I once was a normal teenager–if briefly. I guess you could say I went through a mild “Harry Potter State”. I was Harry’s age when I read the first 4 books and in some sense I found company and guidance in these imaginary teens in imaginary worlds during a tricky period of development and growth. Somehow, reading about the struggles, the fears, the hopes, the adventures of Harry and his friends made my life easier–biologically, emotionally, intellectually, and alcoholically speaking.
It is fair to say I developed shortcuts for handling difficult or confusing relationships based on magical tricks played by magical characters in the magical world. I was into it. It was a colorful way to introduce a child into the adolescent world–a serious, logical, structured world that puts so much emphasis on turning this child into a successful adult. At some point, I knew the spells, the creatures, the places, the histories. Of course, after years of touching the books, all those words are gone from my memory–replaced by more practical cerebral records such as birthdays, derivative formulas, the periodic table, and code commands.
However, not all are gone. In fact, there are still stories from the books that I continue to revise and invoke in my adult life. These stories help me visualize and understand some funky feelings and strange emotions I cannot sometimes verbalize. I can relate to these stories and as they facilitate the rationalization of very heavy feelings like fear, hatred, anger, frustration, irritation and feeling of injustice, they continue to make my life easier!
With this post I want to draw a parallel between 2 particular creatures in the Harry Potter world and the difficult people I have encountered in my life–people that make me unstable and vulnerable, that threaten my confidence, my happiness, and my love for life.
The world is complex and full of unknowns (known unknowns and unknown unknowns). It is a scary place if you care for stability and predictability. To deal with this infinite level of uncertainty an untruth, humans naturally look for tricks to simplify the world. We make generalizations, we develop rules of thumb (“when in doubt, add more wine”, “I am not drunk until I talk to myself in the mirror”, “age is nothing bu a number”, “to hit a passing shot, I always go down-the-line” etc.). These ‘heuristics’ save us so much time and effort; they make us faster and more comfortable when facing novelty. A psychologist will tell you that stereotyping is advantageous because it enables you to respond rapidly and avoid harm in situations that appear similar to those you had already experienced.
Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood, I have met many people. Good, Bad, Ugly, you name it. But in general, whether good, bad or ugly, most people are “normal” and don’t inspire any particularly extreme response or feeling. I am not worried about normal people. They are cool. I am also not worried about people who are not normal but inspire positive reactions. I welcome these people into my life and try to build deep, nourishing relationships with them. What I am worried about is people that destabilize me. People that threaten my peace in a negative way: people that make me doubt of myself. This people are terribly consuming. They exhaust me. I spend much of my time and energy thinking about them, remembering their gestures, re-living the feelings they triggered. This people, quite literally, have sucked the life out of me to scary points. If I have learned anything from my exposure to these toxic characters is that I must avoid them when possible and rapidly repel them if it’s too late to escape. The avoidance mechanism is transferable for any kind of toxic person: you just flee the scene or ignore the person. However, the way to combat these individuals is very different; there is where accurately identifying them by their respective evil is key.
So, how’s that related to Harry Potter?
Well, based on Harry Potter’s repeated experiences with 2 particular creatures, I have defined 2 categories in my personal gamut of stereotypes. The toxic people in my past (and my present) fall into one of two definitions: There are boggarts and there are Dementors.
In the world of Harry Potter, boggarts are plastic creatures. They can shift their shape to take the form of their convenience. No one knows what a boggart looks like when it is alone as they instantly change into the viewer’s worst fear.
When facing a boggarts, it is best to bring someone along to confuse it. The charm that combats a boggart is “Riddikulus”. It requires a strong mind and good concentration. But moreover, it requires imagination. The charm does not repel the boggart, what it does is force it to assume a comical shape, inspiring laughter on the spell caster–it is the laughter what will defeat the boggart.
Boggarts are harmless, but they make us believe they are powerful. They get on our minds and we give them too much importance. They can paralyze us simply by manipulating our believes. You don’t want to suffer because of a boggart, that’s just sad; a sad waste of time to be tormented by an insignificant creature that deserves pity. Laughing at them is a way to combat their egos and make them realize they are not what they want you to believe. Eventually, they will get frustrated and leave you alone.
On the other hand, in this world there are real dangerous people that you don’t want to have around. Dementors are among the foulest creatures in the world. Dementors feed on human happiness and cause depression and despair to anyone near them. According to Harry Potter Wikia, “They glory in decay and despair, 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. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself… soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experience of your life.”
Dementors cannot be killed through physical means; they can only be driven away temporarily. One of the few ways to shield oneself from Dementors is by using the “Patronus” charm. The charm is very difficult to master. It produces a shileding “Patronus”, a physical manifestation of good will and happiness. As the Patronus is not alive, the Dementor cannot feed on it. A powersul wizard can hold off dozens, if not hundreds of Dementors with a single Patronus.
I know a bunch of Dementors. And I also know a bunch of powerful wizards that struggle with their type of Dementors.
I have grown pretty skillful in the art of identifying and repelling boggarts–even boggarts that take the form of Dementors. However, there are a few Dementors in my life that continue to haunt me and despite my “Patronus” they continue to inflict much pain everytime they are nearby. Forgiving doesn’t work. Dementors have no loyalty and they only take advantage of my kindness. Forgetting is not recommendable: without a points in your sample, how do you predict? Provoking them is probably the worst idea ever. Besides feeding on your happiness, the Dementors I know are cruel and lustful for my anger. Seeing my irritation only encourages them to make me more and more sad, until I am reduced to a bundle of negativity and hatred and resentment–just like them. Usually, I just breathe and pray they be gone soon.
I fear I will encounter some of the known Dementors soon. And I am afraid that I have been so busy swimming in worlds that offer less practical lessons than the Harry Potter world, that I haven’t practiced my Patronus spell. What will be of me?
I must quickly define my strategy and get back to dominating my weapons before the next unsavory encounter.