By Olivia Levada Lenoir
Janina Scarlet brought the wizarding world of “Harry Potter” to Cal Poly Pomona on Thursday, as students gathered in the Bronco Student Center’s Ursa Major for a session of her Harry Potter Superhero Therapy.
Scarlet, a licensed clinical psychologist from the Centerfor Stress and Anxiety Management in San Diego, California, led a talk in which she addressed the psychology behind “Harry Potter” and additional superhero stories.
Scarlet opened with a detailed description of how Superhero Therapy has impacted her life.
Scarlet grew up in the Ukraine.
At age 2, during a parade celebrating a Ukrainian holiday, May Day, Scarlet witnessed attendees suddenly collapse to the ground, some even shaking.
A week later, it was discovered that Scarlet, her family and fellow citizens had been infected by radiation that spread from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident of 1986. The nuclear explosion occurred a few towns away from where Scarlet lived.
As a result, Scarlet’s immune system was shattered. Since then, Scarlet’s body reacts with migraines and sometimes seizures when challenged by radiation and weather changes in the atmosphere.
In seventh grade, Scarlet moved to the United States. Children did not understand radiation, and they viewed her as sick, even untouchable.
“For the longest time, I just wanted to die. I felt so different. I felt like a freak,” said Scarlet during her speech.
The turning point for Scarlet occurred when she watched the movie “X-Men” for the first time and felt a connection with the character Storm, who could control the weather.
“It made me realize that it was okay to be different. ” The X-Men are these superheroes, most of who are affected by radiation, and they have these awesome superpowers, ” and they use them to save people,” said Scarlet during her speech.
Scarlet’s realization quickly spiraled into more than 18 years worth of studying psychology and later led to her doctorate degree. Scarlet’s Superhero Therapy incorporates novels and characters she believes anyone can relate to.
According to Scarlet, fictional stories often resemble real life. In particular, Scarlet addressed how author J. K. Rowling tackles issues of acceptance, phobias and anxiety in “Harry Potter” novels.
Scarlet employed the example of character Ron Weasley. In “Harry Potter,” Weasley faces severe arachnophobia, a fear of spiders.
Scarlet advised students to address and conquer their fears.
“The more we try to run away from [emotions], ” the bigger they become,” said Scarlet during her speech.
Scarlet encouraged students to discover meaning in their lives by finding courage, connecting with loved ones and helping someone.
The talk ended with a question and answer session. Attendees asked questions about finding themselves and also questions on psychology tactics.
During the question and answer portion Brayden Wiggins, a fourth-year music industry studies student, elaborated on how “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars” provided a chance for him to escape reality.
“I do think it’s really great to have these kinds of stories to interact with,” said Wiggins.
Students showed appreciation for Scarlet’s talk. Many stayed after the talk in order to speak with Scarlet and share their stories.
“The experience pretty much added a new lens to how we look at what is happening around us,” said Ryan Sasaki, a third-year mathematics student. Sasaki was particularly intrigued by the combination of literature and psychology within Superhero Therapy.
CPP’s Department of English and Foreign Languages sponsored Scarlet’s talk.
“She’s very impressive,” said Melissa Aaron, professor at CPP’s Department of English and Foreign Languages. Aaron first met Scarlet during a “Harry Potter” academia event at Vroman’s Bookstore.
“[Scarlet’s] been invited to Comic-Con, the big one in San Diego. … She’s been on various panels for different things. She original and still does work with a variety of populations,” said Aaron.
Aaron teaches English 327, Harry Potter as Literature and Cultural Studies, on campus and was a prominent figure in the introduction of Scarlet to the CPP community.
Scarlet describes herself as a geek who is here to help. She hopes for Superhero Therapy to move outside the campus to other universities and beyond.
“I think this is something that could be helpful for a lot of people. I find that a lot of young people hide their interests, but instead of hiding them, I want them to use them to become more involved in their community, to be able to help other people and be able to help themselves,” said Scarlet.
To learn more about Superhero Therapy visit www.Superhero-Therapy.com
Reynaldo Dueeas / The Poly Post
Harry Potter Therapy
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