The longer I’ve been out of college the longer I have had time to wish I hadn’t lost a copy of my thesis paper. I really wanted to expand on it because I felt excited about it and felt that not only would it be helpful for others, it would help me. Call me selfish if you want, but part of the inspiration was trying to understand what made me tick more. However, to connect with others effectively, I am a strong believer in understanding yourself at some level. First of all, the basic idea behind my thesis was that, you could use fictional characters in fictional stories as a catalyst for personal long term positive change. By understanding why you admired certain characters you could learn more about yourself and spur on long term growth. However, I think I made a big mistake in how I was looking at it. I tend to think bigger than is best for my project. I tend to self totalize and make mountains out of molehills. When you try to account for everything in your study or paper, you weaken the overall project. However, understanding how I think about it I realized that to satisfy that part of me, I would include ways of referring clients to other types of useful therapies and tools that would suit them personally. This would mean acknowledging weaknesses but not letting them stop you, as a mental health professional from being helpful. Understanding my own biases, I think, will actually be my greatest strength in terms of helping others. Weakness is the shadow of your strengths. But anyways let me spell out my thought processes as concisely as humanly possible. First of all, what in fiction inspires me and how does that help me? How will that be useful to other people? Is simply comparing yourself to fictional characters in itself a positive? How does one figure out whether to refer a client to someone else? What characters inspire me and what do I learn about myself through them? This is part 1 of my deep dive into my own psyche. First thing is first, my inspirations were both Superhero therapy’s own Janina Scarlet and the many many books I’ve read. But what about my fictional inspirations?
Albus Dumbledore is the wise old man in the Harry Potter series and I admire him a great deal. The things I admire most are actually all things that you, as a reader, learn after his death in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. In fact, the character development that matters most to me from him and another happen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Albus Dumbledore is built up as the greatest wizard of his age and an invincible and wise teacher. He is the second surrogate guardian for the main character and for us through his eyes. He doubles as mentor and as our guide through the trial and tribulations that befall Harry. However, the entire 7 books are also about growing up. Yes, growing up and facing trials that normally one doesn’t but still it is worth noticing. At the end of the Half Blood Prince, Harry is alone and now must face off against the evil Voldemort alone. He has his friends but in many ways the final volume is actually a time of intense growth for both Harry and his friends. And it is intensely linked to his connection to Albus Dumbledore. Harry is slowly learning more and more about the man Dumbledore and a lot of it contradicts his image of him as the wise and good mentor. This also is interpersed with Harry having to learn to actually work much more closely with his two best friends. Some will say that he has always trusted and relied on both Harry and Hermione but that in truth, the dire situation and problem solving are being done in situations that are very different. Harry is used to being at death’s door and both of his friends have not totally gotten used to that. This creates conflict as Harry has two conflicting desires, protecting those he cares about and getting help from others. The fact that Harry is conflicted regarding his late mentor and that he partially resents him for trusting the man, Snape, who he now feels he is justified in hating, compounds it. However, when Harry finally understands the full plan he has also accepted that, he must choose to make his own path and that his link to Dumbledore must be severed in order to well, be the hero Dumbledore wanted him to be. When Harry is in limbo after his near death by Voldemort, he has a conversation with his dead mentor. This of course, allows him to confront him as two adults. The remarkable part about this is that Dumbledore talks frankly about his own moral lapses and failures. His mistakes as a younger man are talked about frankly with Harry as a peer. Dumbledore is no longer a mentor but in fact a respected teacher and friend. Harry has grown up and learned the difference between himself and Dumbledore. He needed to trust others in order to be a good leader. His willingness to do so made him a better leader in many ways than Dumbledore ever was. Dumbledore taught Harry what matters in a leader and Dumbledore understood that he wasn’t somebody who could handle leadership. He said his reasoning for declining the post of Minister of Magic was not because he was modest, but because he felt he wasn’t able to trust himself with power. I like Dumbledore because he embodies the coming together or different generations and of understanding the importance of communicating across them. It shows us that the mistakes of the past can be learned from and that, in fact, they make you more admirable. Dumbledore’s role as a teacher was perfect for him because he understood his own flaws.
The importance of a good teacher and positive role model, are super important and resonate with me. The importance of feeling like you are not alone and also understanding that part of growing up, is that no matter who you look up, they are human and have flaws. Dumbledore resonates with me because his flaws do not take away from how important he is to me as a character in the Harry Potter series. Honestly, his flaws make him better. Dumbledore taught me, that your flaws are part of who you are but that they are simply shadows of your strengths. He taught me that sometimes, being a teacher is allowing your student to struggle at some points, in order to learn lessons that are difficult to impart any other way. Harry’s trials in the seventh book were more than just about struggling to defeat Voldemort, they were about making a choice, to be better than his teachers and create his own heroes path.The Deathly Hallows were the promise of a magic bullet and were intended as a trial for Harry”s character. Dumbledore had failed that trial. Harry nearly fell but realized that the magic bullet approach wasn’t going to work. In other words, part of growing up for Harry, was distancing himself from his idols and making himself into the person he wanted to be.
Dumbledore, recognized that in Harry and believed in him. It didn’t look like it because he was so secretive and even he had his own doubts. But in the end he put his faith in others so that his plan could work. One of those people was Severus Snape. Snape is a different kind of character to inspire me. He has similarities with other characters I admire in fiction in that, his development goes from being antagonist to flawed ally. This will be apparent in other folks I talk about on here. Snape was presented, quite early on, as a cruel teacher and as someone who would always antagonize Harry. He hated Harry’s father and likewise he saw only what he wanted to see in his son. Snape was presented for a long time, as a reluctant ally of the good guys. A former Dark wizard, Dumbledore’s trust in him was the only thing that stayed consistant. Harry of course, was never quite convinced that Snape was on his side. In fact, that was the whole point. Snape’s entire heroic double agent act, was stubbornly kept from Harry because Snape despite all he did for Harry during the series, couldn’t bear to have Harry’s father’s son, know about him. That Snape loved Lily Potter and that he, despite the complicated feelings he had for both Harry and his mother, was able to put that aside in order to protect Harry. His love is selfish and unhealthy in many ways, just as much as his hatred of James. But as we see throughtout the series both of these feelings were actually organic. Harry sees the boy his father was, courtesy of the magic Pensieve, and was deeply troubled by it. Snape’s venomous reaction was likely because of his humiliation and less about how Harry might actually react. Snape was unable to separate the father from his son. He was unable to divorce all his anger, jealousy, resentment and hatred for James from his son. However, the same can be said for the fact that he quite clearly understood that Lilly Potter was also a part of Harry. Which is why, on his death bed, he asked Harry to look him in the eye, to see her eyes. Snape was complicated and had many flaws. But he was, arguably Harry’s most useful ally in the final act. By pretending to forsake the Order of the Phoenix, he chose to die alone and misunderstood both by his allied and enemies. He would die hated and distrusted by everyone. But he did consent to giving Harry his memories so that Snape’s story would be known by Lily’s son, after he didn’t care about his pride anymore. I would remind the reader that he didn’t need to include his life story and process in the memories, he could have chosen to just give Harry the information about him being a Horcrux. But I think he knew, that he needed to share everything, not just for Harry’s sake or to defeat Voldemort, but I think he deep down wanted Harry to know. This is why I respect and admire Snape. He wasn’t a man I would have liked to grow up with. But his loyalty and quite frankly his arc, are inspiring. Snape was unable to stop hating James Potter but he did care about Harry at the end. Snape overcame his own pride, remorse, guilt, and decided that his actions were important enough to change. That was a level of bravery and conviction that I admire greatly.
To be continued