Harry Potter - development help for young and old
10.01.2006

Harry Potter is much more than casual reading entertainment, much more than a suspenseful adventure novel focusing on a faraway world. Harry Potter provides real psychological development help, in five respects:

1. It addresses readers' longing to decipher the secret code of their own fate and to embark on a process of self-discovery.
2. It shows readers that development is not a magical phenomenon, but something involving struggle and suffering.
3. It incites readers to see the world through a different - fantastic - pair of glasses and thus better recognize their own fears, ambivalences, and dreams.
4. It helps people cope with everyday life better by illustrating hands-on strategies for dealing with daily issues.
5. Finally, due to the increasing degree of maturity of the published volumes, it teaches readers how to approach more sophisticated literature.

In a depth-psychological study, rheingold found that it is just the right mixture of precisely these five points that gives rise to the success and fascination of J.K. Rowling's novels - through all generations of readers.

1. Longing for self-discovery

Harry Potter arouses in readers the belief in a concealed personal calling and determination which are often buried in dreary everyday routine. Harry Potter's central message is: you too have secret, special qualities; believe in yourself and your development and start down your own path, even if it is difficult.

The antagonistic living conditions and constraints that Harry Potter tries to escape from console readers and give them confidence. They feel reconciled with their own limitations, wounds, and lovelnessness, but also encouraged to begin a process of self-discovery. Another model is the life path of the author herself, who follows her own inner voice and who started writing the Potter novels when she was bogged down in the morass of a crisis in her own life.

Harry Potter readers start to ask questions about their own lives. What is stagnant in my own life? What slumbering callings lie idle? What secrets determine my plight? What secret desires drive me?

2. Development help without magic

Harry Potter is a development novel which challenges the reader to develop. Paradoxically, its main message is that development is not magic, but rather hard work. You have to take many small, tedious development steps. Nothing happens automatically; you are always threatened with failure and have to endure setbacks. You have to go through seven volumes to reach your goal.

In today's digital world, with rapid wish fulfillment at the press of a button and boundless technological possibilities, Harry Potter promotes an old-fashioned analog, but also realistic development principle: as in Grimm's fairytales, one can only develop by going astray first, by being confused, by being in danger, by risking one's life. But precisely such efforts and hard-fought battles constitute the attraction, pride, and magic of a development one has truly lived through.

The tedious challenges that accompany the adventure of development are reflected not only in Harry Potter's fate, but also in the endless development efforts of the author, which required the birth of the fifth volume.

3. Seeing the world through a different pair of glasses

Harry Potter does not only help readers see themselves differently, but also the world. Through Harry Potter's spectacles readers have an experience that is as astonishing as it is enriching: the world is not really clearly divided into rationality and irrationality, into fantasy and reality. Harry Potter skillfully upends common categories and trains of thought: the fantastic world of the sorcerers functions in a soberingly normal way, almost like in real life. Dreary routines life unfold a bizarre and fantastic dimension.

Harry Potter conveys to readers the insight that reality is fantastic and that the fantastic is real. The magic does not lie in otherworldly realms of fantasy, but in things themselves. However, one has to take a precise look to recognize the secrete magic of humdrum day-to-day life. Many readers say that the novels inspire them to see and depict the world in a different way.

Opinions differ about whether one can benefit from this fantastic reality outside the world of muggels. Harry Potter's detractors turn up their noses at the lazy, childish, esoteric magic disseminated. Potter fans, on the other hand, experience themselves as tight-knit community united by a fantastic worldview, a worldview in which seemingly irrational things - mixed feelings, secret fears, as well as the magic of dreams - have a place too.

4. The basics of everyday life

Harry Potter not only helps people see life differently, but also to act differently. Children in particular are more interested in Harry Potter's strategies to cope with life than in his magic tricks. For Harry Potter's adventures address fundamental issues that children - as well as adults - deal with. What should you do when you are different from the others? How can you find friends? How can you become reconciled with someone afterr a quarrel? How can you stand up to authority? How do you deal with first love?

5. Literary education in a double sense

Harry Potter not only instructs readers on how to see their lives differently and to take on personal development challenges. From volume to volume readers are confronted with increasingly sophisticated literature. Readers are not just incorporated in Harry Potter's process of maturation, they also participate in the process of literary maturation that the author undergoes. Each successive volume has more layers and more psychological nuances, which enable the reader to undergo a gradual literary ripening as well.

© 2015 rheingold