Your Superpower Is A Compensation For Old Trauma

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

My partner picked up on my moods long before I was even aware, intuiting a subtle discomfort from the shift of an elbow. “Is everything all right?” she’d ask from the far side of the couch, her head perking the instant I stumbled across a knot of complex code – or, in bed, she’d sense which muscles cried out for touch and when, moving to synchronize with my desires until I was left breathless.

Her talent was a flat-out superpower – being so attuned to my concerns that her understanding felt more like magic than body language. I envied her; I too wanted to be able to sense polite lies the way they did, to be certain when someone was genuinely joyous, to see the world as they did.

Yet as I got to know her better, I realized that superpower had a dark origin. She came from a place where her genteel caretakers could turn abusive at a moment’s notice – so she’d had to sense a violent turn coming long before anyone said anything.

I envisioned her skills as a superpower. But to her, I think, it was closer to eternal hypervigilance; she’d see me frown as I programmed and think, Is this something I need to flee from?

I think that’s a lot of superpowers, really.

Likewise, I’ve acquired a small following in part because I write a lot about relationships – how they come together, how to heal them, how they fail. People have been thanked me for boiling complex concepts down into an 800-word essay they could hand to a friend.

Yet I always reject it when someone calls me “wise.” I’m not wise; I’ve dated well over a hundred people, and most of them have left me, so my relationship skills are little more than sifting through the shattered remnants of past stupidity.

That’s not just me, though; there’s plenty of people with a lot of “wisdom” acquired with that especial frisson you get when you’ve bloodied your face running head-first into a brick wall.

So why, of all people, am I driven to write about it so thoroughly?

And for that, you have to look back at my origins – a lonely Ferrett in his bedroom, with no friends and no hope of friends, living in companion-free isolation during his formative years. I had my family, and they were some consolation – but every day I returned home from a school where the best I could hope for was literally to be ignored, so thoroughly were the bullies after me.

I sat in a room, reading books. Knowing my future was empty. I would get a job, slump home to an empty apartment, eat spaghetti and watch television, then go to bed – lather, rinse, repeat until I died.

That was my reality, and I only narrowly escaped it.

Now, the reason I publish the essays on my failed relationships is because I honestly want to encourage people to do better – if you’ve ever avoided any pitfall because I told you to watch out, well, I’ve earned my place on the planet for a day.

But the reason I analyze those failures that closely is because deep down, I realize that every relationship I’ve ever had could be my last, one mistake and I’ll be locked back in that lonely teenaged room stinking of body odor and despair, and I have to study what went wrong because oh my God I lucked out but the next time nobody will love me ever again.

It’s a superpower. But not one I’d want to inflict upon anyone.

Which is, I think, the source of a lot of unfortunate truth – if you survive some trauma, you often get what, to others, would appear as a superpower. You developed some inner strength to navigate this horrific world you got cast into it, and that strength sets you above others.

The trick is, you never wanted that superpower. It’s not like Superman, where you get to lift skyscrapers because you’re pure of heart – it’s more like Batman, where your parents got killed and the only way for you to survive was to bury yourself in self-improvement until you convinced yourself that you were so ready for the world that they could never take your parents from you again.

Maybe you have a superpower. It probably helps you. But it doesn’t make you feel better.

I hope you live in a world where you don’t need it.

1 Comment

  1. Doug S.
    Jan 28, 2021

    Experience is an effective teacher, but not always a kind one.

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