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Archive for December 31st, 2007

Cave (c) Lynda Bernhardt

I spent seven hours yesterday reading the second half of the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I only started the series about a year ago, so I had friends eager for me to finish the last book so we could talk about so many things. I really enjoyed the series.

I found it hard to read straight through the books, even though I owned copies of all of them, because I needed time to decompress between each book. I found them to be very intense and triggering at times.

I was particularly moved by the Harry & Dumbledore conversations at the end of each book. I found a lot of wisdom in the books that is helpful in healing from child abuse. I do not know much about J.K. Rowling’s life, but it would not surprise me to learn that she was a fellow abuse survivor who wove what she learned about healing into her books.

In book 1, Harry wants to know the truth about his family. Dumbledore refers to the truth as a “beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.” How true this is about recovering memories of an abusive past. The memories I recovered were terrible, but there is beauty in seeing the love and determination to survive that made me the person who I am.

In book 2, Harry is upset in learning that some of Voldemort’s powers were transferred to him during the attack. It bothers him to have some of Voldemort in himself, just as it bothers many abuser survivors to have some of their abusers in them, particularly those who were abused by their biological parents. Like Harry, abuse survivors may question whether they are destined to be like their abusive family. To this, Dumbledore has this wonderful advice: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” It is our choices that make us different from our abusers.

I could go on about Dumbledore’s advice, but there is so much more there. I have described dissociation as looking through the wrong end of a telescope multiple times, and that description is used in the books. When Harry is fighting Voldemort’s thoughts, it reads very much like fighting flashbacks. Love is the weapon that is stronger than all others.

The hardest part for me to read was the graveyard scene in the end of book 4, when Harry thinks he is about to win the cup but instead finds it is a portkey to Voldemort and the death eaters. That whole scene was very triggering to me as a ritual abuse survivor, and yet it was so empowering because, like Harry, I was just a kid who still managed to beat a bunch of adults in robes who appeared to have all of the power.

Anyone who has struggled with self-injury could feel triggered by Delores Umbridge forcing Harry to carve “I must not tell lies” into his own hand repeatedly.

If you are an abuse survivor and read the Harry Potter books, read them again while looking for the wisdom of surviving abuse. It is there is spade if you are looking for it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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