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10 Questions To Help You Find and Boost Your Superpowers

10 Questions To Help You Find and Boost Your Superpowers

What superpowers would you choose if you could?

Fly like Superman? Deflect bullets with cool bracelets like Wonder Woman? Quickly heal wounds like Wolverine? Here’s the beautiful part: you already possess superpowers.

Today, more than ever, we’re drawn to superheroes. Marvel Cinematic Universe is the top grossing box office franchise in the world, and DC Comics is still going strong in its 75th year. Why the fascination?

Just about every superhero story begins with loss and darkness, continues with a search for meaning, and eventually leads to the discovery of the power within. We can relate to this because it’s our story, too. We love superheroes because they give us hope and inspire us to be our best selves.

After teaching creativity workshops for 20 years I now know for certain that each of us is born with a special gift that no one else in the world can express like we can. These innate skills and passions are our superpowers.

When we are true to ourselves we naturally develop these unique talents and excel at work and in life. Unfortunately, many of us are unaware of our special strengths, or hold ourselves back, because we’re pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. My job is to help reawaken these dormant forces and set people free to realize their true destinies.

According to The Flash, “There comes a time when you’ve got to stop running away from things… and you’ve got to start running towards something. Even if your path isn’t lit… trust that you’ll find your way.”

To that end, here are 10 questions to help you discover and boost your superpowers. They’ve helped liberate thousands of participants ages 8 to 84 in my workshops, and they’ll work for you and your children, too.

1. What comes naturally to you?

“When you are born, your work is placed in your heart.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Many of us don’t recognize our superpowers because they come so easily to us, so we don’t think they’re special. We take them for granted because we think everyone has them, too. They don’t. I didn’t realize I had musical talent until I was forced to compare myself to other graduate students during a music perception test at Princeton (where I was studying psychology). I was surprised to learn I’d scored off the charts.

Princess Diana (Wonder Woman) possesses super strength and combat skills because she was born an immortal Amazon. What about you? What are you naturally good at; what is the thing that you do better than others? Running, teaching, drawing, accounting, schmoozing, cooking, or something else? Compare yourself to the people around you and find out. The abilities you express without even trying to are your superpowers.

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2. What fills you with passion?

“There is no passion to be found in… settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” ~ Nelson Mandela

One of the easiest ways to discover your superpower is to note what fills you with joy- not your parents, teachers, or friends—but YOU. Be willing to experiment to find it.

“Jane” was a Fortune 500 executive who wanted a creative outlet after work. At first she tried writing because her father was an author, but she realized she didn’t have a way with words. Then she tried drawing, and eventually discovered that painting was her true passion.

What about you? What do you love to read about, talk about, dream about? What’s your favorite hobby? Genius Tony Stark (Iron Man) has a passion for creating advanced suits of armor and improving their features. When I was a psychology professor I wrote “little songs” after work and dreamed of being a rock star. What fills you with curiosity?

3. What makes time disappear for you?

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tau

How do you know when you’re using your superpowers? Time disappears. No drugs necessary! Whenever I write a song, I seclude myself in my studio and emerge several hours later feeling content and spaced-out with a new tune that seems to have written itself. Time seems to vanish.

This isn’t true for everything I do, though. When I was a professor, writing research papers was full of fits and starts. I checked the clock every few minutes, impatient to finish. It was a requirement of my job, not my superpower.

In the TV series when nuclear physicist Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk, he’s rarely consciously aware of using his superpowers, but he sure does a great job of smashing things. What activities really engage you and put you in the moment? For me it’s playing music. For Jane it was painting. The answer could surprise you.

4. What makes you different (weird)?

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist,” ~ Martha Graham

There’s no one else like you. You don’t have to try to be different. You already are. The trick to finding your superpowers is to own what makes you unique, even if it seems weird.

“Lauren,” a bored technical writer, often wore bunny slippers. It was clear she wasn’t your typical office worker. She told us she scribbled ideas for movies in the margins of her tech manuals. I encouraged Lauren to focus on those marginalized writings. A year later she wrote, directed, and produced an internationally-distributed film. Now Lauren’s flourishing in the entertainment industry.

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What about you? What special talents, skills, and interests make you different? After being bitten by a radioactive spider, high-school student Peter Parker (Spiderman) is less than thrilled that he can stick to walls until he grasps how he can use the speed and strength of spiders to his advantage. My mother and colleagues told me I was crazy to leave my job as a professor, but after my debut CD produced a top 10 hit in South Africa (the same year Nelson Mandela was elected president) they changed their minds.

To discover your superpowers, embrace your inner weirdo.

5. What do your friends ask for advice about?

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” ~ Maya Angelou

You’re an expert at something; you may just not know what it is yet. Think about what people ask you for advice about. Odds are you have a skill or talent you take for granted that your friends cherish.

