Monday Musings… A New Kind of Superhero

Well, the Bat Signal has gone out! Each one of us is now trapped in a world of enforced social distancing and isolation. We are all vigilantes, watching the number of cars in our neighbours ‘driveways, or counting the heads of the teens on the other side of the street as we walk our tethered pet, ready to report those who are not obeying the new order of living. Welcome to the Health Crusade!

The Caped Crusader, Batman, has always been one of my favourite comic book heroes. When I was a kid, I was in awe of his sweet car, awesome mansion, and the most incredible assortment of tools to solve any crisis. But as I got older, and albeit wiser, an astounding revelation hit me - Batman has no natural super powers.

He isn’t like Superman of the planet Krypton, who came to Earth infused with powers enhanced by the sun so he could fly, have super human strength, and x-ray vision, to name a few. Nor is Batman like Wonder Woman, another Justice League warrior, who was granted her powers of speed, strength, and heightened senses by the Greek gods.

No, Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, is human, just like you and me (well, minus the car and the mansion). His greatest strength is his strong-willed determination to persevere, no matter what, until he can find a solution to the problem at hand. Batman trained physically and mentally to be ready for any opponent he might face, knowing they may have lethal super powers that would threaten to overtake him.

Enter our current villain, COVID-19.

A virus so infectious, it’s spread by close contact, where even ‘moist talking’ as our Prime Minster said, puts people at risk. It spreads from individuals who may appear asymptomatic, but are carrying the virus nonetheless and can infect unsuspecting family members, pets, playground equipment, nursing home residents, cashiers, and front-line workers and others we may come in contact with.

And so, we have all become masked crusaders - doing our part to stop the spread, flatten the curve, and eradicate the contagion, so life can return to ‘normal’. Oh, if only it were that easy.

We can do our part for our nation, physically, with masks and isolation, but underneath the cloth is fear, a rising sense of purposelessness (as I discussed last week), and cynicism. If this is true, then we’re disqualified from the Justice League despite our costume.

In order to fight this this current viral villain, we need something more. Enter Batman.

If there is one word to describe Bruce Wayne, it’s resilience. Even though many of us think of him as this rich guy, we need to remember that Batman was an orphan, living in his parents’ estate that he inherited at the age of 8. He was raised by the family’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Not your ideal childhood by any means, but a training ground nevertheless. It’s this environment that created the Caped Crusader. If Bruce Wayne could have the mental strength to overcome his obstacles, maybe we can too! Do you think it’s possible?

I know this is entirely possible from reading about the research conducted by American Emmy Werner, who studied 700 children from birth through adulthood. The children in her study were separated into three groups: high-risk (due to a multitude of factors), ‘normal’ and ‘invulnerable’ (due to their sociable personalities being able to draw in supports throughout life). 1/3 of the children were deemed high risk, and so we may think that these children would not fare very well in life, but that’s not what her longitudinal study showed. In fact, 5/6 of those children, now adults, were actually thriving! What happened?

Well, at some point in their lives, these high-risk children were told that they mattered. Someone believed in them, and told them that they had something to offer this world. In effect, they were given their cape to now become crusaders in their own domains.

But there was more, she discovered four additional factors that allowed these individuals to become resilient. I like to think of these as ‘bat tools’, that we can use to solve any crisis, including the current one we’re in right now. So, friends, put these on your utility belt!

  • The first factor was attitude – to believe in the capacity, not just the possibility, to overcome your obstacles.

  • The second key to resilience was that the individuals worked from a strengths’ perspective – they each knew what their innate power was, and most likely it was similar to Batman’s, a strong-willed determination to fight for personal, and perhaps public, justice.

  • Thirdly, according to Werner, they each created a ‘protective web’. Batman had Pennyworth, his original guardian. But as an adult, Bruce befriended Dick Grayson, aka Robin, a youth who also tragically lost his parents. Together they became the Dynamic Duo.

  • Lastly, those who proved to be resilient realized the three T’s, “things take time”. It would be nice right now to go back to school or to work, or simply to our former routines. But we are in a waiting pattern. This is how much of life is, right? So, we should be practiced in this one. It just isn’t any fun. Don’t lose heart!

Resilience is about taking the perspective to not give up, to not fall back on bad habits and bad attitudes, but to keep on striving, especially when it seems hopeless. We never see Batman and Robin retreat. Instead they buckle up for the adventure, together, with a winning mindset.

And we need to do the same. None of us knows how long this will last. But it can’t stop us from striving and thriving where we are right now. As Frankl told us last week, everything can be taken away from us, but not our will, nor our attitude. So, stay strong and stay optimistic. Be determined, every day, to play to your strengths which may be kindness, responsibility, charity, loyalty, creativity and the list goes on – you know what they are. Stay connected with your protective web, by intentionally connecting through texting, a phone call, or some visual conferencing method like FaceTime or Zoom. And lastly, don’t grow impatient, as things do take time, instead, make the most of the time you’ve been given!

While we are grateful for the front-line staff who are waging the war on this virus, we too can be superheroes through this pandemic.

As Bruce Wayne said: “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” (The Dark Night Rises, 2012).

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© 2016 Head Space: Charlene Mahon