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The Patronus Charm – A Practical Guide. Wednesday June 1, 2016

High Summer. Hot sun on my back and the warm air full of childish shrieks and parents' chatter. We mill around in a kaleidoscope of bright colours then file out along the high rails. The taste of raspberry sorbet lingers on my tongue; the smell of sun cream battles with the enclosure's dust and dung.

Close up they are bigger. Far, far bigger. Every wrinkle in their skin is clear, I feel the breeze as they move the air with their ears. The scent of them, musk and wildness, overwhelms. My outstretched hand holds banana, skin and all, resting on my palm. A great grey anaconda gracefully unfurls, and two fingers grasp the fruit with delicate precision. A dribble of wetness, a tickle of whiskers; a snort. I feel and smell his breath as he furls up that trunk again and neatly pops the morsel into that cavernous mouth.

A moment only and the elephant moves to the next hand and the next treat.

That is an example of an anchor memory.

An anchor memory is a weapon you can use against negative thoughts that run like vampire squirrels on acid through your mind, driving you crazy with feelings of worthlessness, despair, guilt and shame. It is our version of Harry Potter's Patronus Charm.

In the Harry Potter books, the Patronus charm acts as a shield between you and the Dementors (forces of dark depression and despair). In real life it acts a little differently but to the same effect.

"Concentrate on a single very happy memory," says Professor Lupin, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. "Allow it to fill you up; lose yourself in it – then speak the incantation."

We don't need an incantation (although some therapists recommend that you come up with your own dismissal phrase for these unhelpful thoughts), but we do need to grasp our anchor memory - it helps to have lots to choose from - and allow it to fill us up utterly, so negative recollections and feelings are swamped by it and forced (at least temporarily) out.

Go back to my memory of feeding the elephant for a moment. Can you see how every sense is involved? That's the trick. You need to have scent, taste, sound and sensation involved in this memory: it needs to be all encompassing, so it surrounds you totally and you are protected on all sides. More than this, it should be a magical moment; a moment that glitters and sparkles for you.

When we mine our past for happy memories, we tend to think of significant occasions: the birth of our children, a family celebration. But actually, memories that are most useful here are those perfect moments when we lost ourselves utterly.

So go back, find some memories and immerse all your senses in them. I promise you that even the darkest life contains enough magic for this. Then practise. Like every spell, this takes practise.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Vincent Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 6:58am

I guessed the author of this blog was Mary on the sight of its title without actually checking out the name of the author, because this blog is similar to the blog named The Prisoner of Azkaban(Wednesday April 6, 2016). Both blogs are my favourites.

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:29am

Ah Vincent - thank you! Yes, I am a Potterhead. I also tend to quote Hitchhiker's Guide, C S Lewis and classic 1950's Sci-Fi. I note that for many writers these days Game of Thrones is the in thing, but I have been warned away from it as being too depressing. Like many of us, I filter what I expose myself to; not out of cowardice but out of self-protection and wisdom.

Vincent Thu, Jun 2nd 2016 @ 5:32am

Yes, Mary, I agree with you. We should keep ourselves away from things which will do harm to us mentally and physically. We need to protect ourselves.

Orangeblossom Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 8:11am

Thanks Mary, as ever your blog is gripping & compelling. I enjoyed reading it lots. Like Vincent, I also guessed it might be you.

Hopeful One Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 8:16am

Hi Mary - one only needs to look at the title to recognise Moodscopers Ace Blogger. As usual well written and giving me a handle to lock into those happy memories. I will certainly try it out.

The Joke Squadron is still on the blonde theme but this time has included Aussies as well. Its ready for flak but maybe fellow Moodscopers are getting used to the quirks of the Squadron?

A gorgeous Australian blonde and a guy are sitting next to each other in a bar. Both of them are watching the television when the news comes on. It shows a guy on a bridge who is about to jump, obviously suicidal. "I'll bet you a kiss he'll jump," said the first guy. "Bet you $10 he won't," says the blonde. Then, the guy on the television closes his eyes and throws himself off the bridge. The hot blonde leans over to kiss the guy. "I can't kiss you," says the first guy abruptly. "I cheated you. The same story was on the five o'clock news." "No Worries," said the blonde. "I saw the five o'clock news too. I just didn't think the guy was dumb enough to jump again!

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:30am

Ah - she was just saying that. Really, he was a hunky guy and she fancied him!

Anna Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 9:02am

I love this Mary, thank you. I do like the idea of seeing this trick as a magic spell, despite not being all that familiar with Harry Potter.

My place is a particular bit of coast in India. There are paprika coloured cliffs, breaking waves, Eagles soaring overhead and incense mixing with devotional eastern music coming out the cafes.

You've now inspired me to come up with a new one!

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:30am

That sounds like a great one Anna.

Another Sally Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 9:06am

Hello Mary, as a Harry Potter fan myself I enjoyed the reference to the patronus charm. I also loved the description of holding out a banana to an elephant. I remember feeding the elephants at the zoo when I was a child. I also rode on one bareback with two of my daughters, what an experience. Will keep that in my armoury. Thanks. Another Sally.

