer a rupture or burst stitches from laughing.)

Just what you needed
There’s something magical about that serendipitous moment when a reader comes across just the right book at just the right time. Charlie D’Ambrosio confides that he approaches books with a quiet wish: “I hope in my secret heart someone, somewhere, mysteriously influenced and moved, has written exactly what I need” (his essay “Stray Influences” is collected in The Most Wonderful Books). Yet this is not the same as superstitiously expecting to open a book and find personalized advice. Believe it or not, this has been an accepted practice at various points in history. “Bibliomancy” means consulting a book at random to find prophetic help – usually the Bible, as in the case of St. Augustine and St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis’s first biographer, Thomas of Celano, wrote that “he humbly prayed that he might be shown, at his first opening the book, what would be most fitting for him to do” (in his First Life of St Francis of Assisi).
Outdoor book sale and mural at Brattle Bookshop in Boston.
The outdoor sale lot and literary mural at Brattle Book Shop in Boston.
Perhaps meeting the right book is less like a logical formula and more like falling in love. You can’t really explain how it happened, but there’s no denying that it’s a perfect match. Nick Hornby likens this affair of the mind to a dietary prescription – echoing that medical tone bibliotherapy can often have: “sometimes your mind knows what it needs, just as your body knows when it’s time for some iron, or some protein” (in More Baths, Less Talking).
Entirely by happenstance, a book that has recently meant a lot to me is one of the six inaugural School of Life titles, How to Stay Sane by psychotherapist Philippa Perry. Clearly and practically written, with helpful advice on how to develop wellbeing through self-observation, healthy relationships, optimism, and exercise, Perry’s book turned out to offer just what I needed.

If you’re having trouble choosing your next read and would like some help from a literary dietician or matchmaker – otherwise known as a bibliotherapist – we’d love to hear from you on our “Help Me, Bookkaholic!” page. Let us know what you’re looking for, and one of us amateurs will try our hand at bibliotherapy. Or head over and try one of the books reviewed in our “What Should I Read Next” column.

Next time: Sometimes reading really depressing books can be good for you. From Aristotle’s classic theory of catharsis to the modern misery memoir, I look at how encountering literary tragedy can actually be uplifting.

[For a helpful historical survey of bibliotherapy, see the following articles: “

 written by

Rebecca Foster

An American in London, library assistant by day, and lover of all things bookish. I'm also a literature programming team volunteer and guest blogger for Greenbelt arts festival, and a reviewer for We Love This Book's website.

Bibliotherapy: tracing the roots of a moral therapy movement in the United States from the early nineteenth century to the present

Friday, May 10, 2013

Becoming the Characters You Read
As a lover of books, I believe that you cannot open a book — any book — without learning something. New research now shows that, in addition to just learning about other people, places, and things, readers actually take on the experiences and beliefs of the characters in books.
In a study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers at Ohio State University report the results of six experiments that tested the degree to which people found themselves feeling the emotions, thoughts, behaviors, goals, and traits of the characters in fictional stories. Overall, the authors report that this phenomenon, called “experience-taking,” can lead to real changes in the lives of the readers, albeit temporary.
The first three experiments demonstrated that people must be able to let go of their own identity while reading in order to undergo significant experience-taking. For example, readers who read in a cubicle with a mirror were less likely to take on the identity of the fictional characters. The second three experiments evaluated the characteristics of the writing that allowed for more or less experience-taking.
One experiment involved 82 undergraduate students who were asked to read a short story about a student who overcame obstacles to vote. Several versions of the story — written in first-person and written in third-person, and featuring a student at the same university as the participants and featuring a different university — were read among the group. After reading, the readers completed a questionnaire about how much they adopted the perspective of the character. The researchers also tracked whether or not the students voted in the November 2008 Presidential election, which took place only a few days after the experiment.
Students who read the story in first-person about a student at their own university showed the highest level of experience-taking, and 65% of these students reported voting on Election Day. Only 29% of students who read a first-person account from a different university reported voting.
Another experiment involved 70 heterosexual college students who read a day-in-the-life story of another student. There were three distinct versions of the story: one in which the student was revealed as homosexual early in the story, one in which his homosexuality was revealed late, and one in which the student was heterosexual. Students reported more experience-taking when the homosexuality was not revealed until late in the story, compared to when the homosexuality was revealed early. Also, readers of the late-reveal version expressed more favorable, and less judgmental, attitudes toward homosexuals after reading the story than readers of the other two versions. A similar experiment was conducted, with similar results, using versions of a story in which a student was revealed to be African American early or late in the narrative that were read by non-African American students.
Overall, the authors concluded that a reader can immerse himself in a book when he can identify with the character and forget about his own identity. The changes in self-judgment, attitude, and behavior that accompany this immersion into a character’s life can lead to real-world changes or actions, but the duration of effect is not clear.
People acquire knowledge from books, and the knowledge and perspective gained from fictional narratives may be true or false, depending on the story. Readers learn more than what is simply stated in black and white on a page; they use references to the real world — and their own lives — to integrate the story into their own knowledge base. The true worth of a book is measured by what a reader takes away from it.
So many books, so little time.
Butler AC, Dennis NA, & Marsh EJ (2012). Inferring facts from fiction: Reading correct and incorrect information affects memory for related information. Memory (Hove, England) PMID: 22640369
Kaufman GF, & Libby LK (2012). Changing Beliefs and Behavior Through Experience-Taking. Journal of personality and social psychology PMID: 22448888

