A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens
A Review by Geoffrey W. Sutton
Psychotherapists often suggest patients read books-- bibliotherapy. Evidence suggests many find reading helps resolve conflicts and find solutions to life's struggles. A Christmas Carol offers a rich look at the importance of friendships and the ability of people to make significant life changes.
Dickens was also keenly aware of the social factors in life that make a difference. The story reminds us of Dickens' own poor childhood in Camden Town where his family went to debtor's prison. Poverty and lack of education (Ignorance and Want) have an effect on people's lives.
In the story, Dickens also portrays the development of empathy that matches reality. We often develop empathy when we can see a troublesome experience from the perspective of another. Empathy is a key to compassion. And empathy is stimulated by taking on another's perspective.
A Christmas Carol conveys the Christian gospel in a most entertaining manner. But Dickens also captures an essence that still informs contemporary inquiries into the Psychology of Religion. In the 1840s as now, people continue to negotiate the natural world by reference to their understanding of the spiritual.
Suffice it to say, Ebeneezer was confronted by death in a frightful manner and the death-informed lessons changed his life. Dickens's insights are prescient and deserve to be recognized in that long line of thinkers like Kierkegaard, Otto Rank, and Ernest Becker preceding the formulation of Terror Management Theory.
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