William Nicholson once said, “We read to know that we are not alone.”
The first blog in this series, Close to Home: When Similar Characters Lead to a Better Life, quoted a part of an article from Science Daily that stated that “reading relates to outer concrete reality and to an inner, more subjectively perceived experience.” And I wondered if reading about the way a specific character handles a situation similar to ours, is almost parallel to us using self-visualization?
And the answer is YES! Per Psychology Today:
The changes caused by reading a novel were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the primary sensorimotor region of the brain. Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded, or embodied cognition.
An example of embodied cognition is similar to visualization in sports—just thinking about playing basketball, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of playing basketball.
“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory S. Berns, lead author of the study. The ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes improves theory of mind.
Of course, activating the neurons associated with the physical act of playing basketball, doesn’t mean we will play like Michael Jordan. Just as putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes doesn’t mean we’ll make the same decisions that they do. But at the least, it seems very possible that reading about a character working through a problem that we’re dealing with, can open up our mind up to new possibilities and hope.
Certainly there is a timing aspect to reading about people facing similar situations. It definitely has an individualistic component to it. Some people would find it very difficult to read about a character getting jilted at the altar, right after that happened to them. Still others might find it empowering to know “that they are not alone.”
There are so many things that can knock us to our knees—and many come to mind—but the most written about topic has to be love and heartbreak.
Some people get their heart broken, and within a couple of months are back in the dating pool, willing to risk all for love again. For others—it’s not so easy. These individuals question their desirability, judgment and perception. If you’re one of those people then get ready to experience embodied cognition, as these heroines and heroes— casualties of their own calamitous love life show you the way to trust again.
In Christmas at Evergreen Inn by Donna Alward, Lainey Price has some serious reflecting to do. It has been a year since Lainey’s fiancé broke off their engagement a week before their Christmas wedding. Todd Ricker presence stirs to life new feelings of attraction and even more –that maybe love could be in the cards for her. But it is such a risk—trusting again—believing again:
She wanted to be stronger. She wanted to reach out and grab at a chance at happiness. It was just so hard. The wounds ran deep.
“Todd, it might have been easier if he’d just changed his mind. But he found someone else. He’d been seeing her for a few months before he broke off our engagement. It wasn’t just canceling the wedding, though that was a horrible experience and really humiliating. It was more. . . making me doubt everything about myself. What did she give him that I didn’t? What if I’m not the kind of woman who. . .” She frowned, unsure of how to word what she was feeling. “Not the kind to keep a man, I don’t mean that. But what if I’m never the One but always the One Before the One?”
Louise Clark from After You by Jo Jo Moyes is having a difficult time moving on after Will Traynor left her, leaving her with no hope of them having a future together.
I felt lost without out daily routines. It took weeks for my hands not to feel useless without daily contact with his body: the soft shirt I would button; the warm, motionless hands I would wash gently; the silky hair I could still feel between my fingers. I missed his voice, his abrupt, hard earned laugh, the feel of his lips against my fingers, the way his eyelids would lower when he was about to drop off to sleep.
Even when she meets someone new, she is afraid to love again—experience that type of pain again:
“But you’re still holding back.”
It was gently said, but it felt like a kick.
I pushed myself up on my elbow, so that I was looking down on him. “I’m here, aren’t I?
You’re the first person I call at the end of the day. We see each other when we can. I wouldn’t call that holding back.”
“Yup. We see each other, we have sex, eat some nice meals.”
“I thought that was basically every man’s dream relationship.”
“I’m not every man, Lou.”
He sighed. “Don’t look at me like that. I don’t want to get married or anything. I’m just saying..."
We tend to think that men have the ability to move on faster than women, after a disappointment in love. However, Kendra Leigh Castle's One of These Nights shows us that men are often as paralyzed as women, unwilling to take a chance on love again. Jason Evans has become somewhat of a hermit since his divorce.
They still talked about him—poor, lonely, brokenhearted Jason—because of course they did. Because of Sara. When the divorce had been finalized, he’d assumed she was gone for good. He hadn’t known that just the idea of her would continue to give him problems four years on.
In the beginning Jason and Zoe Watson have an adversarial relationship but that changes, after Jason breaks his leg, and needs Zoe’s help. Still, that doesn’t mean he ready to embrace these new feelings:
He hadn’t been with anybody serious since Sara, and he knew damn well Zoe was no fling. She wasn’t built for it.
He didn’t think he was, either. That, more than anything, was what had the hair at the back of neck prickling to attention. The way he was already so attuned to her presence, hungry for it, had alarms going off in the back of his mind. He’d jumped too quickly once and he’d never really stopped paying for it. Letting that happen again was out of the question.
Jason, like all of the characters here, discovers that falling in love with the right person makes the difference in the outcome. We know that too—although sometimes we just need reminders—along with a shot of courage and resolve to take a chance. Here is to a new year filled with new love possibilities!
What books have you read recently that espouse giving love a second chance?
Learn more about the books mentioned in this post:
|Christmas at Evergreen Inn by Donna Alward|
|After You by Jo Jo Moyes|
|One of These Nights by Kendra Leigh Castle|