Why we’re drawn to Colin Hoover and read about trauma

cOlin Hoover fans – an enthusiastic group of readers who call themselves “Cohort” – are preparing to be emotionally thirsty.

On October 18, Hoover will publish start with usThe long-awaited sequel to 2016. ends with us. While her more than twenty novels are mostly romancesHoover specializes in the type of book that practically requires the reader Their healers are on standby. Consider recent reactions on TikTok, where the hashtag #ColleenHoover has been viewed over 2.4 billion times: “I never cry while reading books, but this ending made me cry,” One person wrote. “I’m about to hit rock bottom, so I was wondering if anyone needed anything while I was there,” Another knock inholding a copy of ends with us.

Hoover’s novels explore dark themes: abusive relationshipsAnd the Toxic masculinitysexual assault, abortion, betrayal. She has been outspoken about her personal relationship with some of the things she writes about: Hoover said her father physically abused her mother, and that that ends with us I was Inspired by her mother. The novel introduces readers to Lily – a florist who grew up with an abusive father – and her neurosurgeon husband, Rayle, who turns a childhood incident into an excuse to assault her. He is especially jealous and vengeful after Lily reconnects with her first love, Atlas. When Lily learns that she is expecting her child from Rail, she must decide if she will continue to endure the cycle of abuse that she has been trapped in her whole life. start with us It picks up where the novel’s epilogue ends and focuses on the relationship between Lily and Atlas. It promises to deliver more of Hoover’s signature heartache and ugly tears.

Some online readers note that books like ends with us They changed their view of domestic violence, which helped them understand why a battered partner might struggle to leave the abuser they still love. Hoover recalls more personal stories from fans. “I’ve heard from readers who have left horrific situations that my books have inspired them to do so – and it’s the most amazing thing I wish could ever happen,” she told TIME by email. “Just sharing stories can really help change someone else’s life – the weight of that is huge, but if you help someone in any way, it’s something really special.”

Hoover is not the only creator who has been inspired by the so-called shock conspiracy: Other examples include Hania Yanagihara‘s small lifethe new Netflix movie The luckiest girl aliveand the HBO . Drama Barry. Some critics criticize this approach, arguing that characters are flattened when they are defined only by their trauma, and that it can be exploitative.

That criticism is valid, says Naomi Torres Mackey, a psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and head of research at the Mental Health Alliance. “When trauma is so central to the character’s existence, it can be dehumanizing and balanced with what’s going on in real life — when we’re learning about someone’s traumatic past, and they have to fear that’s all we’re going to see now,” she says. “This is very unfortunate because trauma survivors are naturally full, multifaceted human beings.”

However, Torres Mackie adds, when executed well, trauma has an important place in literature and media. It is necessary to have such images “in a comprehensive, humane and balanced way.” She stresses that darkness is an inevitable part of life: “Reading content like this can feel comfortable within a culture where we are all supposed to be happy.”

Understanding the attractiveness of Colin Hoover

Hoover published her first novel as herself, Criticize, in 2012, and has since reliably produced two new books a year. Much of her work has seen a boom in popularity thanks to BookTok, the corner of the TikTok video-sharing platform dedicated to book recommendations. She wrote Books No. 1 and No. 2 on October 9 New York times Best Seller List: Reality (43 weeks on the list) and ends with us (68 weeks), both published over three years ago. In the past year alone, there have been copies of her books Selling the Bible more than selling it.

It may seem counterintuitive that readers would be so eager to inhale the uncomfortable books that leave them Cry And the Heart broken. But reading about trauma is appealing for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it helps us learn about the full spectrum of events that make up life. “It gives you a lens for different experiences,” says Torres Mackie. “As human beings, we are by nature fascinated by one another.” In this case, this passion can stem from a desire to connect with people we know who have experienced trauma, or from good old voyeurism.

