Are You A Superhero?

We know the story. Humanity is suffering because some evil, power hungry monster wants to take over the planet. So along comes…superman, batman, ironman or any number of other superheros to save the day. How would humanity survive without them! But this is only movie reality isn’t it? It doesn’t happen in real life. Or does it?

There does seem to be a monster stomping around the planet at present. This monster takes over people and fills them with the energy of greed or selfishness or bullying or harassment or power. They make decisions that favour a few but disempower others. They might care about shareholders but not slavery, about economics but not the environment or about profit but not people. It has led to a situation where the globe’s richest one percent own fifty percent of the world’s wealth while the poorest seventy percent own only 2.7 percent.1

Answering humanity’s call for help

While people may be clear that all is not well on the planet many are too comfortable to be able to do anything about it. This monster has made materialism the master. So people want to be wealthy, famous, powerful or glamorous and if you don’t meet these criteria then you can feel you are losing out. People become so focused on these things they don’t have time to do anything about the state of the world.

There are some people however who have heard humanity’s call. You might be one of them yourself. These superheros don’t wear tight-fitting lycra costumes and they don’t have laser vision or fly through the air. But they do have superhero powers.

Their superhero power is the ability to rise above the toxic culture of greed and self-interest that surrounds them everyday. They don’t get overwhelmed into numbness by the pain they see around them and on the news. Instead, they have the capacity to stay present and aware despite the pressure of the world around them. Truly superhuman.

I see these people everyday in my counselling rooms. Take Graham2 for example, who was a high-level executive in a bank. He could see that the culture in the bank was becoming hard and slightly corrupt. Human values were being eroded in favour of technological and financial imperatives. But he didn’t hide away in his office or run away altogether. Instead he brought his superhero self to work and began to strive to bring some heart to the work culture around him. No mean feat.

Graham was pushing against a huge tide within the organisation. But he kept going. And he was aware that it was going to take time. He just strived to make small incremental changes that might make a difference over time. And he did see the culture in his own team changing. It was softening and people were becoming more connected and had less of a combative attitude towards other teams. He knew he was making a difference in the face of the greedy corporate bank monster.

Then there was Alice, a primary school teacher who could see the pain many of her students were in. She knew that the most important thing was to connect with her students and assist them to learn how to manage their own emotional states despite having to deliver a curriculum that only sought to educate their minds.

Alice knew there was so much more to a child than their academic learning. They needed to develop self worth, confidence and the desire to contribute to the community and work as a team with others. They needed encouragement to grow as human beings. So she planned her lessons and she set up programs accordingly. She had the might of the education system against her but she took it on. She is a superhero.

In my counselling work I come across superheros all the time. There are people who are speaking up against abuse or bullying despite having the monster looming right over them. There are people bringing compassion and care into institutions that can be busy or impersonal such as hospitals and aged care centres. There are people working from the bottom up to bring human values into their work places so that they are not just about profit. As one client put it, “connection trumps profit every time”. Others work at giving everyone a voice, at bringing equality and acceptance into human interactions. And there are those working in local communities to create a sense of connection and cohesion amongst people. All of these things help to put another bullet in the side of the energy monster. Cultivate compassion, connection and care and you drain the power from the monster.

We can be a superhero in the smallest of ways. Just the way we interact with people in our everyday lives can make a difference. The energy monster that wants us to remain impersonal and indifferent to others can be defeated. We just need to take the time to smile and look others in the eye and make a connection as we interact. We can be kind and compassionate in our interactions, understanding that we all matter and that we all deserve to be treated this way.

The energy equation

In order for us to do battle with the energy monster we have to understand the dynamics of human energy on the planet. Physics tells us that everything is energy and that we exist within a field of energy. So even though we treat ourselves as separate little islands living our own lives, we are not. We are connected with every other person on the planet.

This means that there is a vast human energy field with each of us is contributing a particular quality to this field via the way we live our lives. And the overall quality of the energy field is the sum total of all the contributions from every human being. Imagine the algorithm for that – puts Facebook to shame!

How this energy field works is that if the greed energy outweighs the compassion then that is the world we see around us. If the apathy outweighs the love, then again we get an unaware, disempowered population. But if superheros keep adding more compassion then the tide will eventually turn. The energy will begin to support love rather than selfishness. The monster will begin to dissolve.

