Have you ever heard of a ‘Boggart’? According to Harry Potter lore, a Boggart is a shape-shifting creature that takes the form of whatever the observer fears the most. They hide in dark and enclosed spaces and feed on fear; so the more fearful a person is, the less likely they are to defeat a Boggart. Now, since these entities are generated and sustained by human emotions; they'll always come back, sometimes with more of their kind, as long as people continue having fears.
But, don't worry, they can be banished with a simple charm. All you have to do is use the incantation "Riddikulus" and supplement that with the most powerful magic known to mankind… laughter. Sounds simple, right?
As I learned more about anxiety and our fears, I couldn't help but think of the Boggart in the wardrobe. The idea of a "force of mind" - as professor Lupin would put it - that was required to imagine something we fear as ‘amusing’ stayed with me. I only knew the feeling of anxiety; knowing what exactly I feared and then morphing it into something funny seemed like an impossible task to achieve.
Let me give you some context. Recently, I had a gig as an emcee at a party and my usual fears of messing up and getting publicly ridiculed reared its ugly head. My brain came up with a new approach, one where I imagined the crowd with comically large sabre-toothed tiger teeth protruding from their mouths (for a mental image: think Diego from Ice Age). To my surprise, this image made me smile and feel less threatened by my anxiety. It helped me perceive what I feared (or what I projected my fear on to) as funny, vulnerable, and a little (if not a lot) less threatening.
The boggart often represents our anxiety - it can sometimes be hidden, we might shy away from talking about it, it is fed through our spiralling fearful thoughts, is different for each of us,threatens us, changes form, reappears unexpectedly - and to some extent, developing the capacity to laugh at it tends to reduce the hold it has on us.
Of course, developing that capacity is a process, it isn’t as simple as forcing it into a funny shape that genuinely makes one laugh. Some of our anxieties are overwhelming. I was only able to get to this point with therapy to aid me. These days after my first ever successful "Riddikulus'' charm, whenever possible, I use the image of sabre-toothed people to help put things in perspective. This helps me acknowledge that everyone - including the objects of our fears - might have vulnerabilities and fears.
See, it's not a cure-all solution, but nonetheless, it's a useful tool to have in my toolkit when it comes to managing my anxieties.
Next on my list of spells?
Expecto Patronum, maybe.
Meet The Author
Zena holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology and is comically serious about her own inner development and growth. She credits a large part of her formation to her experience in working with terminally ill patients and families in the field of Palliative Care. She tries to approach each therapy session with curiosity and interest and believes in the transformative nature of the therapeutic alliance for the client as well as the psychologist.
Zena Yarde, Psychologist