Most people are afraid of something, whether it’s a fear of public speaking, fear of flying, or fear of insects. In the video below I explore common phobias, face my own fears, take on a flying cat.
“Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
The Imitation Game, a film based on a true story and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley has already been nominated for 8 Oscar awards. What is it that makes this film so moving and unforgettable?
Did you ever want to be a Superhero? Did you ever wish that you could possess magical powers, like Harry Potter, or travel around the world in a time machine, called the T.A.R.D.I.S. with an alien who calls himself The Doctor? What if you could, in a way?
Many of us wish we had some kind of magical or extraordinary abilities, and many of us strongly identify with fictional characters, like Batman, Superman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, characters from Harry Potter, Firefly, and many others. Recent research findings suggest that identifying with fictional characters can actually be extremely beneficial as it can teach us empathy, remind us that we are not alone in our painful experience, inspire us to eat healthier, and allow us to better cope with difficult life transitions.
“Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it”
Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
While not many of us have lost our parents to a dark wizard, many of us can relate to a deep deep sense of loss, having lost someone or something that meant a lot to us. That is also the story of Harry Potter. From the very beginning of the series we learn about the terrible loss, depression, and trauma that Harry and later, his friends, endure.
Anyone who’s read the Harry Potter series and/or watched the movies will probably agree that throughout their years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry and his friends come face to face with some of their biggest fears on numerous occasions. The series does such an outstanding job of demonstrating how different characters cope with anxiety and fear, that I couldn’t resist using these examples in my work with patients with anxiety. Here is how Harry Potter can be incorporated into therapy and what we can learn from the series about facing our own fears.
Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 20 years, you’ve at least heard of Harry Potter. An amazing book series by author J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter tells a tale of a young wizard, whose parents were killed when he was 1 year old by a dark wizard, called Lord Voldemort. At the age of 11 Harry discovers his true wizard identity, despite his abusive aunt and uncle’s attempts to keep this from him, and is able to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he learns how to use magic, and meets his two best friends, Ron and Hermione. Over the course of the series, Harry and his friends have frequently had to face monsters and beasts, as well as Lord Voldermort’s followers, and Voldemort himself. Ultimately, it is up to Harry Potter, the chosen one, “the boy who lived,” and his friends to protect the world from Lord Voldemort and his army of dark wizards, who call themselves the Death Eaters.
For the longest time mental illness was considered a taboo, in many cultures it is something that is not discussed or accepted, leaving the people that are most in need of support and compassion to be alone and ashamed of their condition. Traditionally the media, including news, films, plays, and books have portrayed people with mental illness as villains, adding to the already existing stigma. And at a time when we are just starting to understand where some mental disorders come from and how we might be able to treat or attenuate them, a production like “Next to Normal” serves as a wonderful tool for giving us the insight into one of the most misunderstood diagnoses – Bipolar Disorder.
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS
In the past mental illness was largely misrepresented in the media, especially in the movies and comic book industry, where the villains were usually ones with mental illness. We know that someone with a history of mental (or physical illness) can be a superhero too and I’m glad that more films, TV shows, and comic books are now starting to demonstrate this point. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark appears to have symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and while he is struggling, he is able to do what’s necessary to protect others. Similarly, in Gail Simone’s version of Batgirl, Barbara Gordon struggles with PTSD and her paraplegia due to the fact that Joker brutally shot her in The Killing Joke. And now there is a new hero with mental illness, Aura.
By: Harpreet Malla, M.A.
Typically when I see that mental health is featured in film, I have mixed reactions. On one hand, the more mental illness and its existence is talked about or addressed, the better. Stigma, or the negative perceptions and misconceptions we have, are primarily broken down by contact with the thing about which we know so little. On the other hand, when portrayals of the mentally ill are poorly done, they can feed into our existing stereotypes and imbue people with fear or disgust rather than compassion. I can think of many films in which an actress has had a near-melodramatic meltdown in an Oscar bid amid characters that are portrayed unidimensionally as either the antagonists who “elicit” the mental illness or are the supportive, silent sufferer types. This month, however, I was delighted to see not one but two excellent films featuring characters dealing with mental illnesses.