Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Erika encourages us all to shout "Riddikulus!!" at our fears in this week's Wings & Whimsy

Fear. Such a small word to describe an often all-consuming emotion.

I was in NYC recently, and during a staff meeting a clever and creative colleague of mine led us in an activity about fears based on Harry Potter – specifically, the spell to repel a boggart.

In case you don’t remember or you haven’t yet fallen into the wonderful world of Potter, boggarts are shape shifters that take on the form of whatever you fear the most. The spell to disarm them is to yell “Riddikulus!!” and focus on something that you find funny or amusing, thereby turning the boggart into something comical, designed to turn your fears into laughter. Brilliant.

In talking about our deepest fears with my colleagues, someone brought up their fear of airplanes. Ironically, I was flying later that night so it was on my mind as I was sitting at the airport bar waiting for my flight, sipping a glass of “confidence wine.” As I sat there, a father and daughter walked up. The daughter said, “What are we doing?” and the dad replied, “I’m just getting something before we get on this silly flight” (a shot of “confidence Jameson”).

I don’t typically describe myself as someone who is afraid to fly, but every time my plane hits the runway I call upon my guardian angels, a legion of fairies, the gods, the control tower, and anyone else who might be listening to protect the flight and carry us safely home. All the better If I’m able to get in a glass or two of confidence wine. Why are we afraid to fly?  I would imagine for the same reason we are afraid of most things – the perceived or real lack of control we feel when facing them.

As I mentioned last week, control of any sort really is nothing but an illusion, and all it takes is a storm like Sandy to remind us of that. When it comes to things we’re afraid of, that feeling of helplessness can be overpowering. That is why I think the ‘Riddikulus!’ spell is so effective – it allows us to claim power where once we’ve felt none. It forces us to laugh in the face of those things that are holding us back, limiting us, blocking our way.

Now. There is also a difference between laughing in the face of fears that are perhaps unfounded – like my fear of sharks from land-locked Indiana – or that are magnified – like the fear of that upcoming presentation – and defying very real life-threatening scenarios. So, to be clear: I should most definitely say “Riddikulus!!” about my fear of sharks, especially when I am not currently in the water  (though the pictures that floated around of a purported shark swimming through the surge waters in New Jersey after the storm make me Very. Uncomfortable). But one should NOT say "Riddikulus!!" to a massive approaching hurricane when one lives near water at sea level. Similarly, if I ever did have the unfortunate occasion to find myself face to face with a great white, laughing and pointing and shouting “Riddikulus!!” would definitely not be my most effective choice. No, the “Riddikulus!!” spell is not for all occasions, but for those that it is, its power is... well, magical.

So today, as you contemplate the things that you are afraid of, overwhelmed by, avoiding, feeling Very. Uncomfortable about:  To What Can you Say ‘Riddikulus!!’?

As George Bernard Shaw said, “If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.”


Interested in having Erika’s blog come directly to your e-mail each Tuesday? Have comments to share?  E-mail her at erika@tlpnyc.com.


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.