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CSPP Professor and Superhero Psychologist, Dr. Janina Scarlet's, course in Superhero Psychology is a must! Her recent Psychology Today article highlights the origin story of her incredible work.
Next week 'Logan' comes out in theaters. As the name suggests, the movie will focus on Logan (Wolverine), one of the X-Men, as he is caring for the ailing X-Men founder, Charles Xavier.
I have a soft spot for X-Men. After all, they have saved my life.
I was a few months short of three when it happened.
The Chernobyl radiation disaster had devastating consequences for those who lived in Ukraine like we did, as well as the nearing countries.
For me, the radiation exposure had lifelong consequences for my health, among them, severe migraines and seizures. I would also often get nosebleeds which would not clot and I had to go to the ER. I felt sad and scared, and would avoid any mention of the word "Chernobyl" or anything related to the event. The word alone would give me heart palpitations and make me uneasy. I would often get sick, sometimes missing months of school at a time. I was afraid to go to sleep because of the regular nightmares I had about it. I didn't know this at the time, but I was struggling with post traumaticstress disorder (PTSD).
When I was sick or struggling I would to read stories. Stories of heroes, who did not let adversity hold them back from helping others. I did not have a lot of friends, but the books I read kept me company.
When my family and I immigrated to the United States as refugees, I became an outcast. I was the weird girl, who did not speak English well. I was the girl who didn't talk a lot, and missed a lot of school. And I was the girl who was exposed to radiation.
"Don't touch her, she's radioactive," I remember hearing one of my classmates say to another.
"Hey, is it true that you glow in the dark?" Another would ask me.
As the bullying got worse, I started having flashbacks from my childhood and the nightmares got worse. On most days, I just wanted to die.
All of that changed a few years later when I saw the first 'X-Men' film in the theaters. I was immediately hooked. How could I not be? These superheroes were mutants, just like me. Many of them, including Wolverine, were exposed to radiation, just like me. Some of them were bullied for being different but they chose to use their mutations as special abilities to help others.
This was a complete mental shift for me. For the first time I saw my radiation exposure as a gift rather than a curse and myself as a survivor rather than a victim. I still don't glow in the dark, I don't have Spidey senses (I keep trying), and don't have retractable claws. But the superpowers that I have developed are compassion, understanding, and acceptance. And as a result, I have decided to dedicate my life to helping others.
Over time, Superhero Therapy was born. It entails connecting with our favorite fictional characters in helping ourselves better understand and manage our most painful experiences, and in the process, becoming our own version of a superhero.
Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a scientist, and a full time geek. She uses Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, and PTSD at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management. Her book, “Superhero Therapy” with Little, Brown Book Group released on December 1, 2016 in the U.K. and is expected to be released with New Harbinger on August 1, 2017.