Dr. Janina Scarlet | Your Superhero Identity & the Power of Heroic Stories

In today’s episode, we cover superhero therapy with Dr. Janina Scarlet. Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, author, TEDx speaker, and a full-time geek who immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with her family and later, inspired by the X-Men, developed Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. 

Effective therapy can come in many forms but superhero therapy is certainly one of the more interesting approaches we’ve come across – but what is superhero therapy, what can we learn from the heroes and adventures which inspire us, and how can you build an environment conducive to the life you want to lead?

What to Listen For

  • Dr. Janina Scarlet’s Origin Story and Using Stories to Heal – 0:00 
  • How did Dr. Janina Scarlet get started using superhero stories to help patients with the mental health difficulties they’re facing?
  • How can we reframe challenges we face using stories and characters in order to overcome them?
  • How can you use fiction to gain insight into the challenges you face?
  • What is a stress hormone and how does one in particular make it difficult for us to get out of bed in the morning?
  • Building a Life that Supports Your Heroic Journey – 17:30 
  • Why is it important to surround yourself with people who support you on your recovery journey?
  • How can we use superhero stories to get our friends and family excited about helping us while also opening up about the challenges they’re facing?
  • How do you construct an environment conducive to the life you want to lead and the person you want to become?
  • How can you use fictional characters like superheroes to identify your core values in order to guide your decisions to build the life you want?
  • What can we learn from our Heroes? – 31:28
  • What are the benefits to reading fictional stories and what can we all learn from the heroes of said stories?
  • Is it more important to fake confidence until your confident or to be comfortable with your flaws and insecurities?
  • What is Dark Agents about and what can it teach us about PTSD?
  • What are the biggest misconceptions surrounding PTSD?
  • How can you recognize when you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD and what can you do to seek help or get help?
  • Can we experience trauma in life without realizing it until years later? 

The idea of finding a therapist and going to therapy can feel intimidating even though mental health is becoming less of a taboo subject. But therapy can come in many different forms and some of those forms can feel much more approachable and relatable. Superhero therapy is one because many of us grew up reading comic books and many more got hooked on the superhero movie craze that erupted two decades ago. It’s easy to be inspired by individuals who perform heroic acts yet still experience many of the same insecurities and flaws we normal people go through daily. As a result, the heroes and their stories have an incredible amount they can teach us if we’re willing to pay attention.

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Resources from this Episode

Speaker 1: Imagine that there is maybe a graphic novel, or a movie made about you at the end of your life, this graphic novel, or this movie depicts your life in a way that will then be inspirational for everyone who reads it and watches it. So the question is, what would you want people to take away from this? Maybe they would see the kind of superhero that has been through so many obstacles and so much trauma, and yet was because of it, or as a part of it maybe was able to help so many other people in helping them to understand that they're not alone.

Speaker 2: Welcome back to the art of charm podcast, a show designed to help you win at work love, and life. Now we know you have what it takes to reach your full potential, and that's why every week we share with you interviews and strategies to help you develop the right social skills and mindsets to succeed. You shouldn't have to settle for anything less than extraordinary I'm AIJ and I'm Johnny, have you checked out this month? Toolbox episode on emotional bids? No, you haven't then pause the podcast in download this episode immediately. We even created a special screensaver with all nine emotional bids for you to download for free, to save them on your phone and use in every conversation. You can find [email protected] slash bids, the feedback on this toolbox episode has been fantastic, Johnny. It certainly has, and that screensaver will definitely come in handy.

Speaker 2: Now. Thank you everyone for tuning in let's kick off today's show. We're joined by Dr. Janina Scarlet. She's a licensed clinical psychologist author and full-time geek. Dr. Scarlet is the originator of superhero therapy, which is a fascinating field that combines cutting edge psychology with the geek culture of comics, movies, and video games. Her books include superhero therapy, Harry Potter therapy, therapy, quest, and numerous contributions to psychology geeks books, such as star Wars psychology. Her latest book, dark agents is a graphic novel that deals with PTSD in 2018, Dr. Scarlet was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt human rights award from the United nations association for her work. And we're super excited to geek out with her today about her work, walking to the show, Dr. Scarlet, she Nina, welcome to the show. It is great to have you with us now, like any superhero, they hall have origin stories that are quite compelling. So we would be remissed if we didn't get to hear your origin story.

