Bibliotherapy: Conversation with Vassia Sarantopoulou

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‘Let yourself become living poetry’ – Rumi

You’ve heard me wax lyrical about Bibliotherapy for years: now many others are discovering the healing alchemy that takes place when we read or are read to (Listen to ‘Breathing Lyrical’ on BBC radio 4 on how poetry can help alleviate symptoms of Long Covid, for example.

“Somatic reading” is just one of the many forms Bibliotherapy can take. It consists in experiencing the rhythms and images in poetry with your body: allowing the sounds and texture of the words to wash over you and literally go through your cells.

This experiencing of words in the body works both at a physical and at an unconscious level: regulating your nervous system through mindful breathwork; allowing you to feel that you expand in situations where you may feel physically and/or emotionally impeded or restricted.

The words themselves then, ever so gently, subtly release their healing power in your mind and emotions even before you become consciously aware of it. In this way, healing bypasses stress, that is to say you heal while your mind is at rest; and rather than stress hormones flooding your body, your body releases so-called ‘happy hormones’ which produce a sense of safety, calm and wellbeing.

Have you experienced healing through literature? If so, how did this happen?

Was it the content of the text or the act of reading/being read to itself that felt healing?
Were you reading on your own or sharing literature with others?

Psychologist Vassia Sarantopoulou, founder of AntiLoneliness, invited me to speak about this and many other aspects of Bibliotherapy in a recent interview:

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