You are what you read. What a powerful statement! When you lose yourself in good literature, you are doing more than reading an excellent novel, you are sympathizing with the character; you are melding your own thoughts and self-identification with theirs, even if just for a moment.
Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby of Ohio State University found in a study that readers bond with protagonists to such a degree, that for a time, the reader takes on the emotions and beliefs of the protagonist. This process is called “experience taking.”
When I first began reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat, Pray, Love, I couldn’t stop crying. There was something so raw and gutting about her depression, entrapment and lack of self-awareness that I could no longer separate my own pain from hers. There was something about Liz’s character that made me confront my own long hidden suffering?
My heartache stemmed from the reality that I had let my most cherished dreams slip away. I was a wife when I meant to be a scholar, a mother when I’d planned to travel and a depressed shut-in when I’d meant to find my feet and lead a full life. I felt pain because of all the things I hadn‘t done. Two chapters into the book and like Liz, I wanted a divorce. Four chapters in and I ended a long held friendship. By the time Liz arrived in Italy I was crying through every sentence because I felt trapped, suffocated and alone. If it were not for Liz’s distinct voice guiding me on I may have remained stuck in that place of regret and misery forever.
I cannot easily describe the evolution that took place within me but for some reason I began to heal somewhere between India and Bali. Somewhere during that mental trip my eyes opened to the reality of my life. In Bali I found peace for the first time. I saw where I stood and began to value all that I had accidently achieved in my mismanaged life. I had a husband, a son, and a home where I was unconditionally loved. So what had been so wrong for so long? The answer is…me. My thoughts and behavior, my idea of what life should have been, got in the way of what life was.
Eat, Love, Pray changed my life because it changed the way I saw my life. Now I am on track to achieve my dreams while I love and appreciate the life I’ve built. Could I have made my fresh start without Liz Gilbert? I really don’t know. What I do know is that literature is powerful. It gives a writer the chance to open minds or close them, to take their readers on a life altering journey for the better or for the worse.
So I ask you fellow writers to please be careful with the minds you handle. Words are powerful and they can bring light to a shadowed consciousness or just heap on more darkness.
4 thoughts on “Literature Changes Lives”
I love your transparency. So often we crouch behind our poorly built walls of fear, shame and regret and try to defend them with lies and anger. Yet here you are, pulling them down brick by brick and instead of throwing up new mortor, you’ve chosen to allow the organic love of self awareness bring you into a deeper and richer YOU. As always, I am in love with your words and the imagery they create. 🙂
Well, now I’m in love with your words. I said it earlier but I’ll say it again…you are an amazing support and an amazing friend. I’m glad that what I was trying to say in this blog came across. My hope is to help people live authentically from the heart; to remind them the debt of respect and friendship we owe each other as fellow beings. I truly love people and I love the different road each and every one of us travels. No one’s road is smooth. What matters is how we take the individual bumps and what we do to help each other along the way. Thanks for traveling along with me.
i immensely enjoyed reading your candid thoughts and autobiogaphical ouvre as well as your forays in Bali and india1
INDEED YOU HAVE GREAT FEEL FOR WORDA!
Thank you so much,
You’re words (again) are very much appreciated right now. I’m in the middle of a bone breaking edit with my editor,
Best of luck,