Bibliotherapy: The Power of Reading to Heal
Reading continues to play a significant role in my healing journey with eczema. From learning about acceptance of our condition and how to manage stress and anxiety to the connection between our past trauma and disease, reading has opened my eyes to the internal world of healing.
Before I get into the power of reading, I want you all to know that I was never an avid reader growing up. My parents (whom I love dearly) were always working and if they weren’t working, they were feeding us or taking us to our extracurricular activities. Reading was simply not a priority in our household.
Long ago, I remember hearing that children learn based on what they see and not what they are commanded or told. So because I didn’t see anyone in my family reading leisurely, it wasn’t something I found interest in either. Getting A’s in school, perfecting my dance routine, and dealing with my eczema was more than enough for me.
Finding meaning in reading
But this all changed in 2016. I remember all of a sudden getting a deep desire to open up a book. I was going through topical steroids withdrawal and experiencing healing for the very first time, which also meant that I was experiencing happiness and joy; emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time.
The first book I read leisurely was "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz. His writing helped me embrace myself, understand why I was feeling so much joy and how to manage day-to-day stressors to grow this joy. It brought purpose and meaning to my life and made me feel hopeful that I could get through anything, including the symptoms of eczema. This book created a huge obsession with reading, so much so that I’m currently on my 15th book of the year!
So when I recently learned about the power of ‘Bibliotherapy’ - a therapeutic approach that uses books as a treatment to support good mental health and psychological disorders - my love and obsession for books made sense. It was healing me internally and reflecting externally.
Without knowing, I was reading books that taught me how to love myself from the inside/out, how to be vulnerable and connect with others, how emotions can impact any condition, how the body keeps the score of every trauma, comment, or cause of stress you’ve never been able to properly release. I was learning how to control my thoughts so that I wouldn’t put my body through another panic attack because of an eczema flare. I was learning, applying, and then healing.
Health benefits of reading
Aside from the fact that reading can support you in expanding your vocabulary and writing skills, it can also support you health-wise.
Reading, as a form of mental stimulation (keeping your brain active), can keep your brain from losing power and slowing down. Think of it as a gym workout but for your brain. We can have the healthiest and most fit body, but if our minds aren’t fit too, our bodies will eventually deteriorate.
Have you ever gotten lost in a great story? Sometimes when I read, I forget (at least momentarily), what was causing me so much stress in the first place. Reading can transport your mind to another realm and keep you engaged in the present moment. Considering that stress is a major trigger for eczema, engaging in practices like reading can help us manage it.
This is what Bibliotherapy is all about. There is an unlimited amount of knowledge that already exists in books; it’s impeccable. And guess what? We have the privilege of having access to it! One book can change your whole outlook on life and give you the key to managing your eczema differently. That’s what it has done for me, and therefore I know it’s what it can do for you (if you apply what you learn of course).
Here are a few recent books that have supported my healing:
A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl - This book has taught me about how to be “worthy” of my suffering and how to make my suffering meaningful. It states that if we don’t do anything about our suffering and pain (aka share our stories and inspire others through it), our suffering becomes meaningless.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk - This is a very deep and dense book about how childhood trauma has impacted the many diseases we face in our society today. On a scientific and research level, it showed me how much our emotions impact our bodies, as well as certain practices we can do today to support us in managing these emotions.
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson - One of my absolute favorite books! Marianne taught me how everything we go through is meant to return us back to love - back to our perfect essence and perfect healthy bodies. Our bodies weren’t meant to deal with the emotional and physical toxins we consistently put them through, which has resulted in diseases. She teaches the reader how to get back on track and return back to wholeness and healthiness.
Question: When was the last time you read a book? Is there a book that has changed your life? Share with us below!
Have you been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis?