We love ourselves some superhero stories and marvel at the Marvel universe. It is one of the fastest growing genres out there. It may be argued that these new characters are so inviting as a response and substitute to the loss of great stories we’ve dismantled and dispensed with which carried cultures for so long. We’ve killed the old gods but feel there is a need to fill the gap of something superhuman, not so mundane and subpar as our mistake ridden selves. It may be that we don’t want our gods as perfect and detached as they were so far, but want them human and fallible, seemingly reverting back to the Gods of old polytheistic religious who were mean, spiteful, jealous, angry, riddled with passions, love, revenge as the Greek gods were. Their powers were godly but they were susceptible to their human imperfections. That’s why we root for the underdog, the antihero, that’s why our superheroes get prequels explaining their path, motivation and almost as a rule some struggle, trauma or event that they regularly flash back to and which pushes their actions. They’ve surpassed the initial struggle to find their power, they’ve endured long enough and continued fighting, they’ve become resilient.
Something in us is already aware that there is no resilience without challenge. You must strain the system in order to unlock new powers just as you need to strain the muscle to grow it. The principle is the same, the stories vary. We may therefore enjoy superhero stories because they are heroic not despite their lack, circumstance, accident or disadvantage, but because of it. It fuels them to become who they were meant to be and we enjoy seeing this hero’s journey played out. This is the everlasting story of overcoming, not burdened by the perfection of the ideal divine we can never reach and that judges us. They are us, a satire and over exaggeration with a far too obvious neat power, but nevertheless us.
Superheroes are all around. They might not be able to walk through walls, conjure up storms by catatonic eye rolls, or morph into other physical forms, but they have endured and used the misfortune to thrive. They’ve used the pain and difficulty as building blocks. It may be the old lady in your street who was a war nurse, a family member battling a disease, a kid that needs to work twice as hard in school because it has a problem sitting still, someone who’s lost everything and decided to rebuild instead of wallowing in self-pity, these who take extremely hard jobs because they find meaning in what they do… You can still enjoy your imagined superheroes all you like but pay attention to the human capacity to endure and surpass, to develop resilience under seemingly unsurmountable burdens, personal and collective tragedies off the screen. The trick is not to numb. There will be ample opportunity to escape from the real. You can scroll your life away, keeping yourself mildly entertained without ever having to really be alone and think. No one will blame you because they’re probably doing the same and are not paying any attention to you, but resilience is a skill and all skills get better with practice. Sit in your own mess, just be there long enough for it to sink in, for your eyes to open and for you to feel and process it, no judgements no anger, just sit and observe how this happened. Was it something you did, a wrong turn? Was it something out of you control? How to fix it, if it’s fixable or how to accept it, if it is not.
Stop distracting yourself and hold your ground. Be there with the sorrow, panic, anxiety, fear, loss, betrayal… this is how resilience and wisdom are build. The only way out is through. Learn from it, adapt to the new shift and move on better. So many colourful leotards are worn under the ordinary clothes of everyday life. Enduring, persisting and the ability to change and grow are best superpowers out there.