Superheroe Struggle

My favourite “creativity” guru, Robert Genn posted this letter on May 8th about “Post-Traumatic Growth” , the idea of growth through struggle and how Superheros have resonated with an entire generation because of how they make us feel.  Below is an excerpt from Genn’s post which begins by defining the psychological study of growth through struggle (which I call “Resourcefulness”). How can you turn struggle and limitation into the greatest business or painting or film or song you’ve ever created? That is the Art of Resourcefulness.

“Post-traumatic growth is a relatively new area of psychological study. It deals with the positive changes experienced by some people as a result of a struggle with challenging life circumstances. It’s not simply a return to the way things were before the suffering, but the welcome experience of a profound improvement.

The idea that suffering can be channelled to make us stronger runs through the history of philosophies and religions. While most of us no longer believe that artists need to suffer to make good art, we do know that a lot of good art comes from people who have suffered.

Dr. Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist based in Stanford, California, has introduced an interesting method whereby sufferers can grow their way out of trauma. Much like Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces Rosenberg thinks folks can gain strength by following popular superheroes and their stories. We’re talking about the sort of characters in the current blockbuster action/ violence/ heroism movie, The Avengers–Hawkeye, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk and Nick Fury. She also thinks we should pay attention to Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Joker. This is good stuff–I’ve often thought there’s more in comic books than meets the eye.

Dr. Rosenberg’s superheroes teach us a variety of life lessons. Among them:

+ We all have alter egos

+ We need to wear the costumes of our heroes

+ Being different can give us power

+ Adversity can be overcome

+ No matter what our abilities, life is frustrating

+ To overcome our fears, we need to run toward danger

You can find more of Robert’s insights on-line at


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