“Emmy” was a coaching client who complained she was just a “measly” housewife who wasn’t good at anything. I noticed she had a real flair for wearing clothes she looked beautiful in. “Anyone can shop,” she declared when I pointed out her knack for fashion. I urged her to get a sales position and gain valuable work experience to develop her eye for style. I also asked her to develop a “look” for my first CD cover. She ended up becoming a successful buyer for a trendy children’s boutique.

Batman mentors his protégé Robin in fighting and combat. Professor Xavier teaches young X-Men to control their mutant powers and better mankind. What do your friends ask you for help with?

6. What did you love to do as a child?

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Our superpowers make themselves known to us when we’re children, teenagers, and young adults. But often we forget about them later in life because our parents and teachers ignore, minimize, or even attack our authentic natures. According to Brené Brown, 42% of kids are shamed away from pursuing some form of creative expression in school.

“Pamela” was a 40 year old wife and mother who took my creativity workshop because she wanted to be a writer. After several weeks she remembered that a high school teacher had failed her for being original with an assignment. She’d internalized this—thought she was a bad writer— and had given up. I told Pamela to write about the upsetting event. The next week she handed me a 20 page tome with a big smile on her face.

Many X-Men hide their mutant powers because they’re ashamed of being different. I played piano as if I’d been classically trained at age 4 but no one noticed so I stopped. Clark Kent’s (Superman) adoptive parents urged him to suppress his amazing abilities as a child until he developed a strong moral compass.

What about you? What did you love to do as a child or young adult that’s been blocked or put on hold? This a major clue to your superpowers.

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7. What would you do if money didn’t matter?

“He who isn’t busy being born is busy dying.” ~ Bob Dylan

If you didn’t have to worry about money—one of the main excuses my workshop participants use for not changing their lives—what would you do?

“Maria” was a police detective who wanted to retire early and travel the world. She figured she’d write travel brochures to support herself, but she didn’t enjoy writing. I could tell Maria really liked being a police detective. I suggested she think about how to merge travel with police work. Six months after our class ended she landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police to adopt human rights procedures.

After watching his parents get gunned down during a mugging in Gotham City as a kid, millionaire Bruce Wayne dedicates himself to becoming the world’s greatest weapon against crime as Batman. What would you do if you never had to be concerned about money again?

8. Which answer comes up the most?

“Life doesn’t give us purpose, we give life purpose.” ~ The Flash

Take a look back. Find the answer that occurs most frequently when responding to these questions. THAT’s your superpower.

If you find more than one repeating theme, your powers may comprise a combination of abilities and interests. Look for the overlap. I’m a singer-songwriter, speaker, and writer, but I use all my superpowers to help others discover THEIR superpowers.

You don’t have to be a specialist to succeed. If you are a marketer who codes or an engineer that writes, that unique skill set is your career superpower.

9. How do you boost your superpowers?

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of. ~ Paulo Coelho

Now that you’ve got a glimpse of your superpowers, make a commitment to developing your natural abilities through study, discipline, and practice. Find a mentor, take classes, get a coach, stay on top of what’s happening in your field, and stretch yourself.

I’ve recorded hundreds of songs but I still take songwriting lessons to hone my skills as a singer-songwriter. Jimi Hendrix practiced his guitar ALL the time. He wore it when he boarded planes and made scrambled eggs. He became a master guitarist because he constantly sought to bolster his innate talent.

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Technically Batman does not have superpowers but he’s the most feared superhero of all because he pushes himself to the pinnacle of human achievement and fighting techniques. When you amplify your special strengths, you stand out from the crowd.

10. How do you become a superhero?

“I believe there is a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble.” ~ May Parker (Spider-Man 2)

Don’t worry. You don’t have to save the day like Spider-Man. But you can make the world a better place in little ways by using your superpowers to help others. When you think about it, superheroes show us how to lead better lives.

Wonder Woman forces people to tell the truth with her magic lasso, suggesting that we should all strive to be our true selves. Uncle Ben warns that “with great power comes great responsibility”and Spiderman responds by being kind, funny and humble. Hulk, my favorite, must learn to accept his vulnerability and see the beauty in his gamma-fueled beast form. Batman channels his negative emotions into heroic action.

Everyone has something special to offer, even Groot, a tree-like superhero who can only say “I am Groot.” After a boy who struggles with dyspraxia watched this simple hero talk in the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy,” he began to speak more.

When you own rather than block your greatest strengths, you become a positive role model for your family, friends, and colleagues.

According to David Carson and Jamie Samms, “Tribal teachings say that whatever you do will affect the next seven generations. Every decision you make creates a state of stagnation or rebirth for those who follow you. When you block yourself, you block generations to come. Your dreams build future civilizations, so nourish them well.”

It’s all up to you. So what are you waiting for? Tune that guitar or sign up for that accounting class. The sooner you embrace your superpowers, the happier you’ll be. Like Batman says, “You only have your thoughts and dreams ahead of you. You are someone. You mean something.”

Featured photo credit: Suzanne Pyle Photography via flickr.com

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Dr. Michelle Millis Chappel

Michelle is a psychology-professor-turned-rock-star who has helped thousands of people create successful meaningful lives by using their superpowers.

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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