A while back, I was reading a book that was seriously stressing me out, and so I just wanted to know if I was alone in this sort of feeling, or if other readers had similar experiences. Naturally, I tweeted about it.
Does anybody else ever feel like reading is stressful because of all the tension and emotions and stuff in them?
— Oh, the Kelley! (@anovelread) June 26, 2014
The responses I got were not really what I had in mind. Comments about being stressed because of the obligation to review the book, or stress because they plan to post about it and thus want to make sure they take adequate notes. Certainly, these were legitimate stresses and I could relate to them easily enough, but they’re not exactly what I was talking about. So I thought maybe a blog post would be a better platform for me to explain myself and (hopefully) find someone who understands what I’m feeling.
Reading Stresses Me Out
I’m not talking about reading as a blogger or reviewer. I’m talking about reading as a reader. Sometimes, just generally reading a book — because I want to read it — stresses me out.
The contents. The plot. The tension within the story.
Remember back when I talked about expanding my empathy while reading? Well, I suppose this is related. The thing is, I almost feel a sort of disconnect. There are a few things happening in a story, right? A few elements that combine together to make the whole. Mostly it can be boiled down to three things. The characters have: 1) desires, 2) problems, and 3) resolutions.
See that middle point? PROBLEMS. This is where my stress comes to the surface. Because, obviously, problems contribute to a significant amount of plot points. Problems are what contribute tension to the story. Problems are what cause anxiety and sadness and anticipation, etc. Problems are the part that stress me out.
So here’s the thing. I am a problem solver. I see problems and my brain just starts working toward solutions. That’s a big reason I am so self sufficient and self reliant. It’s a big reason I always seem to turn into the “go to girl” at whatever office I’m working in — because I will probably have already figured out an answer to whatever the question is. I do not like unanswered questions. I do not like unresolved issues.
But, Kelley… It’s a BOOK.
Yeah. I know. With reading a book, I obviously recognize that (if the author isn’t a jerk) all of these problems will inevitably come to some sort of resolution. I don’t have to fret over them! I just get to read and watch and see how they are resolved. Woohoo! But apparently, I’ve gotten myself in the habit of carrying those unresolved problems around with me.
Strangely, I’m not really sitting around worrying over these problems when I’m not reading the book. It’s only the accompanying tensions and feelings that stick with me. Empathic people can often have difficulty filtering out their emotions from those of people around them, and it can take a lot of focus and practice to build up boundaries. Am I so far out of it that I’m even letting the feelings of fictional characters seep into my emotional core?
From the looks of it, I think the sad truth might be: yes. Perhaps this is the reason that video games stress me out way more than they used to (even when I’m just watching someone else play them). Damn. Well, this point turned out to be way more introspective and enlightening than I expected it to be. But at least now maybe I have a better understanding of what’s going on, and a place to start resolving it. Thanks for listening.