Speaker 1: Thanks. Yeah. Thanks so much for asking that you're right. I think not only does every superhero have an origin story, but I think every human being has an origin story. Um, my own origin story started when I was about three years old. I was born and raised in Ukraine. And when I was a small child, there was a massive explosion, uh, just about 180 miles from where we lived at the Ternopil nuclear power plant and we were all affected. So what that meant for me was spending most of my childhood in and out of the hospital, you know, not knowing if I'd ever make it to adulthood. Um, what that meant is that to this day, whenever the weather changes, I go through severe migraines and sometimes seizures and a part of my origin story also included facing persecution. Unfortunately, my family and I were targeted by antisemitic groups. We faced a lot of violence and had to flee in secret and were thankfully able to move to United States as refugees when I was 12 years old. So that was my origin story.

Speaker 3: And of course, when it comes to superheroes, they all have humble beginnings. What I would love to know is what drew your fascination to superheroes and pulling them into the work that you do.

Speaker 1: So it was about 16 years old when, um, I was working in a movie theater and we were all invited to the midnight screening of the X-Men. Now at that point, I'd never really heard of the X. I didn't know who they were, but from the moment that movie opens, you know, I felt like it was almost made for me. I mean, it starts with Eric's story. It starts with Magneto story and we learn about him living through world war two and him facing persecution and his family. And then we learn about all of the members of the X-Men each of which had some kind of genetic mutation. Some of them like Wolverine, also being exposed to radiation. And some of them like storm having unique abilities, like being able to control the weather. And what was really interesting is my whole life. I felt alone.

Speaker 1: I felt like there was something different about me and I felt like I didn't quite fit in, you know, and I felt like the weather controlled me, but watching this movie, I was having all these Epiphanes like that our origin stories don't get to define us. Like our origin stories are just the beginning of our story, but the rest is up to us. And I was thinking if somebody made this movie, it probably means that there's at least one other person there that gets it. That understands what it's like to be alone. And if this completely sold out, movie theater is so full of people that are so involved and engrossed in this film, then chances are most people here understand what it means to go through something like that. And it really hit me, you know, that we're all experienced that feeling of loneliness, but it's in that aloneness that we're actually connected. And so it was because of seeing this movie that I decided to study psychology as a way of using story, to explain the mental health difficulties that we're facing, whether they're trauma, anxiety with depression. And now that's my specialty. I incorporate stories from fandom, whether it's DC, Marvel, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, or star Wars into therapy to help people manage their mental health difficulties, especially when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Speaker 3: When it comes to being our own superhero, we often think of these stories as fantasy and others, but how can we actually become our own superhero on that journey to handle that stress, anxiety, loss of confidence.

Speaker 1: A lot of times when we're going through this kind of a loss, not only do we feel alone, but we might feel like no, one's in our corner, no one has our back. So I often invite my clients to imagine some kind of a role model. A hero could be maybe a grandparent, even if they're no longer around, or it could be a fictional hero, you know, like Batman or black widow, just somebody that we look up to. And I ask people to imagine that this person could be right there with them holding their hand or sitting next to them. And this person already knows your origin story. You don't even have to explain yourself, this person gets it and they have the most encouraging, most compassionate message for you. And so I ask people to write down or to think about what this hero might say to them.

Speaker 1: And oftentimes this hero might remind us that we've learned a lot from our pain, from our trauma. Not that it's necessary for us to do the kind of things that we want to do, but sometimes in that pain, we unlock the super powers that were maybe there in the first place. And maybe then can find our own meaning in terms of being there for other people in terms of showing up for people who are just at the beginning of their heroic journey. And so for people who are struggling, I asked them to remember that every action that they take makes a difference and their own story can empower other people who are just at the beginning of that same struggle that they had already been through.

Speaker 3: Wow. That is absolutely beautiful to think about all of those people in our life that we've held this superheroes, unlocking it in ourselves as well. Now, many of us face difficult challenges. And when that stuff happens in our life, it can be hard to process and hard to make sense of to regain that confidence, to take a step forward. How can we reframe these difficult situations using superheroes in our own life to make an impact in our behavior and change?

Speaker 1: I like to think of challenges as kinda like dragons. You know, there's some people that just get up and go to work, right? But most people, they have to face like five dragons just to out of bed. And by the time they're halfway done with their day, they face like a slew of dragons. And the thing is, if we're watching this amazing care on television, who's fighting dragon after dragon. We'd think, man, that guy's awesome. Or that, that person is amazing. Right? And so I think that it's important to remember that you're not just doing your homework or your school report, you're facing dragons every moment in every day. And so if you're fighting like five dragons with one hand and typing up your report with another hand, then it makes sense that your report might take you a little bit longer to complete, right?

