“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
~James Baldwin, American author (1924-1987)
In The Power of Myth, the late scholar and famous mythologist Joseph Campbell explains that stories help give us relevance and meaning to our lives and that “… in popular novels, the main character is a hero or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience.”
In response to Campbell’s discussion about how the hero’s journey in myth and literature is about creating a more mature — and better — version of oneself, the distinguished journalist Bill Moyers pointed out how everyday people — “who may not be heroes in the grand sense of redeeming society” — can still relate to a protagonist’s transformation, allowing even the most outwardly meek of us to embark on an inner kind of hero’s journey.
The simple act of reading a novel, then, can give us a psychological shot of courage, encouraging personal growth while reducing anxiety.