I think at some point in every child's life they have donned a mask or tied a bed sheet around their neck and ran around their house, cape flapping behind them, chasing imaginary bad guys and saving the world.
We all want to be a super hero.
The problem is that most of us do not have "super" abilities. We are not faster than a speeding bullet, or more powerful than a locomotive, and most of us cannot leap over tall buildings in a single bound. For the most part we are less (extra) and more ordinary. Fairly early our dreams of flying in, scooping up those in danger and saving the day fade into the backs of our minds and we buy into a mundane reality, a drudgery that keeps our feet firmly planted on the ground.
What if the problem was that we were too focused on the "super" and not enough on the "hero"? In Robin Rosenberg's article The Psychology Behind Superhero's Origin Stories , she gives us a different perspective on what makes our most beloved super heroes so important. She writes,
She goes on to talk about one of the defining characteristics of all of our favorite heros is that their life took a dramatic turn through either trauma, destiny or sheer chance. In each of these moments the heroes were faced with a choice, "do I turn inward, sulk, give into the anger, retreat, hide, lash out or simply do nothing or do I engage, contribute and use the pain I did not ask for to ease the pain of others?
Heros chose the later, villians chose the former.
The difference between a hero and a villain? A choice or a series of choices: Me or Others? Anger or Hope? Fear or Generosity? Selfish or Selfless?
While leaping over tall buildings is a cool ability, it is not a prerequisite to being a hero.
Here are three ways or an A,B,C to release your inner hero and save the day:
- Anger or Hope- We will all have terrible things happen to us. It is a fact. We will all experience loss, pain, tragedy and injustice. This is life. We have no choice. The choice we have is what emotion we chose to hold onto when these things happen. There is a distinct choice that separates heroes from villains, do you chose to hold onto the anger or the hope. Anger is an ok emotion to have but not to hold onto. Process through the anger and move into the hope. Anger is like a cancer, it starts small and slowly reaches out until it latches onto and consumes us from the inside out. Hope does not ignore pain and anger, it just refuses to let them have the last word.
- Becoming a Victim or a Survivor- The next step is about how we see ourselves on the other side of the trauma or the pain of life. Are we victims or are we survivors? When we chose to see ourselves as victims we will find ourselves in the role of the victim over and over again. The role of the victim is contagious, the longer you dwell in it the more parts of your life it will infect. The role of the victim, while painful, is easy and actually comfortable. It allows us to stay, do little work and default to it whenever adversity arises. It is a rut that can easily turn into a grave. A survivor, on the other hand, acknowledges the time where they were on the receiving end of pain or violence but have made the determination that their story does not end with the action of someone else and our submission to it. The survivor has the last word, the last action and is defined not by the action of violence but by the determination of life.
- Cultivating Goodness from Pain- Finally we have to see pain for what it is. It is shit. None of us like it, it hurts, scars and leaves us beaten and bruised. But like manure, it can become some of the most fertile material from real, sustaining and significant growth. We rarely grow out of comfort. Pain provides the disruption, the space, the soil from which we have the greatest opportunities to grow into something new. We are not the same after pain, in fact the effort to return to the former actually causes more pain and is a futile effort. From pain we have the opportunity to cultivate new life, hope and goodness. We have the opportunity to let our pain be a blessing to others and from our traumatic prologue, the emergence of a hero in our world.