Superhero Self

Contributed by 
Julie Norton and Bridget Steed

Who

Children ages 5+

Teens

Adults

When

Superhero Self is an activity for individuals who may be feeling scared or overwhelmed by emotions or experiences.

Why

This activity is designed to give one a sense of self-empowerment and agency as well as help to regulate complex emotions.

What

Ask a child (or yourself) to imagine a version of themselves that feels and behaves in a way that would make them “feel better” (i.e. safer, less scared, calmer, braver....) during a time of challenge. For fun, call this a “Superhero Self!”


Next, invite them to create an art piece (painting, sculpture, drawing, puppet etcetera) to represent this version of themselves using whatever materials you have available. Examples of materials could include construction paper, fabric, paints, markers, pipe cleaners, and clay, or pencil and paper. 


Questions to consider...

What characteristics does this version of themselves possess? 


For example:

  • How do they move?

  • How do they talk?

  • What do they wear?

  • Do they have a different name? 

  • What types of thoughts do they think?

After creating the art piece, ask your child to create an actual costume that mirrors the one they created for their Superhero Self that they can put on when in “superhero mode”. Examples of costumes might include a mask/cape/crown/wand/face paint/headpiece/etcetera).


End by letting your child know they can access their “superhero” self at any time! The next time they are experiencing emotions that are troubling for them, remind them of their superhero self and encourage them to invite that version in (perhaps put on their costume, add to their original art piece, or even create a new one in the form of a “Superhero Sidekick”. 


*Note: It is important to stress that being a “superhero” does not mean that they will not experience all of their emotions—including worry and fear—but rather, it helps them see that they can also experience feeling other things—courageous, calm, creative, funny, helpful, loving, etc. The idea is to help them access emotions that may be helpful in a time of crisis, not to deny that a full range of emotions exist and are OKAY! 


Adult version—Create a Superhero Character/Persona:

Consider a version of yourself that feels and behaves exactly how you would want to “show up” during a time of crisis—the highest or most helpful version of you. 


Questions to consider (writing down your answers may help to bring clarity): 

  • What are the 3-5 main qualities you would have?

  • What habits would make up your day?

  • What habits would you need to let go of?

  • Would this version of you have a different name?

Next, create an art piece using any available materials that represents this new version of you and see what emerges. Allow this piece look and be whatever it wants—it does not have to be figurative or look like an actual person. For example, maybe this new persona is simply represented by a color? Don’t think too much about this, just create!


Things to notice while create your art piece:

  • How do you feel while creating it?

  • What colors are you using?

  • How are you moving your body?

  • What words, if any, are coming up for you? 


Next, allow yourself to dialogue with your art piece or this, “different version of you.”


Questions to consider while dialoging: 

  • What does it want you to know?

  • What message do you have for it?

  • What makes it feel safe/unsafe?

  • Where does it reside? 

  • Is there a word you can say out loud that would “summon” it?

*Note: It is important to understand that this version of you already exists—it is in you and accessible at all times, regardless of outside circumstances. In difficult times, pretend like you are “playing a part,” if that helps access it. Keep “faking it” until this new way of being/ feeling/ thinking starts to become more second nature and you truly embody the persona you created. 

Expressive Arts and Recovery

Return to Expressive Arts to see more exercises and activities.

Contact

For further information about Disastershock or joining the Disastershock Global Response Team, please email us:   

Dr. Brian Gerrard gerrardb@usfca.edu | Dr. Sue Linville Shaffer drsueshaffer@gmail.com.

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