Megan was struggling, as so many of us do, with over-exaggerated worry thoughts. If she made a mistake at work, it became larger than life. She worried that her boss would be really upset with her, and that she would even be fired. This had no basis in reality, as her boss was very pleased with her work. But it was a lifelong pattern of hers to worry excessively.
One day we were working on labeling self destructive worry-thoughts, as a way of controlling them. As she was sharing her latest exaggerated worry, I suggested that she try labeling the thought “ridiculous” and laugh at it. She looked at me with that OMG/light bulb expression and exclaimed: “Just like Harry Potter!”
Apparently, in the third episode of the Harry Potter series, "The Prizoners of Azkeban", the students at Hogwarts learn to face down their personal demons in the form of“boggarts”. These are shape-shifting monsters that materialize in the form of the student's worst fear or worry. The students stand before these monsters, shaking in their boots. In order to slay the monster, they must push past the fear, and concentrate on something that will make the boggart look amusing. They wave their magic wand, concentrate with all their might, and shout: “Riddikulus!” When they do this, it causes the boggart to assume a shape that is comical, inspiring laughter. It is the laughter that causes the boggart to evaporate like the Wicked Witch of the West when doused with a bucket of water. Fighting the fearful monster with laughter works!
Megan and I looked at each other and laughed out loud, and she immediately began using the magic spell that helps her slay the monster of excessive worry.
Another demon residing in the Harry Potter series is the Dementor. A dementor is a dark, hooded creature, “one of the foulest creatures to walk the earth. . . . They drain peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them . . . Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.” (Remus Lupin to Harry Potter). Harry found himself to be particularly vulnerable to the Dementors due to his difficult childhood and many bad memories.
A mild case of contact with a Dementor could be relieved by chocolate. But to shield oneself from a more serious attack, one had to master the Patronus Charm. This was a form of magic that summoned the manifestation of good, either in the form of an energy shield, or in the form of a bright, positive avatar which could protect you from the Dementors.
The author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, has acknowledged that the inspiration for Dementors came from her own bout with depression. This occured at a time before she wrote the books, when she was a single mom, living in poverty, and struggling with the recent death of her own mother.
She described the dark feelings of that time as “an absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad.” She is a first class example of turning a difficulty into a strength, turning adversity into success.
So the next time you’re struggling with your own personal demons, grab a piece of chocolate, shout “Riddikulus”, and manifest some positive energy of your own! (And if it’s a more serious bout of contact with a Dementor, maybe consider calling a psychologist for some help getting your magic wand working again!)
© Catherine Aisner 2010