Bibliotherapy for Healing Emotional Numbness

Day 18/31: Blog your own book challenge

Parag Shah
4 min readSep 12, 2020
Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

This is my eighteenth post for the Blog Your Own Book Challenge. In the previous post, I wrote about my experience in healing emotional numbness with self-love. In this post, I will write about how books are helping me heal my emotional numbness.

Storytelling, creative writing, and reading have long been recognized for their therapeutic potential. The use of literature as a healing method dates back to ancient Greece, when Grecian libraries were seen as sacred places with curative powers. —

Bibliotherapy, at least for me, is not about reading self-help books. I’m not against self-help and I’m sure many people have found them helpful but as I look back at the self-help books I‘ve read and the impact they’ve had on my life, I’m unable to name even one book that helped me changed my life in a significant way. Self-help books have mostly felt heavy and preachy.

On the other hand, fiction, memoirs, and journaling have had a significant impact on my personal development.

I have dealt with low self-esteem and a sense of confusion for as long back as I remember. In the early nineties, I read several self-help books to overcome these feelings but none of them helped.

The first book that created a small but significant transformation in me was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I still remember the day I started reading the book. I had bought The Fountainhead the day earlier as an impulse purchase (I loved frequenting bookshops in those days). I started reading it in the evening and in about an hour I was completely awestruck. I had never read anything like it before. I reluctantly put the book down for about half an hour to have my dinner and rushed back to it and stayed up the entire night reading. By morning, I was a changed person. It did not magically cure my low self-esteem but I made definite progress. But that’s not all — it gave a clear sense of direction to my life and it changed me in a very fundamental way.

The second book that changed me was The Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda Paramsansa and the third book that changed me was A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton.

However, at that time I did not know that I was doing bibliotherapy. That’s why I felt a tingle of excitement when I first came across the concept of bibliotherapy in this wonderful article — Bibliotherapy: The Magical Healing Quality of Literature.

For me, the healing benefit of reading has come through the process of identifying with a character and living their life as I read the book.

A few days back, I wanted to try healing emotional numbness with bibliotherapy. Initially, I thought of reading a book where the protagonist also deals with a similar situation. From what I understood about bibliotherapy, that would have helped me feel a sense of kinship and less alone. I was hoping that I could heal my emotional numbness as the protagonist healed himself in the book.

However, I decided to pick up a book that I had enjoyed in school. It was a good time of my life and I was hoping that reading the book will rekindle memories of that time heal my wounds by helping me feel the pleasant emotions I had felt at that time. AND IT DID. As I read The Village By The Sea by Anita Desai I lived Hari’s life. I felt the struggle he and his impoverished family were going through. I grew with Hari as he grew through the trials and tribulations and I learned an important lesson in adaptation.

I just read a very interesting article on the benefits of reading fiction. I’m enjoying these articles that are opening my world to the benefits of what used to be one of my favorite activities — reading. I am also grateful to the author for introducing me to this quote by Charles Eliot.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”– Charles W. Eliot

If you, like me, are looking to heal emotional numbness through fiction then try to pick up a book that you enjoyed a lot in the past or a book that will help you remember better times. Bringing those good memories back into conscious awareness through the book might go a long way in helping you heal.