THROUGH J.K. Rowling's latest book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry
and his two friends are on the run. They're trying to find the
evil lord's "horcruxes," which are objects containing
part of his soul. They need to destroy the horcruxes.
They've found one but haven't figured out how to destroy it.
They don't know where to begin to look for the others. Things
aren't looking too good for our heroes.
Then Harry's best friend (Ron) gets mad
and leaves. To Harry, this is a setback. He needs Ron to help
him accomplish his goal. And what does a setback always do? It
makes you feel demoralized. And when you feel demoralized,
your mind starts making mistakes, and those mistakes make you
even more demoralized. Here's a passage from the book
that perfectly illustrates it. This is what was going through
He could not hide it from himself: Ron
had been right. Dumbledore had left him with virtually nothing.
They had discovered one Horcrux, but they had no means of destroying
it: The others were as unattainable as they had ever been. Hopelessness
threatened to engulf him. He was staggered now to think of his
own presumption in accepting his friends' offers to accompany
him on this meandering, pointless journey. He knew nothing, he
had no ideas, and he was constantly, painfully on the alert for
any indication that Hermione too was about to tell him that she
had had enough, that she was leaving.
In his depression, Harry exaggerates: He
had no ideas, he knew nothing. This wasn't true. But can you
see how feeling demoralized makes those kinds of thoughts easier
to think? And can you see how thinking those thoughts would make
him feel even more discouraged?
Hopelessness "threatened to engulf
him," but this was false
hopelessness. There was still plenty he could do. Thinking
of his situation as hopeless took the fight out of him, as it
would for anyone. He desperately needed to argue with his own thoughts to straighten
out his thinking.
Okay, let's look at one more thought-mistake Harry is making and then
we'll leave the poor kid alone. He calls their mission a "meandering,
pointless journey." This is the mistake of harmful judging. In fact, their journey is
vitally important and he is the only one who has a chance of
succeeding with it. Yes, he may fail. But if he succeeds, he
may save thousands of lives, maybe millions. But harmful judging
doesn't help. It only makes him feel demoralized and unmotivated.
His depression also influences his perception,
as it does for you and me. He begins to feel hypersensitive about
how Hermione feels, maybe misinterpreting some of the expressions
on her face and things she says.
You know what that's like, don't you? Everyone
has been in a bad mood and interpreted a friend's innocent comment
as something malicious.
And of course, misinterpretations can easily
make negative predictions come true. Harry might accuse Hermione
of thinking something she's not really thinking, which might
make her angry. And now she is thinking what he accused
her of thinking.
The point of all this is to let you see
it from the outside. I thought J.K. Rowling did a great job of
conveying the feeling of demoralization and the kind of thought-mistakes
that accompany and intensify that feeling.
And my other purpose is for you to realize
you should waste no time when you feel disheartened.
Don't let yourself spin down into a dive.
Run don't walk to the nearest paper and
pen and start using the antivirus for your mind. Undemoralize yourself as soon as possible.
You don't want any of those thought-mistakes to solidify into
beliefs the kind of beliefs that might hold you back from
goals you want to reach.
Clean out your mind and your motivation
will return. The antivirus for your mind works like magic to
get you back on your feet and striving toward your goal with
determination and vigor.