Speaker 1: And that it won't be quite as pristine as it otherwise would have been. Had you not been fighting all those dragons? And the idea here is this, every hero that we look up to faces obstacles over and over and over again, every hero struggles to get out of bed in the morning, every hero like thinks about what is all of this for. And yet they get up and they rise again because the, their sense of purpose is bigger than their challenge. And so I ask folks to think about, first of all, how many dragons are you facing on a given basis? And second of all, to remind themselves that just you facing the day's already heroic. If you've gotten out of bed today, you've already did a really challenging thing. If you face depression today, you've already fought like four dragons. And if you reached out to a friend, then that's you being out there in the field fighting not only your dragons, but helping other people fight their own also. And that alone makes you heroic

Speaker 4: Janina, or this is what I really enjoy this idea. And it comes down to symbolism, ritual, and tradition and building these for yourself. It was last year around this time, we did an interview with Sasha, um, was her last name J uh, Sagan. And we discussed the importance of symbolism, ritual, and tradition. And it's easy to make fun of people who are able to think in those terms and make things and turn them into their own important narrative because Whoa, it's, it's your own thoughts. You're using your imagination and it's easy to puncture those, but the reality is the human condition. We're not only attracted to those very things, but we also thrive with them and to be able to build our own narratives through symbolism, ritual, and tradition allows us to thrive in a world that the odds are stacked against stuff just in nature ended itself. None of us get out of here alive. And the only thing that we can do is wake up every day and fight. And in order to be able to do that, you're going to have to produce a wonderful story that gets you out of bed. So it's fighting dragons is going to get you up and fired up. Well then, so be it, but it is important to be able to understand the importance of those three things. And then also allow yourself to create this narrative that will give you so much power.

Speaker 1: Exactly, exactly. And that's the thing is that stories have existed for thousands of years, right? And people have used narrative as a way of conveying important messages about grief, about loss, about trauma theater of war has been putting on plays about a two, 3000 year old poems and books, you know, from Odyssey to the Eliot and veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq and even Vietnam war veterans watching these plays often find themselves saying I related to this character. For example, a lot of veterans might find themselves saying I related to Ajax. I also understand what trauma is like after a war, I might not have fought in a Trojan war. I might've fought in, in Afghanistan, but I understand what it's like to consider suicide. I understand what it's like to feel like I have nothing to live for. And it's because of these narratives because of these plays that people are then able to share, not just with mental health professionals, but with their spouses, with their friends and with, with other civilians about what they're going through.

Speaker 1: Because for a lot of veterans, it's very hard to talk about their experience with civilians, right? They might only relate to other veterans, but fiction gives us a window into our human suffering that otherwise might be unavailable to us. We have this unfortunate narrative in our society that to be quote unquote strong, we have to essentially dehumanize ourselves and follow the script of hi, how are you? I'm fine. How are you? And if we we're off that script and we are considered weak, if we watch any like scifi movies or television shows, like let's say star Trek, next generation, we learn about data, right? So data for anyone that hasn't seen it is this lovable Android who wants nothing more than to be human. And so he keeps on trying to learn human emotions. And in one of the movies he's even implanted with the human chip, just to understand what it means to feel sad and angry and frustrated and scared.

Speaker 1: So if science fiction depicts these Androids that are trying to understand humanity, why is that? We as humans are trying to constantly turn off the very trait that makes us human. Why are we trying to be robots? We're meant to feel were meant to be sad, were meant to be scared, were meant to be happy. We're meant to feel a full rainbow of emotions because that is the foundation of what makes us human. And these emotions work as an all or none bag. If we turn off one of them, if we try to turn off our anxiety or grief, we turn off everything and then includes joy and purpose.

Speaker 2: Every one of those heroes that we love watching and reading about, or reading the comics, they all experience all of those emotions. They're not just happy-go-lucky characters. And I love that dragon analogy for two reasons. Number one is you can then associate these problems, these difficults with something that is beatable, that's something you can overcome. It doesn't have to be this crazy weight on your shoulder, but it's something that you deserve credit for slang and taking on each and every day. And the second reason I love it is because it allows you to express empathy for others who are slaying their own dragons, right? We're all slang our own dragons, as you said, just to get out of bed. And if we can look at others in a light of, well, what dragons did they slay today? And how did they show up? We can develop that empathy to really relate and connect with one another.

