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The Jealous Ego

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince again, gives me the chance to look more deeply at the sub-plots. You see, I think J.K. Rowling was incredibly clever in the way she structured the Harry Potter books; but each time I watch the movies, I see the development of characters and their relationships anew.

I've often thought of young Draco Malfoy with some sympathy, maybe even pity. But tonight, I see a boy who is so consumed with jealousy that when he's selected for a very nefarious purpose, Draco feels special. He's chosen, just like Harry. And he hones his skills alone, without supervision or mentoring. He refuses help that's offered by Professor Snape, choosing to earn all the glory for himself.

Jealousy is such a tricky emotion. Sometimes we feel it, but don't even recognise it. It might consume us with anger instead, or a desperate desire to prove ourselves. A bit like FOMO - the fear of missing out - we do things that we don't really need to do.

Do you ever find yourself doing everything instead of delegating (or allowing others to be independent or to contribute)? Just like Draco? What are you scared of? What are you trying to prove? And, who are you trying to prove something to?

Do you ever feel as though you have no choice, that you must not fail (as Professor Dumbledore tells Harry)?

Do you ever feel like you have been chosen for a special purpose? Maybe you have, and that's the biggest reason to ask for help from everyone you know - a special purpose should not be kept all to yourself! It's too big!

Quite a few characters in this instalment of Harry Potter could identify with you.

Professor Snape is cornered into a heartbreaking action that could have dire consequences. Ron Weasley is the victim of not only a terrible spell going wrong, but also, harassment from an amorous classmate. Love triangles abound, and that means characters can't speak or act freely, or show how they truly feel. Then there are the special purposes, that nobody can help with; there can be only one villain and one hero (at least in their heads).

We get caught up in expectations. Sometimes, they're the expectations of others (like Voldemort, Draco's mother and aunt, and Dumbledore). But usually, they're our own expectations of ourselves. We can't be seen to fail.

Why not? Why can't we fail at something?

When we fail, we give ourselves the chance to learn from it and plan for future success. When we fail, we let others know that it's OK - to fail is to be human.

The fact is, we don't live in Harry Potter's world. There is no Voldemort about to make the world a horrible place. We don't throw spells at one another or make animals do our bidding.

The fact is, we live in a world where the thing that distinguishes humans from other animals is that we all have expectations of ourselves. Meeting them allows us to bolster our egos and feel confident in approaching our next goal. Failing to meet our own expectations injures our egos, and can stop us from trying. I know both outcomes, and I can tell you, I prefer to succeed!

There is another perspective. When we fail to meet our own expectations of ourselves, we have a chance to reflect. Examine why we have that particular expectation. Ask why it's important to us, and consider what went awry and how we can improve on our methods and attitudes for the future. We might even ask ourselves what is more important?

If you are capable of that kind of self-reflection, that's so good. But your mind will go around in circles until you act on what you discover. For example, if your self-reflection highlights a need for more sleep, do you prioritise sleep over something else? Do you remove something that makes you worry unnecessarily, so you can get to sleep or return to sleep after waking up in the night?

If your self-reflection highlights a need for more research into something before making a decision, do you take the action needed to do that research, and make notes on what you discover? Then, take the next step?

One of the great lessons from the Harry Potter books and films, or rather the stories, is when Harry allows his friends and teachers to help him. He learns this lesson from Dumbledore, sure, but he really learns it from his friends. He also learns about the power of love, especially sacrificial love (his mother and Professor Snape come to mind).

Harry learns to trust those who have grown to love him. He learns to allow them to use their gifts to help him in his special purpose. At times, learning the lesson is bittersweet. At times, his quest seems hopeless.

Ring any bells? Do you recall feeling hopeless? Did you feel helpless too? Did the help of friends, family, colleagues and neighbours seem far away? Often, those people don't know what's going on in your life or in your mind. A phone call and a good talk will often fix that. If you're able to call one person and speak openly, you will probably discover someone you can trust. They may even be someone who can ease the burden on your mind, or help in other ways. Opening up is worthwhile.

Juxtapose Harry's story with that of Draco, and you see the difference. Draco is not helped by anyone and he doesn't seek help. He doesn't even have true friends. He is a lonely boy, rejected by Harry Potter from the moment they meet, and he feels that rejection build into a heated resentment that lasts for years. Who does it hurt? Just Draco, ultimately.

Imagine if they pooled their resources (as Maxwell Smart would say) "for good, instead of evil".


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