If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
There’s a hidden reason people love superhero stories. Comics can easily be dismissed as fiction or fantasy, when actually superpowers are as real as any ability you might have.
As a coach I work with parents, teens, and young adults. Sometimes asking questions about values, strengths, and identity can be like inviting a young person to enter the door of a darkened room.
One way I love to have this conversation is to ask, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
This question is the doorway to a vast imaginative world of immense possibilities.
If only I could pause time
This morning I was in a conversation with a young guy I’ll call “Simon.” He is twelve years old and has been dealing with a bunch of challenging life situations.
When I asked him this question, he said without a moment’s pause, “Easy! I would be able to pause time.”
He went on to tell me he wanted to have this superpower since he was four years old.
We went on to talk about how this superpower could help him and what he’d be able to do with it.
The big shift happened when I asked, “Do you realise you already have this ability?”
Before we go on . . .
Before we go on, what would be your superpower?
Close your eyes (if it helps) and imagine having any superpower in the world. Allow yourself to daydream for a while. Let it come to you.
You might pick something like x-ray vision or being able to fly. Don’t immediately dismiss it if you think humans can’t do these things.
Classic superpowers and what they mean
In comics and films, superpowers are symbolic of a deep inner quality or desired human strength.
Here’s what I mean:
X-ray vision symbolises an ability to see truth beyond illusion. You may possess a strong ability to notice what others often miss.
Flying is the ability to gain perspective from a higher vantage point. It may also represent freedom.
Invisibility powers symbolise the ability to move easily through life without being influenced or affected by others.
Shapeshifting is the ability to easily adapt to any situation. It means being comfortable no matter what situation you find yourself in without losing your sense of self.
Enhanced senses can include supersonic hearing or smell, for example. But in everyday human terms, this refers to a strong intuition. You might adopt this superpower if you rely on your intuition rather than what is immediately obvious in a situation.
Regeneration is the ability to bounce back and rapidly recover from a difficult situation. If you can move on quickly and not dwell on the past, regeneration maybe your power.
Force fields is the ability to put up energetic walls that protect you from attack. This is a particularly useful superpower for anyone who is regularly in a toxic environment and needs to protect themselves.
Invulnerability is having such a strong sense of self that no matter what people say or do, you don’t let it affect you or bring you down.
Time travel recognises time is an illusion. People skilled at time travel know what they want in the future and make it visible in the present. Equally, they can go back into their past and rewrite their story.
Elemental control is classically the ability to change the weather. In everyday life it symbolises that we can influence and change the conditions around us. This power keeps us from falling into the trap of feeling like a victim.
Whatever your special power, think about how it relates to your life. One of these may have jumped out at you with a thought like, “Gosh, I wish I had that.” The superpower of all superpowers, and how to develop yours.
My belief is that we cannot imagine any quality that doesn’t already exist in us at some level.
So when I worked with Simon, our conversation was about how to develop the quality of pausing time. And if you think a twelve year old cannot handle a conversation about time as an illusion, think again.
We talked about how the mind wants to race into the future to fix things (worry, anxiety, planning) or get trapped in the past (regret, guilt, memory-holds).
But all superheroes have one superpower in commons: they always show up right on time.
The greatest superhero strength of all time is to be in the present moment. And from this state of presence, we can pause time and see life more clearly.
This is a lesson that I needed as much as Simon. I, too, often race into the future with worry and anxiety. My mission now is to pull my attention back into the present moment.
My homework is to collapse time and stay connected to my own power in the present, rather than give my power away to a time that doesn’t yet exist.