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  • Author Stephanie Hart

How Literature Can Heal Emotional Stress

In 2020 more than ever, conversations about mental health and healing are crucial. We’re already seeing the effects of a global crisis on people’s wellbeing. Studies from China have shown a need to improve mental health during this pandemic. The rising number of people in the US reported to be exhibiting anxiety and stress further proves this point.

While it seems counterintuitive, reading the most traumatic stories they can get their hands on can help people along on their healing journeys.

What Emotional Stress Looks Like

Emotional stress can take different forms. Stress can come from a situation that causes excess worry; on the other hand, it can arise from a traumatic situation that can create feelings and reactions.

For example, an abusive parent-child relationship can trigger stressful responses to any parental figure for life. As you might be able to tell, emotional stress can be profoundly personal. Since stress is experienced differently by everyone, the individual journey of realization and introspection plays a significant role in getting better. Literature can help facilitate that kind of journey.

How Literature Can Help You Heal

It may seem curious to argue that literature or any reading matter can make a difference in deeply rooted trauma. However, published studies have shown that using bibliotherapy (therapy with books) can help children cope with trauma and process it.

While this area is under-researched, testimonies from academic professionals have shown how books have been part of healing for many of their students. There are even courses being taught on kinds of literature that can heal.

It’s interesting to note that academic work on literature that heals centers around marginalized communities. Immigrant families, especially Jewish ones, make up a community that has been oppressed historically worldwide.

Perhaps, at least in part, my Jewish heritage was what motivated me to navigate my personal journey by reading literature and writing my collections of memoir and stories. I write about my maternal grandfather racked with fear when his father insists that he leave Russia and sail to America alone to escape the pogroms, fires meant to destroy Jewish villages.

I write about him in Newark, New Jersey, a strong young man fueled with ambition furiously sweeping debris from a store that will become his business. He has survived his journey across the sea and is ready to start a new life: He plows through the wreckage as if it were everything that every stood in his way. His young body is agile; he is sure he can fly. If God could make the world in six days, he, Joseph, can run a supermarket.

Making It Work For You

Healing is a possibility for anyone who seeks it, so the best way that you can process your trauma is to find what strikes a chord with you. Understand the themes in your life that have left you feeling burdened and read about other people's journeys through similar circumstances.

If intergenerational trauma in the form of verbal abuse, in my case passed down from my great grandfather to my grandfather to my mother and to me, the immigrant experience, divorce, or difficult parental relationships are issues you are dealing with or have dealt with, my book, “Mirror Mirror: A Collection of Memoirs and Stories” might be right for you. You can buy it on Amazon here.

What I found most surprising in my writing journey were the joyful moments I discovered and the complex emotions I had toward family members. Love was among them. These short memoirs have been a large part of how I’ve processed and healed from my difficult experiences. I hope you will read them and let me know, which stories touch you, influence you, and guide you on your journey. I look forward to your comments.

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