Each one of us gets to make choices every day. Nothing is done in isolation. It is like the body where there are millions of cells each carrying out their own function, but all are needed. You can’t have lung cells running off to do their own thing because they are sick of supporting the breathing. Then you’d get cancer. And the blood cells can’t all hang together and hoard the nutrients. This would lead to a very sick human being. Each cell has to work in harmony with the whole. And all the cells count. They all contribute to the overall health of the being.

It is the same on the planet. We all contribute to the wellbeing of the planet and of each other. We can pretend that we aren’t touched by the plight of someone in another country. But if one suffers we all suffer. It is just that this isn’t in our conscious awareness sometimes because we can distract ourselves from the bigger picture via any number of activities including eating, media, work or shopping. But we are affected by the suffering on the planet. The Covid situation woke us up to the fact that we are all in the same boat together. We can no longer pretend that we are not connected.

Despite what we might initially think, we actually need to feel the suffering of others. This is what ignites us into action. Look what happens when natural disasters occur. Everyone comes together and lends a hand. This is because the suffering is at a crisis point and we can’t just ignore it so we wake up and all join in. It uncovers the fact that we do care about other people and do want to help.

So imagine if we let ourselves feel how bad the condition of humanity is on the planet. We would be called into action. We would want to make a difference. We would feel the meaning and purpose in our lives. We would call forth our superhero self to take action. Whenever I work with people about their life direction and purpose, we always uncover the desire to make a contribution to others lying just below conscious awareness. We all want to make a difference and to know that we have helped others in some way, whatever that might look like.

The beautiful thing is that we don’t have to do this alone. You may have noticed that even in the movies recently the superheros have to band together to fight the foe. We are powerful when we combine our talents and skills as a group. We each have a particular quality to bring to the battle. But on our own we are not enough because we need the skills of others. When we bring our own particular qualities and then join these with other people then amazing things can happen.

Working together

There is an alchemy that comes from combining energies. As the saying goes, “the whole is more than the sum of the parts”. So it is with human beings. You may have had this experience yourself, of struggling with a project but then finding so much more ease with it as more people come on board to assist. In this way we all evolve together. There is equality since all the skills are needed no matter how small. And there is the joy of collaborating with others, which diminishes the chance of one ego getting in the way and taking the ownership and then the profit from it all. We all need to profit together. Not one at the expense of others.

Many superheros rose to the fore during the Covid epidemic. There were the obvious ones in the form of frontline health workers. But there were others supporting people in their communities during lockdowns. And in recent times there have been women having the courage to speak up about sexual harassment or domestic violence. And there are whistle-blowers calling out company corruption even at the risk of their own jobs. But we don’t have to think that being a superhero means taking such obvious action. It can be the way we talk to each other, comfort someone, share resources with others, inspire someone or simply tread gently on the planet.

With more of us stepping up to be superheros we will eventually defeat the energy monster. Disaster might be close, just like in the movies, but the superheros will triumph. Then we can live with a different quality in our communities; with awareness and compassion and each contributing in their own particular way to the wellbeing of the whole community. This doesn’t have to be a movie, it could be real life. You can make it be. So go slip into that lycra, put on your cape and get out there!

1 https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/…/worlds-richest-wealth-credit-suisse

2 Names have been changed to protect confidentiality

Are you a superhero?

Can you answer, ‘yes’ to these questions?  Give yourself a score out of ten for superhero capacity!

  • If someone in a group was being racist or sexist could you call this out?
  • Can you ignore gossip and instead invite people to truly connect with each other?
  • Could you bring compassion and care to a hard, impersonal workplace?
  • Do you remain vulnerable and transparent despite the harshness of the outside world?
  • Have you felt compassion for someone and then acted on this impulse?
  • Do you work to make a positive difference to the community in your own field of endeavour?
  • Do you connect with and smile at people in your daily activities?
  • Do you cultivate a gentle, honest presence that makes people feel safe and respected around you?
  • Do you work collaboratively to bring out the best in other people?
  • Can you speak up about something important even in the face of opposition?

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