There are many violence against Woman Some experts in the United States say it’s natural for readers to look for it in fiction. Forty-one percent of women have experienced sexual and physical violence and/or stalking by a partner, According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Although the themes in her books are dramatic and tailored to our entertainment, they are based on a lot of what is really going on in this world,” says Willow Goldfarb, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., mental health counselor based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Practice counseling with locations across the United States at ends with usIt indicates that there is intense drama and jealousy between Lily and Rael. Their relationship is also complex: Although Rael’s violence is objectively unacceptable, he has a tormenting but loving side that makes Lily and some readers want to rehabilitate him. “I think a lot of women can relate to that — trying to save these men that we think can be brought back from the brink of abuse and torture,” she says. Goldfarb has a point: In one TikTok videoone reader commented, “Am I the only one who wants to fix Rail so badly?”

Readers with experience Domestic Violence Julie Fraga, a psychologist at a private practice in San Francisco, says that often traumatized people or others appreciate seeing themselves reflected in a story. Such representation can help them feel isolated and reduce the feeling of being “other”. “They are looking for themselves in the story,” says Fraga. “Hearing that someone’s experiences have been the same as yours, or even worse than yours, can help you feel less lonely — even if it’s just a fiction book.”

Others may consider books as a way to protect their own safety and prevention strategies. The reader might watch for warning signs before Rael pushes Lilly down the stairs, and catalog his behavior before and after. Torres-Mackie explains the thought process: “If I read these kinds of novels to make sense of this painful experience, even though it’s fiction, I might be able to block my pain,” she says. “There can be a sense of self-protection and learning from the traumatic experiences of others.”

Hoover’s popularity speaks to a cultural shift that has occurred over the past two decades, says Alexandra Cromer, a Virginia-licensed professional counselor with Thriveworks. “She hasn’t talked about trauma in 50 years,” she says. “I sucked it up and carried on.” Now, with each new generation, this is changing. “There was a lot of awareness and empathy towards the trauma stories – so there is more space for people to learn about these things.”

Implications for mental health

Experts agree that reading about trauma can certainly have mental health effects. But – and here’s where my two favorite words for a therapist come in – it depends. The individual reader’s past experiences, emotional well-being, and other personal factors will determine the impact the book will have on them.

Torres Mackie says it’s important to think about why someone would consume this content. It can be the pursuit of catharsis – the healthy release of previously pent-up feelings associated with traumatic events. “It can be really hard to have difficult feelings,” she says. “But if you can experience it through someone else, like a character in one of these books, it allows you to feel your darkest feelings.”

especially for Trauma survivor who still have a lot of therapy to do, however, the substances can trigger flashbacks, unexpected emotions, physical symptoms such as headaches, or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Reading about a difficult topic, such as physical abuse, activates our mirror neurons — brain cells that are likely the neural basis for empathy and that influence the way we feel another person’s feelings or actions. “These neurons can get on fire, which is why these things give you that jolt of adrenaline or excitement,” says Torres Mackie. “You feel as if you are in the narrative on your own.”

Torres-Mackie advises watching your reaction closely to the reading material: you should consume it, rather than make it consume you. If you begin to feel hypervigilant and insecure in the world, or if you are struggling with it nightmares About the book, it would probably be smart to stop reading. Torres-Mackie offers a guiding question: “Does it fill you up or does it exhaust you?”

Ideally, readers will experience novels like ends with us And the start with us As Goldfarb says: Entertainment. She considers herself a Hoover fan and does not feel she has been hurt by the material. “But I’m also someone who processed my own trauma, and did my own therapy,” she says.

She adds that the publishing industry could do a better job of sharing resources to readers who might be negatively affected by sensitive content. “In every book, there could be a small leaflet or disclaimer, like, ‘This is not healthy or normal. This is for recreational purposes,'” she suggests — as well as contact information for a mental health organization such as Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Readers can also search Trigger warnings For books, including on websites such as doesthedogdie.com—And they should be included on the cover or in another prominent place, says Goldfarb. This will provide readers with a clear sense of whether they will encounter topics that they would be better off avoiding. “Take care of yourself and immerse yourself in your body as you read these things,” she says. “If you’re upset about it in a way that doesn’t go away with a cup of tea and a hug, talk to someone about it. And let’s push for more warnings about these major topics in books, so we can protect each other and enjoy reading more.”

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