Speaker 1: Exactly. Exactly. Thank you so much for bringing that up. And actually there's a little piece of scientific data I wanted to share with you about why so many of us struggle to get out of bed. Why do all of us face so many dragons in the morning? So, uh, in case some of you are not familiar with this hormone. We have this hormone in our body called cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone. And it's released when we're facing, let's say a dragon, or when we're in conflict with somebody with care about, or when we're facing a job interview. Now cortisol cycles shift, right? They start out as being really high in the morning. And then over time, cortisol gets lower and lower in the evening, making it easier for us to go to bed at night. Now we just said the cortisol amounts are highest in the morning.

Speaker 1: And we said, cortisol is a stress hormone. So what does it mean if he's getting out of bed is literally the most stressful thing you're going to do all day. So if you've already done it today, congratulations, you've done the most stressful thing you're going to do. You already slayed your dragon. That's amazing. And if you didn't, if you need a little bit of extra time, if you need an extra hour, an extra day, even an extra week, you're not being weak, you're being strong and you're being wise because sometimes that's exactly what we need to do to recharge our energy so that we can get right back there in that battlefield. And as I mentioned before, not only fight our own dragons, but then help other people fight their own too.

Speaker 2: Yeah. It's such an important lesson to realize just how stressful out of bed is on us. And many of us discount that, or again, we look to social media and others who have no problems with getting up in the morning and we feel even worse about ourselves. But instead realizing that that is scientifically the most stress you're going to be under. It's a great way to reframe that. Another point that I wanted to touch on is how many hero stories that we read, where the hero doesn't even realize they're the hero. And I think that's what also makes them so relatable. It's not that we're trying to be someone we're not, or that we have to pretend that we're this heroic character, because many of the heroes that we love don't even realize they're heroes as they're going through the journey,

Speaker 1: A hundred percent, anybody that we look at, whether it's Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter, right? Majority of these characters might even present with what we might call the imposter Centrum. They might say, wait me, no, you're mistaken. There's somebody else that you, you need to ask to be your hero, because the truth is most of us often discount our own abilities, but often recognize and praise other people's abilities. One of the reasons why is because when we're two zoomed in, let's say two zoomed into a painting would wear this close to a painting. We fail to see the bigger picture, but from the outside, when we're looking at someone else, when we're looking at a fictional character or a real life friend, we can see the full context of everything this person is facing has been through and has been able to do. And maybe sometimes we can apply the same kind of zoom out strategy to ourselves where we can think about ourselves as a different person, where we can imagine watching a movie about someone like ourselves on television and thinking, huh? If somebody was going through all of these things, I imagine I would be very sympathetic toward them and probably very encouraging toward that character.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. And allowing yourself to take a bigger perspective of what's going on and not get so zoned in on what you don't have, realize that everyone else is struggling with those exact same thoughts and feelings, but it's easier to recognize in others. It allows us to take a deep breath and realize just how accomplished we truly are already. Now some of my favorite superheroes have sidekicks and have people supporting them in a supporting cast. How can we not only take the superhero therapy to ourselves in our own lives, but attract other people to support us on our journey, to create that fantastic story in our life.

Speaker 1: Not only do all heroes have sidekicks, but all heroes have vulnerabilities too, even Superman, right? He's vulnerable to kryptonite and even Superman doesn't face his challenges alone. He has the justice league. And what that means is that having sidekicks is not only not a weakness, but a strength, but also that it's wise because everybody has their own strengths. Everyone has their own superpowers that they can contribute. And so reaching out to a friend is not only recruiting a wonderful sidekick to your own journey, but actually by letting your friend know that you might need them, you might be also inviting them to talk about what they're going through. And so in a lot of ways, when we share our own story with other people, we're, we're making a really profound statement. We're saying, I'm not alone. This is what I'm going through. What are you going through? And let's support each other on this journey. And so I encourage all of you to actually not only reach out to other people, but to welcome story sharing, because I think that's how a lot of those, uh, those doors become open and a lot of those masks for our loss. And we can really see one another.

