If ever there was someone to understand the age-old sentiment “Life isn’t fair,” it’s safe to say Harry Potter is up there in terms of traumatic events. Try losing your parents before you can talk, a Dark Lord’s sworn vengeance to end you, losing connection with an entire world of others like yourself, and spending your childhood in your cousin’s shadow while sleeping in a spider-filled cupboard. I’d hope that most of us can’t fully relate to Harry’s set of life circumstances, but I believe that we can empathize with the feelings of grief, anger, confusion, and rejection we watch Harry struggle to comprehend all before the age of 11.
In the first movie of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we are hit with a lot in just the beginning of Harry’s story as we see glimpses of the traumatic events that bring Harry to his new home with the Dursley’s - his mother’s sister and her family - and despite being related by blood it’s not lost on even young viewers that there appears to be no love lost between Harry and the Dursley’s. We watch as Harry is faced with neglect, mistreatment, and hate-filled words on a regular basis and yet Harry continues to show up as the kind, well-intentioned person he knows himself to be and continues to push on regardless of what gets handed to him.
Your experiences are valid.
Trauma can come in all shapes and sizes and something we can gain from watching Harry Potter is the recognition that we are all worthy of healing from our traumas. We all determine our experiences and that right there makes them valid. Like many survivors of trauma young Harry showcases a common trope of survivor’s guilt and a habit of downplaying his traumatic experiences. Something that we can really gain from Harry’s first entrances into the wizarding world, from his trip to Diagon Alley with Hagrid, the start of his first year at Hogwarts, and his blossoming friendships with Ron and Hermione - an outside perspective often brings a necessary and objective perspective to our experiences and struggles. An abnormal childhood does seem normal, maybe even like ‘no big deal’ until you speak about it out loud to someone else. We see through the eyes of Harry’s new friends how different his childhood is perceived when he shares little tidbits of his life pre-Hogwarts.
Yet, it’s often due to Harry’s experiences that he’s able to relate and react with kindness and humility in his interactions with others. For example, it’s Harry, not Ron who insists they go look for Hermione to check on and warn her after the students are made aware of the troll set loose in the castle. If not for his experience with being bullied himself Harry may not have noticed Hermione’s missing from the group of Gryffindors and the battle with the troll may have ended not well had she had to face the troll herself.
Get comfortable in the gray area.
Harry shows us the epitome of gray area through the not quite family, but not strangers raising him. He’s not a muggle, but being raised by them, and when he discovers the wizarding world, he isn’t quite certain where he fits in there either. He isn’t exactly a Pureblood, although his fans align his lineage to ‘close enough’, he’s supposedly the ‘Chosen One’ yet he feels completely inadequate having known nothing about the world he’s suddenly immersed in. For Harry the world has always existed in varying shades of gray; so being exposed to all the magical wonders the wizarding world and Hogwarts have to offer merely broadens the shades of gray within his world. Here we can learn that in remaining open to differences within others and ourselves we are much more likely to be tolerable towards others and accepting of ourselves as we recognize that good and bad, muggle or magic, white or black aren’t as simple as yes or no.
People’s perceptions of you are more about themselves.
People ted to see us through the lens with which they see themselves. This means you have very little control over other people’s perception of who you are. We can help save ourselves and our children the time and trouble of putting effort into ensuring that people “get us” if they aren’t willing to see your effort or your worth as you are - that’s on them. However if you allow their perception to start to shape your actions and thoughts that’s when it falls back on you.
A little thank you that goes a long way.
You can accept an apology and thank someone for taking accountability without excusing their behavior.
Breaking a cycle takes courage.
“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Albus Dumbledore.
From our first introductions of first Harry and later Voldemort we are offered a view of many uncanny similarities between the two wizards: their twin wands, their connection to snakes, even some aspects of their appearances and childhoods. Yet, despite these similarities, Harry - from the beginning - refuses to take a passive role in when it comes to his own future, particularly when it means following the path marked by the Dark Lord and his not-so-great impression of Malfoy. So rather than accept the Sorting Hat's offer, Harry refuses to be placed in Slytherin and dares to demand he be placed in any other house. In doing so his bravery and courage is displayed and he gets sorted into Gryffindor. A decision that allowed a much different path to unfold for him. Like Harry, we stand to learn from Dumbledore’s sage advice. It is the choices made by us as an individual that determine what kind of person we are, who we will become, and the experiences we will face. Our futures aren’t set in stone, and unless we stand up for ourselves and the life we want to live, we will remain stuck in the mindset of a victim mentality. Be it through significant choices or insignificant choices, the opportunity to change the direction in which we are headed is always there. Take a page out of Harry’s book and don’t allow life to just happen to you; validate your experiences, appreciate others as they are, accept apologies but don’t allow the injustices to continue, and break the cycle of trauma with love, healing, and forgiveness.
A self-described geek, Maria Laquerre-Diego is a CEO and Owner who is committed to increasing access to mental health services and breaking down the stigma surrounding therapy services. As a therapist turned CEO, Maria has developed a unique perspective when it comes to mental health and the barriers surrounding mental health treatment. Influenced by her time at New Mexico State University in the Family and Consumer Science department, and University of New Hampshire’s Marriage and Family Therapy department, Maria has turned her dedication to giving back and supporting future generations of therapists. In addition to supporting mental health providers, Maria takes an active role in addressing the continued stigma of mental health services through the use of pop culture – everything from movies and television shows to superheroes and Disney characters. Maria has spoken about mental health at several local events, has served as an officer on professional boards and has provided training to clinicians all over the country while maintaining her and her family’s roots as Aggies! Outside of the office, Maria can be found spending time with her family and loved ones, exploring the world through travel, and creating cosplays for herself, her husband and their two little ones. Maria is always happy to talk about Star Wars, Marvel and mental health and can be contacted through her practice website www.anewhopetc.org