Harry Potter, the Boggart and Anxiety: Curious?

In “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” Professor Lupin is teaching the students at Hogwarts how to protect themselves from a boggart. Boggarts take the shape of what the person fears most. Lupin advises the students to picture what they fear most and use the incantation “Riddikulus.” However, just using the incantation isn’t enough. “What really finishes a boggart is laughter. You need to force it to assume a shape you find amusing.”

Todd Kashdan offers similar advice for dealing with anxiety in his book “Curious?”. The incantation he uses is “I’m having the thought that…” followed by whatever the anxiety producing thought is. Kashdan points out that we aren’t our thoughts. Our thoughts do not always reflect reality. By adding the observation that you’re having a thought, you’re able to separate the thought from reality and look at the situation more objectively while limiting the power of the thought.

After exploring the incantation, Kashdan talks about other ways of dealing with anxiety, including imagining the anxiety as an animate object, like a purple puppy dog or a tiger with candy cane claws and licorice teeth. “It becomes a lot easier to confront unwanted experiences and prevent fusion (the strength imbued in a thought when it is taken as literal truth) when they look silly and nonthreatening.

So, imagine your anxiety as a black widow on roller skates it can’t control or as Snape dressed like Neville’s grandmother and start getting control of your anxiety. Who knew that Harry Potter had insights on how to deal with anxiety and fear?


Want a More Fulfilling Life? ‘Curious?’

In “Curious?,” author Todd Kashdan writes about several different ways to get more out of life. From taking on mundane tasks to exploring once-dismissed activities, Kashdan says curiosity is the way to make life more fulfilling. Too many times, we shut off our attention to a task, which leads to a missed opportunity to be in the moment while opening up the mind to negative self-talk.

Kashdan urges people to engage their curiosity through practice. The steps of practice he suggests are:

  1. Choose something you consider an unappealing activity.
  2. Do the activity and look for three novel or unique things about it.
  3. Write those down and discuss them with someone else. (Use our comments section below!)

Kashdan uses this technique when he changes his daughter’s diaper, and when he does, he always finds something pleasant. He gets “a moment to reflect and feel close to my little one. Instead of losing a moment, I gain one” (p. 82).

In much of the first part of the book, curiosity is linked to creativity. Be curious, be more creative, and live a fuller life. For more on creativity and curiosity, check out “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative,” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.