What I love about these books is that just about any age reader can enjoy them on some level. From an emotional/psychological-health standpoint, the books are full of important life lessons. Here are the ones that speak to me:
- Family is important - In the Harry Potter books as in our lives, family isn't always the one to which we are born. Choosing people to be around who support and care for you is often a healthier choice than spending time with our dysfunctional birth-family members.
- True friends stick by you - Hermione and Ron remain Harry's friends throughout the seven book series. And Harry isn't always the best friend to them. Your real friends put up with your nonsense, crankiness and your least attractive faults. They may tell you that you're being a jerk, but they stick with you anyway.
- Not everything is as it seems - There are characters in the books who seem to be purely evil or purely good, but not everyone fits nicely into one particular category. As some characters evolve, our first impressions change. We shouldn't be so quick to judge from those first impressions we draw from people.
- Not everything is black or white - Much like number 3, characters and situations in the Potter books rarely fall into nicely defined categories - there are varying shades of gray and nuances to be discovered. Picking up on these subtleties in life helps us form our belief systems and prevents us from being entrenched in our thinking.
- Even small acts of bravery are noteworthy - Speaking up and defending yourself from unfair criticism is an act of bravery, especially if you have been conditioned to keep quiet. Changing careers in mid-life is brave. Choosing to leave a destructive and unhappy marriage can be an act of bravery.
- We should apologize for bad behavior - There is a sizable portion of one of the Potter books that finds Harry to be fairly obnoxious, some of which seems to be a normal adolescent stage. He does make efforts to make amends to his friends for being a jerk. In a "victim-centered" society, we are not programmed to apologize for our behavior, rather we look for someone or something to blame. Saying, "I'm sorry" can be a very healing act.
- Sometimes a dragon is just a dragon - Freud reportedly phrased it, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." We often try to read too much meaning into some situations - lately referred to as "over-thinking." K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid), although crude is a very effective strategy.
- Positive reinforcement helps build healthy self-esteem - There are many authority (father types, mostly) figures in the Potter series - Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Hagrid, whose influence on Harry helps him become a confident, well-developed person.
- Perseverance is important - In the beginning, Harry is repeatedly knocked off his broom in Quiddich matches. But he keeps on getting up, continuing to try and becomes an amazing player. Sometimes frustration and life circumstances beat us down and it's tempting to quit. But hanging in there has its rewards.