Maybe it is because I stayed in higher education for way too long, but I’m a firm believer in reading. After I was injured it not only became an outlet for my time, but also an inspiration to write about my experiences. In doing so I believe that I assisted in my recovery and the isolation that seemed inevitable.
But how does reading do this? If you are anything like me, your mind consumes what you put in it on a daily basis. By providing it a creative interesting outlet you give it more to ponder. With more to ponder and more ways of articulating my experiences reading, for me, became a gateway to a world which existed distinct from the one I was living.
A psychologist might call this a form of escapism, but I find it to be quite healthy. Whether I read for 10 minutes or an hour, the more I give my mind to consume the better I feel. Plato or Aristotle might describe this as a unique characteristic to humans. The constant desire to know more than one once did. Again, I could just be a philosophy major with a huge hangover. But could there be a link between recovery after spinal cord injury and education?
To be clear, one need not read an advanced college level book to gain the therapeutic effects of reading and writing. But insofar as reading involves the opening up of previously inaccessible worlds, I believe it to be process of what the ancient Greeks called elenchus.
‘Elenchus’ in the wider sense means examining a person with regard to a statement he has made. Explaining the term in this light may cause the reader to think in traditional terms. More specifically, the term talks about Socrates and his method of examining the individuals he encountered. But if we can expand the dialectic process that occurs between the I and the Other, we might be able to include the text as an interlocutor. Taking this one step further writing then becomes the forum for the assimilation of thoughts, challenges, and new worlds of meaning.
Viewed in this sense reading and writing have the possibility of rupturing our everyday existence by presenting us with new perspectives, thoughts, and ideas. Hence, we take an active role in our continual process of self-overcoming. This, to me, is one of the most vital processes one can engage in post-injury. For it is the development of new possible worlds of meaning which allow us to transcend our unavoidable suffering that exists in the present and past.
Try it out. Find a book you put down a long time ago, read ten pages, and then just write out your thoughts about how it made you feel and what it made you think of. I think you will find that it is a very powerful tool.