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Harry Potter as Therapy

Anna Viatova considers Harry Potter from the perspective of psychotherapy.

Every time someone tells me “Harry Potter is for children”, I wonder if those people know anything about what it is like to have their own opinion and not blindly follow the crowds of narrow-minded people. I am 25 years old, and I have reread the Harry Potter books 10 times, but in this review I want to introduce you to something truly special.

About a year ago, I came across a book titled Harry Potter as Therapy and it felt like someone had finally put into words everything my not-so-eloquent self had been trying to tell the world. The book is written by a psychiatrist/ psychotherapist, Dr Iurii Wagin, with 35+ years of practice in psychotherapy, who shares the anecdotal evidence about the nature of the characters and the rationale behind their decisions, all backed up by professional experience.

I always knew my affection for the book series was not just based on dragons and magic (though I keep imagining how much easier getting to the furthest Ox department would be if I could just apparate). Every time I read the books and watch the films I uncover the truth about the human psychology, especially given the fact that so many things happening in the books reflect our every day lives. We all are familiar with things like resisting annoying family members, having to tolerate the attitude of rough teachers, the sweet joy of having friends, and even dealing with the evil on an everyday basis (don’t you tell me having to do 2 full exams in a single day is not pure evil). Harry Potter as Therapy has opened my eyes to the importance of those things in the Potter books, but also to how much life wisdom and accurate portrayal of psychological nuances is hidden in the series.

What strikes me most is how unexpectedly deep the book is. To be frank, I did not expect much from it as I was aware of the books of this kind that mainly analyzed the events and attempted to find the metaphors about our imperfect world (not so hard to do given the news we hear every day). However, this book was different. It did not so much analyze Harry Potter; it explained it from the point of modern psychotherapy. Going all the way from such superficial topics as the friendship of the main trio and why Voldemort is a jerk (which, clearly, needs no reiteration) to tapping into objectification, depression, fear of death, and why the picture-perfect Hermione actually chose the local simpleton Ron instead of the great Harry Potter (this part blew my mind with how simple and brilliant it was).

Another feature that makes the book stand out is the abundance of actual anecdotal evidence from the Dr Iurii Wagin’s professional practice. How often do you talk to someone who has seen the very worst of the humankind’s mental struggles? Every single chapter sheds light on the real life cases that the Doctor had to deal with, spiced with how outstandingly wittily they are written up. Doctor talks about catatonia, hiding pregnancies, marriages, the philosophy of hedonism, the Nazi, and homosexuality (the Oxford comma is vital here), and many more life peculiarities. And yes, all of those are related to the Harry Potter series. 

As a linguist, I also found so much joy in word play, comparisons and metaphors that just hit you differently. Let me finish expressing my utter appreciation of the Harry Potter as Therapy book by including a couple of quotes:

“A parent’s love is like radiation. In small doses, it energizes. But large doses produce mutants.”

“Life reminds us once again that courage isn’t the absence of fear, but the ability to keep going even when you’re very afraid. If men learn this lesson, women will cherish and embrace us rather than books about Harry Potter.“

“To this day, many people are still sincerely surprised that children all over the world avidly read Harry Potter. I think it’s because it teaches children what they can’t necessarily learn from us. That you shouldn’t eat shit, no matter what reward is offered for it. That lives do not have an absolute value, but rather a relative one. And that we must always fight to the end.”

In case you are not a big Harry Potter person, I would still encourage you to read the book. the book provides practical life advice and may help you look at different life situations from a different angle. I was able to discover certain truths that happened to be the result of imposed values rather than my own thinking, and to get rid of them. Just like a cup of nice warm tea in the evening, the book leaves a calming aftertaste and teaches you not to be afraid to be yourself and to embrace your very own experiences. And for that, I am grateful.

Originally, the book is written in Russian as the author has written all of his books in his first language, though he permanently lives in France. Fortunately, recently the author revealed that “Harry Potter as Therapy” will be out very soon in English this summer, and I couldn’t help sharing my appreciation with the Oxford audience! 

Follow the author’s Twitter, @DrWagin (https://twitter.com/DrWagin), or his Instagram (run in Russian) @doctorvagin, and look out for the official launch of the e-book on Amazon! Do not miss on your chance to dive into the world of character psychology, and to save some money on therapy for the beautiful summer strawberries (;

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