Monday, June 3, 2013

The Lesson of the Boggart

This morning I was listening to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and I had one of those (all too frequent) moments when I thought, "J.K. Rowling is a genius."

The scene I was listening to was the first Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson taught by Professor Lupin, where he introduces Harry and his class to a creature known as a boggart. Boggarts live in dark, concealed places. No one knows what shape they take when alone, but when they come into contact with a wizard, they assume the form of the thing the wizard most fears.

The way to get rid of the boggart, Lupin tells the class, is to say the spell, "Riddikulus" while simultaneously thinking of a humorous way to change the thing you most fear. For example, Neville Longbottom most fears evil Professor Snape, so Lupin suggests that Neville picture Snape in Neville's grandmother's green dress, feathered hat, and red handbag. When Neville succeeds in forcing the Snape-boggart into his grandmother's clothes, the class laughs, and after a series of similar shape-changes and more laughter, the boggart is defeated.

Isn't that the most wonderful analogy? Think of the thing you fear, figure out how to make it humorous, and voila, your fear is defeated.

For example, I'm afraid of heights. Well, falling from heights. I don't have a problem with airplanes or tall buildings, but I hate Ferris wheels and tall ladders. I picture myself falling through the air and shattering on the ground. But what if I changed my mental image? What if, instead of picturing myself falling, I pictured a bunch of balloons sprouting from my head, raising me up into the sky so I could float at my leisure? What if I pictured myself growing wings? Or having the ability to reverse the ground and the sky? Maybe having that mental image would help me not take my fear so seriously. Maybe if I could think of a strange and silly outcome, and laugh at it, I could actually get on that Ferris wheel and enjoy myself.

What is your boggart? How would you "Riddikulus" it away?

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