How Harry Potter and Dumbledore's Relationship Illustrates Healthy Trauma Resolution
I’ve been re-reading the entire Harry Potter series from J.K. Rowling over the last few months and have been noticing amazing themes that I had not recognized before. Rowling really understands trauma and what it takes to heal trauma: time, facing and working through the pain, and a safe space to process these emotions.
Rowling’s character development of Dumbledore has especially fascinated me, as he exemplifies how to help Harry process his experiences, rather than numb them.
Creating Space to Process and Heal
When someone experiences post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they cannot be diagnosed officially with PTSD until after at least three months. This is because after a traumatic event happens, your brain and body naturally try to relive and re-process the events immediately afterward in order to heal, give the event meaning, and move forward. While our culture may try to encourage us to avoid this pain or numb this pain, it is actually a critical window of time for healing.
When Harry is facing the challenges and difficulties in his life, Dumbledore allows him to bring all of himself to the table and creates a safe place for Harry to share and process his emotions. He stays calm and compassionate toward every part of Harry, even the difficult, angry, shameful parts of him.
Identifying as Both Dumbledore and Harry
As a therapist, I see myself as Dumbledore. I see my clients bringing their different burdens, traumas, fears, and shame into my office and I strive to create that important, safe space for their healing.
To be totally vulnerable and honest, most days this is exciting and fulfilling for me, and on other days, it’s very challenging and hard. It feels overwhelming when I’m faced with humanity in its hardest and most painful places. It can be tempting to give in and let my brain take these parts of others and define their whole person as that one part. But even when this seems like the easy way out, I remind myself that this would undo all of the change we are working so hard to achieve.
In these challenging moments, when I wonder why the world is so broken, confusing, and hard on humanity, I see myself as Harry. When I shared this reflection with some of my fellow therapists last week, one of them offered the beautiful suggestion that “In order to become Dumbledore, I must go through what Harry experienced.”
Accepting The Challenges As Part of the Journey
This helped me remember that walking through these challenges and hard chapters in life allow us to walk with others when they are going through the challenging, hard chapters in their journey. These moments not only shape who we become but also give us the tools to help others become who they are meant to be.
I hope that embracing this perspective on your journey gives you clarity and peace. If you are interested in learning more about how therapy can help resolve trauma in your life, I would love to connect with you. Feel free to contact me.