Externalizing Ridiculous Fears Harry Potter Style
Lets face it, some fears are ridiculous. Irrational, untrue and vague, they plague us anyway. One of the best things you can do is externalize them: Name the fear and be specific. (Fears like to be vague about themselves, evasive they gain power over us. Exposed, we undermine that power.)
Take the fear outside your identity, see it as a fear, and give it a name: (i.e., fear that you forgot the door unlocked, fear of not being cool enough, fear of spiders, fear of getting robbed, fear of a loved one leaving you, fear of looking fat).
Sometimes, fears seem like they are so closely connected to us that they are us. They seem to become part of our identities. When the fear tells us to be afraid, we believe it because it appears to be us telling us. We need some distance, naming it is the first step in getting distance.
Once we name it, we can take a look at all the ways that it effects us: avoid social events, stop eating, accuse people of wanting to leave, pick only the food from the bad shelf in the grocery store. This invites us to put even more distance between ourselves and our fears; where we can see our fears from a new perspective. We can see all that we lose when we listen to them. This can have us get angry instead of afraid, empowering us into action!
From this vantage point, we can assess whether the fears are okay by us. "Is this okay to let this fear have so much control over my life and decisions?"
If the answer is: No. This is a ridiculous fear. It has taken up too much of my life, my well-being, my relationships, my fun! You have two choices:
1. Be Like Harry Potter
In Harry Potter and the Prisioner of Azkaban, a boggart- a creature that is usually found hiding in cupboards- manifests as your worst fear when coming out into the open. The curse to get rid of the boggart is to incant "Riddikulus" - changing the fear into something you'd find ridiculous. What I love about this scene from Harry Potter is that it is the laughter that finally gets rid of the boggart. Remember: Laughter and anxiety cannot share the same moment together!
Fears often run as a video in our head about something horrible happening. We need to purposefully change that video into something less scary, less disturbing, just like the students do with the boggart. We need to replace the terrifying video with a new video full of hope or at least a greater sense of control over the situation. Then find the humor and/or joy in it. Just like the boggart. This is what finally gets rid of the anxiety.
We let them go since we realize that we don't buy into them anymore. Yay! Or...
2. Judge yourself for being so weak, stupid, and abnormal.
This obviously increases our suffering. Judgment on top of the fear always compounds the issue. It attaches us more firmly to the fear. We feel like a loser and trust ourselves less, making fears harder to get over. We ultimately need trust in ourselves to get over fears. Trust that we can handle the situation.
In the end of the movie, Harry is able to conjure a powerful patronus charm only because he trusted himself (he knew that he had already done it.)
Listen. We get to choose which choice we take. Trust takes us out of it faster.
By Jodi Lobozzo Aman
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Lobozzo, J. (2012, April 11). Externalizing Ridiculous Fears Harry Potter Style, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, October 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2012/04/externalizing-ridiculous-fears-harry-potter-style
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
"Riddikulus" really does help! Laughing at your fear gives you power over it! What works best for me is the first appearance: Snape in Neville's grandmother's clothing! Snape is pretty scary, after all and being able to laugh at that helps me keep my fear in its actual perspective. I just need to do that more often!
[...] that you were dreaming something horrible. Still in all of your fear and sweat, close your eyes and form a new scenario: fix it, make it easier, save yourself and everybody, weaken villains, give yourself superpowers, [...]
A very helpful post, Jodi. I love the idea of naming the fear and bringing it out in the open, seeing it as NOT who we are. I am going to try that.
I had an experience this week where I had to ask myself, am I going to let my fear/obsession/anxiety about this affect my health? The answer was "NO." And I pushed through it to accomplish something I needed to do. It was a great feeling!
Tina! You got it! That is so awesome! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Jodi for reminding me about this. Externalizing the problem, be it fear or something else, is something I've done with clients many times. But I also need to do this for myself! Every day, like so many women, working mothers, writers, etc. I accomplish a lot. Yet I frequently begin a task--whether it's making my kids' lunch or the workout I do every day--with a gnawing fear that I won't be able to finish (I always do, though). It's a strange and quite useless fear that I need to jettison. This does help.
Thanks Lisa, great example! Feel the fear and do it anyway, then the confidence builds and the fear goes!
I like the idea of the video. I have big fear of getting down the stairs "hand free". I need to hold to someone or something. As soon as I'm getting down the stairs, I see myself falling from the top of it and end up dead covered with blood.I don't know where it comes from, but it might me due to all the times we had to rush down the stairs during bombings or also to the fact that I used to "jump" the stairs in order to impress other kids :)
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