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:31am

Absolutely. We need as many of these as possible. It might be helpful to write down a list and keep it somewhere handy. When the black dog days arrive, it is really hard to find those happy memories.

Holly Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 9:35am

I'm a huge Potterhead, so definitely favouriting this! Thank you so much for this as I nearly let getting triggered with negative thoughts spoil a good day out to the beach yesterday, so this is just what I need :)

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:33am

So easy to fall into the hole. I often let my daughters' negativity rub off on me, so I know exactly how you feel. And - you were on the beach in *this* weather? Respect, girl - Respect!

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:33am

So easy to fall into the hole. I often let my daughters' negativity rub off on me, so I know exactly how you feel. And - you were on the beach in *this* weather? Respect, girl - Respect!

Richard Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 10:45am

Thank you, Mary. Vampire squirrels on acid. Those negative thoughts are like that. In fact, as a band name, it's pretty good. I imagine they would be quite grungey.
As always, your writing is rich and inspirational.
Peace & Love,

Tutti Frutti Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:10am

Richard I agree great band name. TF

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:35am

I agree about the band name, but also feel it is the kind of name that would be chosen by a bunch of guys still at school or college. Once they get a recording company interested they may be encouraged to change their name to something much less interesting! But the grunge music will stay the same of course!

Richard Thu, Jun 2nd 2016 @ 6:35pm

Thank you, TF. Rich.

Tutti Frutti Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:09am

Hi Mary
Thanks for an entertaining and useful blog.

I love the Potter books as they are so funny (though trying to read book five when it first came out and I was quite depressed didn't work too well). I am actually rereading the Prisoner of Azkaban at the moment. I love the idea that the unknown under the dementor's hood could be a vampire squirrel on acid! (My daughter liked that bit too!)

More seriously though you have given us a timely reminder that we should think through some specific positive memories when we are well and be ready to use them as part of our toolkit for fighting off the lows. I guess it's a form of mindfulness so that will be why memories engaging all the senses are best.

I now just need to set aside some time to actually do it rather than remain in "Oh that's interesting, I can see how that would help", mode.

Love to all

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 11:43am

It really does need practise. I wrote a blog entitled Brain Muscle Memory some time ago (April 2015) and maybe I should revisit the subject. We cannot heal ourselves when we are ill - we can only survive. But when we are well, that's when we can work on the practical skills we will need for next time. I can honestly say that my bad times now, although still totally incapacitating, are nowhere near as bad as they used to be - and this is because I have been proactive in not only discovering as much as I can about my condition, but also making a point of doing as much as I can to mitigate its effects. Writing this blog is one of the biggies, actually - and I am so grateful to all you lovely people who not only read, but bother to comment! I love you all.

Still picking figs Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 1:17pm

Cor, gorgeous writing there Mary.

Creating a patronus charm sounds a blissful way to quell those anxious moments. Thanks for planting the idea.

Maria Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 3:10pm

Thank you Mary for another thought provoking blog. This is a very timely blog for me as I fell and broke my hip socket in a couple places and I have to be off my feet for twelve weeks. Reliving my special memories will help to ward off the black dog. I also think that I will reread the Harry Potter series since I have plenty of time on my hands :)

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 9:41pm

You won't regret that - a great series with a huge depth.

The Gardener Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 4:04pm

I've never read a Harry Potter book in my life - ought to try. The French say 'arrypottair' all one work, you have to think. My 'charm' if you can call it that is to go to bed with something positive and happy to do the next day, however minor, and however awful the day. Tomorrow it's to start cleaning beautiful tiles in old house, suffered from having half the garden being dragged across them and out on to road to next destination. Magic dream? (not a dream, photos exist of my doing it) walking ankle deep in clear water along a fabulous beach. Australia, Carribean, Thailand, gold, white, even black sand (laval) there's no feeling like it, alone, it seems, with the elements.

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 9:43pm

I think the HP series is really one book. It definitely starts as a book for children, but by the time The Order of The Phoenix is reached (book 5) it has become dark, compelling and YA. Maybe not up to the literary standard of His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pulman, but infinitely more accessible.

Skyblue Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 4:26pm

I'd like to add two suggestions to your utterly brilliant blog, Mary. First, once you've got that memory firing up all your senses, stay with it for as long as possible, letting the sparkles fill your system and letting them fizzle out in their own time. The longer we can retain them, the better the learning for our nervous systems. The second suggestion is one I was given a couple of weeks ago. It's working SO WELL that I'd like to share it: As soon as one of those dementing thoughts starts up, quickly say "Please scramble my thoughts, please scramble my thoughts, scramble my thoughts, ...". It doesn't matter who your plea is addressed to -- your higher self, your other mind, an angel or God (at least I don't think so). Love to everyone. xx

Mary Wed, Jun 1st 2016 @ 9:44pm

Absolutely right Skyblue - you need to stay in this memory - and I must try your scrambling suggestion: it sounds most effective.

Carol Anne Wed, Jun 8th 2016 @ 7:11am

What a lovely blog post. I'll give some thought to those anchor memories over the next few days - I can see how helpful this technique could be. It's not something I've intentionally used before as a technique to shift negative thinking but can see how beneficial it could be.

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