Back to Hogwarts: The Mental Health Lessons in “Harry Potter”

Have you ever been told that you are “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” that you need to “just calm down,” and “think positively?” If any of these statements have ever bothered you, you are not alone.

As humans, we are emotional beings. In fact, our emotions make us magical. That’s right, those very feelings that we are often taught to “brush off” and to “just forget about” are actually the source of our greatest magical potential. Emotions make us care, they allow us to have access to our heart, to recognize what is most important to us.

From the very beginning of the series, we learn that suppressing a witch’s or wizard’s magical potential is likely to backfire. Despite all their efforts to keep Harry’s magic a secret from the world and from him, Harry’s magic is such a strong part of him that when he is provoked, his magical abilities are likely to show up anyway, such as when he accidentally magicked himself onto a school roof or when he made the glass disappear in a zoo.

Just like Harry’s magical abilities, our emotions too are not meant to be suppressed, they are meant to be explored and attended to. In fact, magic suppression can be extremely unhealthy, and even dangerous, as we learn from the Obscurus in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a dark destructive force that is created when a magical child is forced to suppress their magical abilities. On the other hand, with proper lessons, we can learn to manage our magical skills and understand how our emotions can be utilized to help us grow as a magical being.

Although the main focus of the Harry Potter series is about standing up to external villains, such as Voldemort and the Death Eaters, the series also shows us that we can learn to manage our internal monsters as well. For example, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner Azkaban, we learn about several monsters, such as Dementors and boggarts. Boggarts are terrifying shapeshifters, who take shape of whatever its observer fears most. Much like our own phobias and worst-case scenario-related thoughts, the boggarts feed on terror and are defeated by laughter. If rather than running away from our biggest fears, we face them, or better yet, make them “riddikulus” can help change the way we perceive that monster, rendering them much less threatening.

From Janina Scarlet, PhD, MuggleNet

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