Why is Harry Potter a great saga about dealing with trauma?

Behind its magical world and its supernatural creatures, the saga ” Harry Potter tells us about the transition to adulthood of a boy who must learn to manage his traumas. As a baby, he witnesses the murder of his parents by Voldemort. Orphaned, he was then entrusted to his closest family, the Dursleys, and suffered daily abuse. In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, he is 11 years old and his “bedroom” is in a closet under the stairs. He is constantly harassed by his cousin and belittled by his uncle and aunt. Harry is a shy and introverted boy, whose mind always seems a little elsewhere, out of a need to escape from a desperate daily life. He struggles to express his emotions. So many signs of his ill-being.

His future brightens when fate calls him to join Hogwarts, the school of wizards once attended by his parents. Then begins a long process of healing for our young hero, which goes through the presence of new benevolent emotional landmarks, such as his friends Hermione and Ron or his uncle Sirius Black, but also his mentors, professors Dumbledore and Lupin.

In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, Harry, now a teenager, begins to express his anger at the injustices he has suffered. This is a first step towards regaining control over his life. This is the first time that the hero has to face the Dementors, evil creatures who take away all feelings of happiness from their victims and make them relive the worst moments of their lives. These terrifying monsters are a metaphor for depression, a disease that manifests itself in particular by a feeling of despair, a decrease in pleasure or sleep disorders. When Harry comes into contact with the Dementors, he loses consciousness and hears the cries of terror from Lily, his mother. He suffers from a post-traumatic stress disorderan acute anxiety disorder that occurs during a violent event, such as the sudden death of a loved one, an attack, a period of war… Among the symptoms, we find what Harry experiences with the Dementors: traumatic flashes of event, which make him relive again the terror of his mother’s death.

Harry Potter at the School of Resilience

For Boris Cyrulnik, specialist in the concept of resilience since the end of the 1990s and author of several books on the subject: “We can only speak of resilience if there has been a trauma followed by the resumption of a type of development, a tear mended. It is not a matter of normal development since the trauma registered in the memory is now part of the subject’s history like a ghost that accompanies it. Harry engages in a form of therapy through magic. A reassuring referent, Lupine slips into the role of psychologist who will accompany him in his process of resilience. He reassures his pupil: “You are not weak Harry. The Dementors affect you more than others because you have experienced true horror in the past. Horrors that your comrades cannot imagine. You have nothing to be ashamed of. »

Lupine offers him concrete exercises to regain power over his mental health. First with the Boggart, a mischievous creature that takes the form of our greatest fears. To overcome this, students must cast the Riddikulus spell and imagine in their heads that they are ridiculing what scares them. For example, Ron, an arachnophobe, adds roller skates to the big spider which tries to attack him: it breaks its face and everyone laughs. “Humour is a vector of resilience because, by nature, it is benevolent and creates links, it is a social reinforcer. It allows you to distance yourself, take a step back, free yourself from despair and bounce back. analyzes the educational psychologist Bruno Humbeeck.

A shot of positive forces

Excerpt from the “Harry Potter” saga.

Lupine then decides to teach Harry the Patronus spell, which allows a protective animal spirit to appear. It represents a shot of positive forces. To summon it, Harry must summon the happiest memory of his life. Having very few, he just imagines that his parents are with him and talk to him. “I don’t even know if he’s real. But that’s the best I have,” he told Lupin. His patronus binds him to his parents, helping him to continue his work of mourning: he takes the form of a deer, like his father before him. The process of resilience goes through the work of transforming emotions, and very often through a reworking of memories. “Memory is not the simple return of memory, it is a representation of the past. Memory is the image we have of the past. That doesn’t mean that we lie to ourselves – we only remember bits of truth that we arrange, like in a chimera” notes Boris Cyrulnik. This is exactly the job that Lupine and Harry do: replace bad memories with good ones, even if it means forging them yourself.

During his final battle against the Dementors, Harry is in mortal danger, but he is saved by the patronus of a deer. At first thinking it was his father’s, he later realizes that it was he himself who cast the spell, to protect himself. The subtext reads that Harry had to save himself from his depression. No one could do it for him. The extraordinary power of his Patronus is a testament to his resilience.

Question of self-confidence

However, Harry is not miraculously cured of his traumas. Its symptoms take a variety of forms. The scar on his forehead is a constant reminder of what he’s been through, but it’s also a source of pride, as it means he survived Voldemort’s attack. However, despite his magical exploits since the first film, the young man does not shine with great self-confidence. In “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, he faces Rita Skeeter, a sensationalist journalist who bombards him with insensitive questions, especially about his parents, and questions his skills. This character symbolizes the strong anxiety that the wizard faces.

At the end of this film, Harry witnesses the death of Cedric Diggory, killed by Voldemort before his eyes. This event becomes a trigger that reminds him of the death of his parents, and his helplessness. In the following films, Harry suffers new and even more painful losses: his godfather Sirius Black and his mentor Dumbledore are killed. What accentuate another syndrome from which the teenager suffers: the guilt of the survivor. Identified in the 1960s with survivors of the Holocaust, it appears when a person has witnessed the death of a loved one, an attack or a massacre. The person feels guilty for having escaped death. She feels like she’s betraying the dead. This syndrome can lead to suicidal behavior.

The one who survived

Excerpt from the “Harry Potter” saga.

In the last film of the saga, Harry is psychologically devastated. He has seen too many of his loved ones die and survive him. “I’m sorry, I never wanted you to die because of me,” he said to the ghosts of his parents, Sirius and Lupin. In the next scene, Harry receives the killing curse, Avada Kedavra, without defending himself. This can be seen as a form of suicide attempt. He then finds himself in limbo, in the company of Dumbledore. Harry has a choice: die or return among the living to defeat Voldemort, who represents his inner demons. After a tender exchange, during which Dumbledore tells him that he is “a wonderful boy” and so “brave”, Harry regains his confidence. With the help of his friends, he finds the strength to end Voldemort.

The international success of Harry Potter inspired the field of psychology, which found there a work of universal scope, in which people who are victims of trauma can identify. Psychologists successfully use the work of JK Rowling in group therapy sessions with young people, who find there an imaginary world that allows them to share their discomfort with a certain distance. The story of Harry Potter makes it possible to identify with a complex character, who knows a trajectory of empowerment despite adversity. Going from victim to hero, he turned his traumas into strength to become an admired and loving wizard.

Why is Harry Potter a great saga about dealing with trauma? – She