So, last time I mentioned that there was a way to bring the characteristics and qualities of your favorite fictional characters into your real life. Today, I'll discuss how you do that. This is the fun part! The first thing we need to do is know who we're working with. A note of caution: Please don't use this exercise to sort through trauma memories, unless you have the support of a therapist or someone you trust completely! This exercise is not meant for processing PTSD or other trauma.
Let's start by picking out the fictional character that you most admire and that you feel like you most relate to. If you can't decide on one, pick a second, but don't pick more than two - it will get difficult to analyze more than two characters at a time. If you want to go back and do this exercise later with another character, you can do that but it's really best to stick to one at a time if you can. Next, spend some time thinking about the character. What do you like best about this character, in terms of their identity or personality? Keep these qualities in mind as you answer the following questions. I've attached a handy worksheet for you if you prefer to work that way.
When you're done with that, spend a few minutes and think about how this character you admire would have handled it, using their personality characteristics. Would they have done the same thing you did, or would they have done something different? Sometimes realizing that anyone would have handled it the way we did can be comforting and reassuring. Sometimes visualizing the characters handling it can be funny, or maybe awkward as we imagine them handling our every day situations. Sometimes, however, imagining them struggling can bring us insight into ways we might change how we do things - and that's where we're going to keep exploring. So spend time here - really imagine what this character you admire would do if faced with your situation, or one that's similar. If they already did, remember how they handled it. After you've finished figuring it out, write down and describe what they did - or didn't - do.
After you're done writing this down, ask yourself: "If I could pick from (Character's) skills and reactions, what part of that reaction would I want to use? What parts do I like and appreciate, and what don't I like?" Then take a few minutes, and write out a brief description of what it would look like or be like if you did those things you admire. How do you think you would feel? Try to ground yourself somewhat in reality here. If your situation involves Wolverine slicing and dicing his opponent, that might be a good fantasy, but it's not likely to be something you can use. However, looking at Wolverine's confidence in his abilities, or his courage in facing danger might be something you CAN use.
Now comes the harder part - believe it or not, integrating these takes practice. Real practice, like you would do with practicing a sport or a new skill. Here's the logic behind it: If you remember learning to play a new sport or instrument, you know that when you first started out, you weren't an expert, right? You're a beginner, and it takes time and practice to get good. What many people don't realize, is that changing your behavior and your thought processes works in a very similar way! It's actually a bit harder, though, because you've learned to do things that get in your way. To go back to the analogy, it's like you've learned to playusing a technique that isn't right or isn't effective - like not learning to do a layup shot right, or get the timing in music right. You have to unlearn the old habits and learn the new habits. It's a two-pronged process:
- Unlearn and stop doing the old stuff
- Learn and practice doing the new stuff
So, here's what you want to do. Find a someone you feel safe with - someone who won't make fun of you or tease you, and will take you seriously, like your partner, a friend, or your therapist. (If you truly don't have someone, use your imagination, and visualize the situation in as much vivid detail as possible.)
Next, tell them a little bit about this exercise and why you're doing it (and maybe offer to do it with them, too), and actually practice saying the words out loud. Yes, it will feel silly and awkward, and you may feel very self-conscious at first. That's normal - you're not used to saying and doing things this way! If the words you use feel weird, or don't feel like you, then change them to something that sounds a little more natural but don't lose the personality trait behind them. It's okay to change, "Ho there, stranger!" to "Hey, dude..." but don't change "Stop teasing me; that hurts my feelings" to "well, I was kind of wondering if you might try stopping the teasing. I'm kind of hurt by it." Think about and practice the following:
- What would you actually say?
- What would your body posture and body language be like?
- What do you think the other person in the situation would respond or do?
- How would you respond to the other person's reaction?
- How would you want to end the interaction?
- Would there be consequences for you or the other person? How could you handle them effectively?
Now because you're doing this with someone, they can give you feedback.You can give yourself feedback, too. Regardless of whether you did this alone or with someone else, let's analyze the practice a little.
- What does it feel like to hear these things coming from you?
- What did if feel like to handle the situation differently?
- Are there things you'd change? If so, go back and change it so that it would work better.
- Keep practicing - you don't need to believe you can do it (at least not yet).
Here's the funny thing with practice, though - the more you do it, the more natural it feels. The more natural it feels, the more likely you are to really do it. And honestly, the more you do it (whether it's practice or for real), the better and more confident you get.
In the end, the beauty of working deeper with our favorite characters is that by exploring what we admire about them, we learn more about who we are - and who we can be.
Please Note: The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. This is not therapy, and if you wish to work in therapy, please contact your local mental health agency or your physician for a referral.
If you are in crisis or danger, please call 911 for immediate help. Please, again, realize that seeking out help really IS a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. You don’t have to be alone in facing these things – there are people who care and who will help. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to set up an appointment.