July 31, 2012

Surrounded by Supervillains? ~ Eka Joti

Surrounded, courtesy of Aaron Renk

Activate these superpowers and vanquish your foes.

It’s inescapable: as we level-up our lives and don the mantle of the superhero, we will attract the attention of supervillains.

We curry courage, and they whisper self-doubt. We drop our shields and allow vulnerability, and fear of hurt rears its hideous head. We claim a meaningful purpose, and visions of public failure cloud our mind.

Facing inner villains is an unavoidable part of the superhero’s journey. What we can decide though, is how we will face them.

Understanding the Villain

Before I reveal the secret superpowers necessary to defeat your inner supervillains, first you must understand how these supervillains trap you—how you fight a losing battle each time you are manipulated into playing their nefarious game.

Enjoy this quick demonstration.


So now that you have some obvious (if not painful) examples of how supervillains wield their manipulative powers, what practical things can you do to turn the tides?

You sly dog! You caught me monologuing!

Syndrome, courtesy of Benjo Camay

Step 1: Let the crazy thing monologue.

Supervillains love to monologue. Why? Because they live for the self-aggrandizement. It’s all about them—one big reflective mirror to justify their neurosis (exemplified wonderfully by The Incredibles’ villain Syndrome).

You don’t need to engage this contest of egos, entering into a duel to the death where no one wins.

Instead, pull back, take cover and listen. Often in their neurotic rants, supervillains give away sensitive information, offering us valuable insights into their motives and diabolical endgame.

For you this means: Stay aware, be curious and attentive to the sabotaging inner voice. Instead of giving the supervillain voice, listen. In listening, you will discover the fears and skewed worldviews underlying and feeding the self-defeating behaviors that you are up against. And this, dear hero, will give you much needed sanity, perspective and leverage.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Step 2: Be aware of the projected story, and its underlying belief.

In The Wizard of Oz, we have the quintessential example of a powerless belief and its over-inflated story.

The Wizard, from the original movie

The intimidating projection of the Wizard is the big and overblown story, with its deafening sound and pyrotechnics to distract and distort your sense of reality.

The man behind the curtain, on the other hand, is the small, powerless and utterly unhelpful negative belief from which the story arises.

What’s the lesson here? Try to contend with the story and you will find yourself up against a formless, unbeatable monster (which is actually your own mind-power reflected through the villain’s twisted reality).

Instead, peek behind the curtain to the sabotaging belief, and you will find yourself staring down a frail old man with no power of his own.

Here is a potent example I have experienced first-hand:

Painful Story: Imagining, in graphic detail, how my partner will eventually cheat on me.

Possible Underlying Beliefs: I am always abandoned; I deserve to be hurt; I don’t deserve partners whom I can trust.

In this example, notice how the painful story is unmanageable and overwhelming—because it’s not actually happening and is dependent on someone else’s behavior.

Instead, the underlying belief is something that you can actually work with as a present moment choice that you can either buy into or change.

Making this distinction takes both perceptual sharpness and emotional courage, so don’t give up if it feels daunting at first. Sooner than you think, you will be distinguishing the fantasy story from the belief, and putting the man behind the curtain back in his harmless place.

Use your aggressive feelings boy. Let the hate flow through you.

Step 3: Don’t get tricked into using the same tactics used by the villains.

Emperor Palpatine, courtesy of Garrett B.T.M.

The main trick of the inner villain is to get you to fight back.

Why? Supervillains know that this is just another way of winning: you exhaust yourself resisting, fighting back and ultimately become what you are trying to defeat. Tricky villains.

This is exemplified clearly in Emperor Palpatine’s attempts to get Luke to lash out with his fear and hate.

As long as Luke’s emotions stayed unclouded by fear and hate, the Emperor knew Luke would never come to the Dark Side.

Looked at more closely, when you struggle with, resist or fight your inner supervillains, you are affirming at a very deep psychological level that “you are real; you have power over me; I must exert myself against you.”

Remember the man behind the curtain, don’t contend with the Wizard, rather stay attentive, curious, compassionate and adaptive. In the end, you will come to see this seemingly unbeatable villain in fact has no power over you (take that, David Bowie!).

The Conflict: I feel the good in you. I will not fight you father.

Step 4: Bring them over to the side of good.

Now, these first three steps are powerful techniques to escape the clutches of supervillains. But wouldn’t it be nice if these pesky villains stopped coming around all-together?

The truth is this is not only possible, but essential.

Darth Vader, courtesy of Matthew J. Fletcher

Within each inner supervillain lies a core of sweet, pure and well-meaning purpose. Like the apparent Stink God in Spirited Away, our inner villains are simply good intentions that have gotten a bit (or a lot) gunked up.

These villains are like us—they are trying their best with what they have, and they just want to be acknowledged for that, instead of ostracized. Think about it—even when we mess up, we really appreciate when others realize the good we were trying to do.

Only by perceiving this pure and well-meaning core are we able to create any true and lasting transformation in our personal inner supervillains.

This is profoundly explored through the original Star Wars saga, and comes to a climax in Return of the Jedi as Emperor Palpatine is torturing Luke with force-lightning in front of his father, Darth Vader.

Throughout the movie, Luke again and again appeals to the human heart that has been covered over by the inhuman machine. Luke was able to feel the well-meaning but confused Anakin that still lived within Darth Vader, and he reached out to that.

This approach ends up being much more effective than fighting Darth Vader, and ultimately saves his life and the entire rebellion.

So as you navigate your adventures and inevitably encounter your inner villains, take time to explore the positive result their confused intentions want for you. You will find they are ultimately the same things you want for yourself.

Once you discover these intentions, you can create better ways of honoring them, and thus transform an old supervillain into a new superhero.

Stepping up

Alright hero, time to put this wisdom into action. Your life-work for this week:

> Discover the unique personas, stories and beliefs of your personal inner supervillains.

> Share these findings below if it feels helpful.

> Share below how you applied these four villain-busting techniques to your daily life.

Unfazed and on-guard,

Eka, aka SuperSpark


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Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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