Even though people have been turning to story and lyric for centuries, the wisdom and guidance available to us in poems, stories and drama can get lost, especially in today’s fast-paced world.
In my classes, we always discuss the motivation of the author. Authors don’t write to torture students; they write to express some human issue, to transform and give meaning to experience. In discussing these things, individuals may come to understand universal aspects of their own lives. The real joy and comfort in literature lies in its ability to connect us with all aspects of being human, and to allow for healing or an increase in understanding beyond the realm of traditional counseling or therapy.
One example of a personal essay I might discuss (with a mature student or adult) regarding grief would be Jo Anne Beard’s beautiful essay “The Fourth State of Matter” here. Material would vary depending on age and ability.
I will work with your current query or struggle and find literary connections for us to discuss together. In exploring these questions for issues such as identity, loss, relationships, direction, and family, I will direct you to reading that will nourish you on your path to deeper understanding, and we will discuss what you find. With literature, there is no one answer or “fix.” Characters are rarely without scars at the end of their tale, but they have often found some meaning, someone who acts as guide, or some way to move to the next part of their lives. I believe that without story, without catharsis, and the lyric that has been recited in so many cultures throughout time, we lose sense of these crucial aspects of our humanity.
Read more about the growing field of bibliotherapy here.
For more about the effects of our modern world on our psyche, see Dr. Sherry Turkle‘s research and work as director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self and her discussion of the need for human connection.