Updated: Jun 7, 2022
When you think Superhero, who comes to mind? Do you envision your heroes or favorite fictional characters straight from your childhood favorites? While each of us may conjure up a different specific character, they often share very similar traits of strength, moral quality, and their own storyline. Still, if you’re like many, a Marvel hero may be quick to come to mind. One thing that Marvel has encapsulated for many is the relatability and acutely human trials they face.
Avengers Endgame is magical in a way that it doesn’t require you to watch the previous movies to understand and empathize with the natural human emotions and behavioral reactions felt and carried out by the team of Superheroes. Within the first 30 minutes of the movie, we’re gifted with seeing our hero’s as they are, allowing us to see them as actual people hurting in different ways, something that even in the Marvel Universe feels almost magical as we journey along the bumpy road of resilience.
How We Relate
We are rewarded with watching our protagonist’s struggle; loss, grief, trauma, immense pressure from the world around them, and the temptation of succumbing to “the easy way out” to ease our suffering. Following familiar plots, as we watch and grow with this unfiltered version of human experience, allows for a cinematic experience that relates for many and breathes hope for those facing their own struggles. Avengers Endgame is the consecutive aftermath of each of our heroes dealing with the trauma they collectively faced following Thanos destroying the Infinity Stones.
Tony Stark is shell-shocked when Captain Marvel brings him and Nebula back to Earth; he explodes at Steve Rogers, blaming him for breaking the Avengers apart. He retires from super-heroics altogether, settling down with Pepper Potts to lead a quiet life. However, his guilt (and love) towards Peter Parker eventually brings him back to the fold. Many of us can connect with Dr. Stark’s thoughts and reactions here. While traumatic events can call for a need to blame, hide, or quit altogether – recognizing the fact that the only way to work through the feelings that come with defeat or struggle is to stand up and confront the issue head on. Meanwhile, Steve and Natasha are barely staying afloat - but it’s perhaps Thor who has suffered the most.
The Importance of Choosing Healthy Coping Mechanisms
After losing his whole family, he also had to shoulder the guilt of failing the world when it needed him the most. The trauma from this loss makes him regress, as he seeks refuge in alcohol (and Fortnite), retreating into a curiously curated comfort zone in a place he calls New Asgard. If you look at the loss Thor suffers in Infinity War; it’s staggering. From the beginning of the film, when Thanos attacks his ship, he kills Loki and Heimdal and many of his people, to his failure to stop Thanos. We get a clear picture of the negative effects that come with falling into unhealthy coping mechanisms – resulting in a beer belly and a new-found careless and sloppy attitude.
As we search for ways to cope and grow despite our struggles, we are seeking, after all, to come out the other side like our Marvel heroes, resilient. It’s essential that we acknowledge and be honest with our need for coping mechanisms if we hope to find tools that genuinely help us cope and become the person who can continue despite the tragedies rather than falling prey to our human tendency to escape with defensive tactics instead. We are all susceptible to negative patterns to self-soothe. Like our protagonists inside of Endgame, we are not exempt from the challenge, so having steps in place to deal with before facing struggle will give us higher success rates as we navigate each new challenge. Resilience is like a battery. The main ways to recharge it are the fundamentals — sleeping, nutrition, and movement.
The hardship of facing an ever-changing world, especially in the midst and aftermath of a crisis, is something most of us can relate to in our post-Covid world. We have been told to live in a world on pause while at the same time, our minds, emotions, and struggles were very much still active, just like the Avengers’ were. There is a sense of empowerment when we remind ourselves that we are in fact not alone - so long as you seek the support of those around you.
One of the biggest takeaways Endgame offers us is the realization that loss and grief are not abstract but instead pieces of our human experience that affect us throughout our existence while they affect us differently. It shows us that while avoiding things may mask the hurt (Tony and his strive for everyday life and family), it doesn’t ease the weight that is still there. Which is where we get to see the beauty of The Avengers finding support in one another to navigate through their traumas and problem solve as a team through ending Thanos’ power trip.
Ultimately, we can learn a lot from heroes' show of resilience especially in Tony and Thor’s case where they show us how to harness our inner strength and cultivate resilience. Not to make their problems go away, but instead to see past them, take on the stress life hands them, and find ways to see enjoyment in life after challenges arise. To improve your resilience building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide needed support and acceptance in good and bad times. Yet, it’s important to use support as a tool to strengthen your own work and practice here to develop true coping skills that last.
Be proactive, don’t ignore your problems, plan, and take action - but don’t dwell in your problems either. Remain hopeful, learn from your experiences and what skills have helped you face challenges and stress in the past. Take care of yourself, minding both your physical and emotional needs. Remember to be patient with yourself and don’t be afraid to reach out if things get overwhelming. Becoming more resilient takes time and practice. If you don't feel you're making progress — or you don't know where to start — consider talking to a mental health professional. With guidance, you can improve your resiliency and mental well-being, just like your favorite Marvel superhero.
A self-described geek, Maria Laquerre-Diego is a CEO and Owner who is committed to increasing access to mental health services and breaking down the stigma surrounding therapy services. As a therapist turned CEO, Maria has developed a unique perspective when it comes to mental health and the barriers surrounding mental health treatment. Influenced by her time at New Mexico State University in the Family and Consumer Science department, and University of New Hampshire’s Marriage and Family Therapy department, Maria has turned her dedication to giving back and supporting future generations of therapists. In addition to supporting mental health providers, Maria takes an active role in addressing the continued stigma of mental health services through the use of pop culture – everything from movies and television shows to superheroes and Disney characters. Maria has spoken about mental health at several local events, has served as an officer on professional boards and has provided training to clinicians all over the country while maintaining her and her family’s roots as Aggies! Outside of the office, Maria can be found spending time with her family and loved ones, exploring the world through travel, and creating cosplays for herself, her husband and their two little ones. Maria is always happy to talk about Star Wars, Marvel and mental health and can be contacted through her practice website www.anewhopetc.org