Reading through Depression
It’s World Book Night tonight. Last year I dashed round the hospital I work in, giving out free books to harassed shift workers on a Saturday night. This year I’ve been lucky enough to be selected again and will give out fiction to local cinema goers.
I love the idea of promoting reading. For me fiction has been a life line for my mental health from an early age. I come from a family of voracious readers and we were always encouraged to read. Often the four of us would be in disparate corners of the house immersed in books and the house was always full of novels.
For me, fiction provided an insight into the minds of others and it was a revelation for me that I wasn’t the only one suffering from anguish and distress. As a child, I tended to be apprehensive and worried, experiencing anxiety at things others considered common place or mundane. As I grew older my anxiety increased and I graduated to being a messed up teenager with a penchant for sleeping, occasional substance abuse and prolonged dark moods. I first experienced a bout of depression in my mid teens and reading was my coping mechanism.
I started to experience searing anxiety and disturbing thoughts about how bleak life felt. I withdrew, lost my confidence and couldn’t socialise as I usually had. The only time I felt I could lose myself was in a good book. I’d read compulsively, devouring book after book, to distract myself from feeling so worried and negative. I’d emerge every so often to go to the library and get more books. It felt like reading helped me through by allowing me to relax and be somewhere else.
An added dimension for me was that reading fiction allowed me to see inside other people’s heads. A well written novel conveys the world from a different perspective. It’s like seeing through the eyes of another person. What I found (and still often find) is that this taught me that my experiences weren’t uncommon.
I gained comfort from reading about other people’s emotional struggles. I discovered that fictional characters can experience random anxiety which rips them apart, searing depression which puts them under the covers in their beds and mental unease which they struggle through. It felt inclusive for me to discover that maybe my experiences were more universal than I first thought. I also found that, often, books which depict depression or anxiety well are written by those who’ve experienced it themselves too.
I went on to suffer more severe depression and anxiety in later life and at times lost the ability to experience much pleasure. If I lose interest in reading that’s always a bad sign for me and an indicator that I need to stop and scrutinise what’s going on and think about relapse prevention. During bleak episodes of depression I would see a return to reading as a sign things were looking up.
I’m a keen advocator of reading fiction, whether it’s brutally real or totally escapist. It definitely has a therapeutic effect for me.

From Pain to Poetry
‘Writing helps you to confront who you really are’
This statement was brought to my attention at a workshop I attended and it resonated with me for many reasons, one of them was because I’d just started writing a blog, I had no idea what it would become but it became very cathartic.
I’d always written the odd piece of poetry, but I didn’t think anything of it other than it being an explosion of my feelings in words.
When I started to write my blog, the idea was to help me release some of the thoughts and feelings I was experiencing, hence its name ‘Free Your Mind – Pain to poetry’.
I hoped it may help other people feeling the same way, but also to help those around me to understand me better, and in a way help me to really search and explore myself from the inside out.
I spent a few weeks updating my blog before I had an incident with a close friend where I could sense a feeling of 'just snap out of it’, that I was playing the victim to my feelings coming from them. After another horrid panic attack, I decided I had enough of being misunderstood and that they needed to understand just what I was going through, the struggles I was having with my feelings, every day the darkness I was in. I wanted their understanding not pity.
I emailed a link to my blog to all of friends and family, hoping they would read it and finally understand, I was overwhelmed by the support I received messages telling me how brave I was, how well I’d hidden so much, another friend told me she’d cried reading it because she really had no idea that things were as bad as they were.
True to the symptoms of anxiety I started to feel unworthy of the praise Id received, why was I getting praise for this? I didn’t feel deserving of it, all I was doing was writing a blog, but what I didn’t realise was that I was putting myself out there, facing up to my issues and starting on my road to healing. I say healing and not recovery, because I don’t think you ever fully recover from a mental health problem but you do learn how to cope. 
At this particular workshop, it hit home exactly what my blog and writing had done for me. I had always loved reading and writing, my degree was in communications, culture and media. However In 2008 I was told by an old boss that my writing skills were poor, and then diagnosed with dyslexia, my confidence was shot to pieces and so I lost all interest in reading and writing altogether
By 2012 after several life altering incidents, I had become a serious bottler of my feelings and emotions and mastered the art of faking a smile every day. To most I was happy and smiley but alone I’d cry every morning, upset that I’d woken up to another day of my life and cry myself to sleep at night after spending the day over thinking everything, questioning my existence and hating myself. By January 2013 I had lost all sense of purpose and contemplated suicide daily.
This brings me back to the statement that ‘Writing helps you to confront who you are’, I’ve always hated confrontation and realised that I always expressed myself best in written form. I didn’t know it at the time, but through starting my blog I had started to open up again, confront my feelings or at least began to express them and began to explore and understand the situations in my life that had made me predisposed to the depression, panic and anxiety disorder that I have. From the past to the present, it made me realise just how long I had to go, but also how far I had come.
I’d recommend writing to anyone having trouble expressing their feelings, please feel free to contact me at my blog for anything x

Read Natasha's blog From pain to poetry