I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Marvel Universe lately. I say ‘I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Marvel Universe’ – what I mean by that is I’ve been watching lots of crap telly about superheroes when I should be going to bed. I’m a little bit addicted.
I think the reason superheroes and their ‘universes’ are so addictive is because they’re so simple. A difficult superhero dilemma is usually something like: I’ve only got time to do one thing, so should I save the lives of lots of people, or save the person I love? (Supervillains love that one). Or sometimes you might get wrongly accused of throwing a bus full of nuns off a bridge or something, and everyone hates you and you get a bit petulant about it. On the face of it those things sound quite tricksy, but they aren’t actually all that difficult to deal with, especially as you usually manage to get out of it with your superpowers.
If you were a superhero you wouldn’t have to bother so much with the more tedious, and genuinely difficult, things in life, like how to best support your family through hard times when the answer is more complicated than just beating a mutant cyborg in a fight. And if you’re a superhero, you don’t have health problems or disabilities. The superhero I’m addicted to at the minute is blind, but it doesn’t matter because his other senses are so supersensy that he can still easily kill all the baddies.
I recently saw some astonishingly lyrical writing by a child who uses Demelza services, in which he talked about himself as a mighty, invincible superhero. And in our art therapy and art activities sessions, superheroes are a common theme. Children often identify with superheroes – they are a way they can imagine being more powerful than the people and things around them, to exert some control where they feel they have relatively little. And they are a way to visualise overcoming problems and fears – by fighting them head on with laser eyes and ninja stars.
The children who use our services do overcome the greatest obstacles, and they beat into submission the biggest possible fears you can imagine. Their family members have to fight alongside them in a team, like in The Avengers. That’s a huge responsibility, and one they never asked for. They are superheroes.
Back in the Marvel Universe, Spiderman’s kindly Uncle Ben once said that with great power comes great responsibility. I wouldn’t know, but I do know that sometimes people get given the greatest responsibilities and no extra power. To manage those responsibilities without super-strength, just with normal-strength, is truly extraordinary.