Potter Tales for Fighting Depression? Works for Me

An Australian psychologist thinks reading Harry Potter is a great way to introduce ideas about hope and how to deal with mental illness and has written a book called Harry Potter Power on the subject. Read all about it. Reminds me of the 2001 Associated Press article, ‘Harry Potter and the Shrinks.’

Psychologists as a rule do not believe the soul, usually called “mind,” has specific faculties as did Plato, Aristotle, and the Church Fathers (i.e. Western Civilization up to and including Freud). They have trouble, consequently, with the Eliade-Lewis-and-Ruskin inspired notion that readers respond to stories about these same faculties more profoundly than they do other tales. You’d think, though, that the alchemical symbolism, the synchronicity of cartharsis in reader and story subject, and the remarkable transference involved that engages and to some degree transforms the serious reader would draw psychological study and attention beyond clinical tricks.

I trust if any readers find an article by a psychologist on either of these subjects as it relates to Harry Potter and the profound hold Ms. Rowling’s novels have on readers of all ages around the world that you’ll share it. Please suggest the topic to any graduate students in psychology you know, too. Call it ‘Faculty Psychology, Soul Triptychs, and the Alchemical Magic of Reading: Plato and Dostoevsky to Star Wars and Harry Potter.’


  1. I spent some time training to become a psychologist (before dropping out to work as an actor and study theology – I’m now planning on a PhD in Theology, Imagination and the Arts). One of the ideas I had was “story therapy,” i.e. using stories to help people find the meaning of the story that is their life. I got the idea after reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, and thinking about a play I had seen Off-Broadway called The World Over by Keith Bunin, in which the main character says, “We are all of us meant to be heroes.” That statement is the core of the play. We are each called to be heroes in the story we find ourselves in – not self-aggrandizing, outwardly-ambitious heroes, but quiet, self-sacrificing heroes. I think psychology could do less of seeing people as unfortunate victims of brain chemistry and more as potential great-hearted heroes. (I say this as someone who’s been on both sides of the couch, so to speak.)

    I’m glad I ran across your blog. (I did a Google search for a Keble quote I found in Lewis’ Studies in Words, which turned up a comment on one of your old blog posts.) I’ve just added it to my blog feed. I was interested to see that you just presented a paper referencing Michael Ward’s Narnia book. Michael has agreed to supervise my thesis on “C.S. Lewis on the moral responsibility of the artist.” (Poor guy’s currently stuck in D.C. because of the volcanic ash cloud over Europe – just in time for the beginning of term, too.)

    If you’re ever in the U.K., want to come speak to the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society?

    Cole Matson

  2. maggiemay says

    some of us are reading viktor frankl and some of us are reading victor frankenstein! On a recent reading of Mary Shelley’s classic, I discovered this comment about the power of alchemy to inspire: “As a child I had not been content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science…I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the paths of time, and exchanged the discoveries of recent enquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchymists. Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophies. It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand; but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth.”

Speak Your Mind