(Part of an occasional series of posts based on the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling)
On his way to his 3rd year at Hogwarts, Harry has his first encounter with a Dementor on the train. Dementors are sinister, wraith-like creatures that suck all the positivity out of the air and leave those near to them feeling as if they will never be happy again. When a Dementor is around, the air becomes cold and thoughts immediately turn dark and miserable. They are the guards of the wizarding prison Azkaban, and feared by the magical world.
We probably all know a Dementor-like person in the Muggle world: the negative, moany or cynical person who manages to empty life of its joy; the sort of person who is like a black hole in the middle of a party or friendly gathering. Being around this sort of person can leave us temporarily unsure of ourselves, unsteady in our convictions or questioning our achievements. Situations that make us nervous or stressed can also act like Dementors. So what’s the answer?
The Dementor on the Hogwarts Express was dealt with by Professor Lupin, who teaches Harry the spell shortly after the Boggart banishing lesson. We learn that the spell is a tricky one to master, but that the first and most important stage is to access happy memories. Once Harry has found a happy memory, he needs to relive it in his head, feel its emotional height, and then wave his wand and say ‘Expecto Patronum’. When the memory is powerful enough and the incantation is said with sufficient confidence and conviction, a bright white light emerges from the wand which repels Dementors. You can watch the scene from the film here, if you like. As Harry and his friends master the spell, the bright light becomes a “fully fledged Patronus” – a ghost-like animal made of light.
The Patronus charm is strikingly similar to the NLP anchoring technique. So for us Muggles without the aid of a magic wand or friendly totem animal, there is still hope. Just as smiling can immediately make us feel brighter, this technique uses the powerful mind/body connection to access good feelings in dark times. Here’s how it’s done:
- Choose your (physical) ‘anchor’. This could be to twist a ring you always wear or to squeeze a specific knuckle. Make it subtle but unmistakable – this will be your magic wand replacement.
- Think of a handful of times when you have felt extremely happy, confident or completely in your flow.
- In a quiet space, pick one of your memories, close your eyes and relive the experience. Take time to be there in your head and notice what you see, hear and feel. When you feel completely immersed in the memory, turn up the colours, sounds, brightness and feelings until you feel you could burst with them.
- When you feel at the peak of experiencing your memory in all its fabulousness, squeeze that knuckle, twist that ring or whatever anchor you have decided on. Do it for a few seconds, still there in that colourful memory, and then open your eyes.
- Repeat this exercise with other positive memories. You can keep ‘topping up’ as new positive experiences come along (maybe try activating your anchor the next time you’re helpless with laughter).
- Next time you are in the presence of a Dementor person or situation and need a positivity boost, activate your anchor and feel the flood of good feelings.
OK, so there’s no white light, no magic wand and no impressive Patronus animal, but this Muggle trick is much more socially acceptable for job interviews or difficult conversations.
It’s also worth adding that Professor Lupin prescribes eating chocolate to recover after contact with a Dementor. That’s the sort of advice that puts the ‘wise’ in ‘wizard’…
Interestingly, the Patronus is different for each person, with the animals matching the characters’ personalities. For example, Harry’s Patronus is a stag – a noble symbol of courage, Hermione’s is a nimble, clever otter, and Ron’s is a dog, a universal symbol of loyalty. If you could conjure a Patronus, what would your animal be and why? Why not leave a comment and share your thoughts?