The dementor is a creature of J.K. Rowling’s invention. Cloaked in a dark hood, the dementor feeds off happy thoughts and leaves victims with a sense of hopelessness. The dementor also has the ability to give a “kiss” that sucks the soul out of the body.
How did such creatures come to be imagined? In an interview with Oprah, Rowling explained that she based dementors off of her own experience with depression. She said, “It’s not sadness; sadness is- I know sadness; sadness is not a bad thing, you know, to cry and to feel. But it’s that cold absence of feeling, that really hollowed out feeling; that’s what the dementors are.”
Interestingly, the more horrors in a person’s past, the greater the effect the dementors have. How, then, does one fight a dementor? By focusing on a positive, happy memory. This memory creates a light force, called a patronus, which chases off the dementor.
Now, it may be a vast oversimplification to say that depression can be fought with “happy thoughts” and it would be irresponsible of me to suggest that as the only solution; in fact, there are times when we need to acknowledge and validate our “negative” feelings. However, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a popular method of treating depression, does focus on correcting unhealthy thought patterns, such as the distorted negative thoughts that depression, like a dementor, can bring about. Harry Potter’s “patronus training” in book three of the series reminds me in a way of the structured nature of CBT therapy.
I think the important thing to note about fighting dementors is that the wizard has a toolbox of happy memories prepared in his arsenal ahead of time and has trained and prepared for the dementor’s appearance. They are able to recognize why they are feeling hopeless and they know what helps to put themselves in a better frame of mind. In that way, they regain control over their feelings of hopelessness.
Whether you have full-blown Major Depressive Disorder, dysthymia, or just get into a funk from time to time, I do think it is a good idea to have a toolbox of coping mechanisms available to help during your worst days in addition to traditional treatments. Maybe you have a happy memory, or a Pinterest board of things that make you smile, or a favorite go-to chocolate, someone you call on the phone, or a “comfort” box of your favorite things. Be proactive: think of this ahead of time, because you certainly won’t feel like it in a dark moment. Let this toolbox be your own real-life patronus. It may make a difficult day just a little bit better.
Is there a creature you would like to see me cover in the Creatures and Happiness series? Let me know in the comments below.
source: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban