On Superheroes

A few months ago, I realized that I was going through a bit of a bad place. I was unhappy at work, and with the general direction that I felt my life was going, and this made me angry. Actually, I was angry all of the time, and felt like most of my day-to-day activities were in place just to prevent that anger from spilling out and turning me into a rage monster.

If you’ve met me, you may realize that I am, generally speaking, a fairly calm person who it really takes a lot to actually anger. But I’ve been thinking about this a lot since that time in my life, and other than feeling like where I was in my life was turning me into a much more cynical, less trusting, hard-hearted person than I wanted to be, I realized that it’s the calm people who explode in a frightening way.

What does this has to do with superheroes? Well, I’m getting to that.

First, sorry comic book fans in advance.I’m the type of nerd who saw the movies/Linda Carter television show first, then thought, hmm. I’ll dig around in comic book lore. Do you have a favorite series on one of my favorites? Please share!

You see, my favorite superheroes have something in common. You have Captain America, who is an ordinary person who becomes extraordinary because of his compassion, his sense of justice, and his belief in freedom. All in all, he’s a stand-up guys and an all-around decent human being.

Then you have Wonder Woman, because, come on. She’s an immortal princess who fights for truth and justice, while protecting the environment and putting Batman and Superman into their places. Plus, she could probably do it all without her superpowers. She also works full-time. Okay, I might have made that up, but you get the drift.

Batman. Tortured, vigilante, determined to protect the people in his city from suffering what happened to him. Trying to do what’s best for Gotham, while understanding that killing is not the answer (usually).

But when I started thinking about myself, because my brain never sleeps and this is how it works, I remembered another guy. And while I can feel like I want to be like Captain America or Wonder Woman (and I am thankful to not be like Batman), I realized this guy was the one I related to most.

Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk.

Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Bruce Banner is a mild-mannered scientist who, when he gets angry, turns into a giant green rage monster. He smashes things, doesn’t recognize his friends at first…it’s a mess.

The Hulk movie, and Hulk’s part in the first Avengers movie, seems to focus on this incredibly smart guy, trying to avoid getting visibly angry, because it’s scary when he is. Now, I don’t turn into the Incredible Hulk, but when I get angry, I can feel it bubbling up inside of me and I imagine that it is not a pretty or comforting thing.

These days, I’m less angry. But my experience with the rage inside of me taught me something. If I’m going to act like a superhero (and not an actual person, because I am going to follow this metaphor to the bitter end), I should try to act like Captain America or Wonder Woman.

I shouldn’t be always angry, and unlike Hulk, I was able to remove myself from the situation that made me feel angry all the time.

But I also need to acknowledge that there is a little/large part of me that is Bruce Banner,  the shy, nerdy person who, like all calm people, comes complete with a boiling point that once reached unleashes a force of anger that may not frighten anyone else, but scares the heck out of us.

However, ignoring the anger only makes it worse (and gets things closer to the boiling point). Sometimes, life makes you mad, and I had to learn to recognize it.  Just like the Hulk learned to focus his anger and save his friends in the end, I learned to recognize my anger and remember that it’s okay to be angry(as long as I don’t destroy a factory or Harlem, like Hulk did).

I just need to remember to breathe, pray, and always look on the bright side of life.

And now that song is in your head. You are welcome.