Washington, January 7, 2011– J.K. Rowling’s beautifully written “Harry Potter” series has transcended age and culture to become a fixture on the best seller list, making its author wealthier than the Queen of England.
Deep within its pages is a magic that enchants readers and introduced a generation to the love of reading. Flashlight manufacturers have rejoiced worldwide as the late nightglow from beneath many a child’s blanket spread like wildfire.
The reason these books have drawn so many into such a loyal following reaches far deeper than the miraculous adventures of a lonely, spectacled orphan. The brilliance in the writing of J.K. Rowling is the elegant way she shares her own vulnerabilities and strengths through the evolution of her many characters.
The most marvelous manifestation of this is the “aura of unconditional love” that J.K. Rowling has surrounded Harry Potter with since his first day in the cupboard.
In all honesty, I was never really drawn to the story of the young wizard until the day I became a parent and found true healing in my recovery from childhood sex abuse. What drew me in and made me a fan is the benevolent presence of J.K. Rowling in the character of Harry Potter’s mother Lily. She projects unconditional love, shielding Harry from the darkest threats he faces.
As a baby, this love saves Harry from the evil wizard Voldemort and continues to protect him through all his perilous adventures, guiding him to happiness.
At the time the first book “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (the book was released in the U.S. and India as “Sorcerer’s Stone) was written, Ms. Rowling was a single mother living on social security, writing in a cafe in Scotland. As a parent, the force of an uncertain future weighs twice as heavy on your conscience and it casts a long shadow. It is in these times of desperation that something deep inside speaks to us.
That voice we hear pushing back the echo of hopelessness and fear is unconditional love. It has served to inspire many, and I count myself as one of the lucky souls who has heard that voice. I thank that voice for rescuing me, and making me all that I am today. That voice is the bond every parent feels for his or her child, and although some may ignore it, for me it is the most powerful force in the world.
The phenomenon of unconditional love is important for many reasons, primarily because it is the tether that binds a child permanently to a sense of self worth. A child’s life will rise or fall based on the presence or absence of that love, and many victims of child abuse have fallen without it. In my many years of healing through therapy, therapists often asked “Why are you sitting here right now and not an addict or even worse?” The answer is unconditional love. One of my family members gave me enough ot it to guide my life to where it is now. A child deprived of that love can be lost to the blackness of the abyss and with no tether to humanity.
The high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse and the suicide rate among survivors of child sex abuse are a testament to the damages for children without that true, unconditional love. Many survivors are on a repetitive downward spiral because they were deprived as children of any form of unconditional love. Without this valuable influence, the healing process cannot find traction and within the emptiness of shattered dreams and vandalized happiness self worth withers.
My parents divorced when I was three and I was separated from my biological father until twenty-four years had passed. It was easy for me to fantasize about him as an antidote for the years of suffering I endured. Through many years of failed relationships, I held the image of my father as the Holy Grail of my healing process. My biological father had disappeared from my life at age three and I spent many years tracking him down through public records and small bits of information from relatives. In the end, disappointment reigned supreme and I was lost in the shadows of my childhood pain yet again. I drifted through my life for some time and finally found enough footing to move forward. I set off on a journey through many support groups and worked hard in therapy. Each evolution of healing was hard fought, and although meaningful, left me far from the summit of what I desired.
Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse come to the crossroads of their healing journey and make a choice not to continue. Exhausted from the process of daily pain and unrelenting nightmares, I made that choice to walk away. I wanted to find someplace in the sun for even a moment, where I could feel the warmth on my face without a price. I tried to pretend like the abuse I suffered never happened, because living with that pain was just too difficult. In the end, my attempt to hide from my past was futile because the strength of the rift that child abuse had left in my soul prevailed. Memories of child sex abuse are like banana peels that your subconscious places in your mind’s path. One slip and you find your self in the quagmire of pain you fought so hard to avoid. A smell or a song can bring awful memories flooding back with no warning. I was left to decide whether I was traveling further down the road to healing or drifting back down the river of hopelessness.
I was standing at the cross roads of my life and something within me pushed me down the road less traveled into healing. That something was the unconditional love I had experienced as a young child. That force has led me on my journey into happiness and been the guardian of my well-being. It has made me stand up and leave a bar when I teetered at the precipice of drowning myself with alcohol. It has started my car and driven me away from a bad situation and swept away my nightmares of child sex abuse. I would even say it was what made me get up, get dressed and go to the party where I met my wife when all I felt like doing was sleeping.
In the struggle to heal from childhood sexual abuse, I lacked the introspection to find many positives in my life. I wandered in a painful haze as I battled the hemorrhaging happiness in my life, all of my dreams vandalized. I struggled from day to day, hoping the next would bring clarity, fully immersed in the fantasy that someone or something would make it right. Those of us who are lucky spend many years in therapy finally coming to the realization that the Rosetta Stone of our lives stares at us from the mirror each day.
If we all look hard enough, we can all find examples of unconditional love in our lives and, like Harry Potter, we have the purveyor of that love to thank for our happiness. We owe it to that person who gave us that wonderful gift to pass it on to our children and to our families. J.K. Rowling’s books are as much about unconditional love and healing as they are about adventure.
Just as Harry heals from the devastation of the untimely death of his parents at the hands of Voldemort, I have healed from child sex abuse with the love of my family. We may not be locked in battle with an evil wizard, but we are all engaged in determining our children’s future whether we be muggles or wizards. It is the magic that is in our hearts that can change this world and all we have to do is open ourselves to the possibilities of unconditional love.