Speaker 2: I know I love calling out Johnny super powers and recognizing those and others when we can't recognize them in ourselves as well. And we call that giving value when we can appreciate those around us and recognize maybe the superhero powers that they have, that they don't see in themselves, we can work together and not only create a great relationship, but to really support one another. When we need it

Speaker 4: Along with our compatriots, to be able to talk, to help us out debris remind us of what our super powers are. There's certainly things that we can do in our own home, setting up rituals and tradition and decor that would enhance this idea or to trigger, to remind us of the dragons that we must face each and every day. And you mentioned the hall of justice. I don't know. I could just look at your screen here, Gina and see the decorations. And I don't know if you call it the, the hall of justice or what your name for it is, but could you speak to, uh, some of the traditions or decorations that one might be able to, to put together to reinforce these ideas and give them the strength to fight these dragons on a daily basis?

Speaker 1: I call mine the nerd layer, by the way, sorry, I didn't mean to make you do a spit take. Um, but I think for so many of us, the symbols, they, they are, they serve as a powerful reminder of who we are and where we derive our strength. For example, one of my rings here says, Felix, Felix's, it's from Harry Potter and it's a good luck term. And so it's something that reminds me, not only of magic from Harry Potter that I really resonate with, but also of having like a little luck charm that you can take with you at all times. And I have little pieces of me and all of these decorations from, you know, let's say the Adams family up there to a different kinds of fairies to Harry figurines, to joker and Harley. And for me, it's a reminder of different parts of me.

Speaker 1: And I think for so many of us having some kind of assemble with us, whether it's something we wear on our person, something we have in our room or something we have as our screensaver, for example, or background picture, it's a reminder of not only who we are, but also where we derive our strengths. So for example, having a Batman picture can remind us that just like Batman, we might have been through something painful and just like Batman, we might be facing our fears on a daily basis, right? Batman had a phobia, Bruce Wayne had a phobia of bats and he chose the bad as a symbol so that he could wrap himself in his fear so that he could face it on a daily basis and help other people face their own fears as well.

Speaker 4: I did a episode for a YouTube channel a while ago, I'm going to probably do an updated one, but it was about sensory cues and making sure that there was things that were relayed, this message, maybe it was through scented candles to smell them, uh, the pictures, a tattoo, uh, uh, a playlist that fires you up. I mean, you are able to activate this through so many different channels and I find it fun and it always amusing an interest to me to see the uniqueness of how everybody incorporates these type of things in their own lives. And it certainly comes with a its own self-expression and some people are very, uh, some people are very open to self expression and love self expression, and some people are very private about self-expression. So when you get a glimpse of those private people in their own rituals and traditions, to me, it's always a, it's a peek behind the curtain to see how they operate, because they're not so loud about it in public.

Speaker 1: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I love that you were talking about sensory properties because there's nothing more powerful at polling up that associative memory than a sensory memory. Right? So when we can, when we can either hear a music tone or, or smell some kind of a sense that reminds us of someone or something it's as a four there, right? It, it automatically pulls up all the files in our brain that are related to that particular sensory property. And, and we're almost watching a movie of this story. And so if we can, uh, watch this, you know, this movie of, of a happy memory, for example, it actually causes our body to go through that same emotion in a similar way, as a sad memory can make us feel sad all over again. And so having a reminder of something really meaningful can actually, um, not only make us feel good in the moment, but actually power us up in that moment when we really, really need it

Speaker 4: To add to that. There's also a place where our pathways are very opened up, especially with we're wrapped up. And we're in a very emotional state for, for example, last March. Well, I can say for the beginning of last year, as the pandemic started to creep in, we kept hearing about it kept hearing about it. Uh, Oh, it's nothing. Oh, it's not a big deal. Oh, it's not a human to human transmission. Oh, it's never going to come over here. Oh no. And it just, we kept watching this creep in and then it was March, I believe with that week, second week of March where things started to get a little bit, uh, odd and, and the, the news and the, the, the scaremongering that was going around, it had all of us in a highly emotional state. And now there was a record that I had gotten and I was playing during that time of when I wasn't sure what was going on.

Speaker 4: And I was a bit nervous and wasn't really sure what we were going to be facing. And what does death count was going to be at all the stuff that record. Now, if I hear any note of it, it takes me to the fear and, and nervousness that I had in that, in that week of, of March. So much to the point sometimes where I want to hear it, I go, I don't want it. I mean, it rapidly, drastically takes me to that place. And I have to take a moment to be like, wow, how crazy was everything back then? And, and how those songs to do that. And I'm sure everyone here has smelled a set walking into the mall or somewhere we're like, Oh my God, that's grandma's kitchen where you are trans ported to a place. And I mean, that's how strong your sensory cues are

Speaker 1: For a lot of people, there might be certain songs they can't listen to right now, certain movies they can't watch. Right. Because they might be really overstimulating right now. And it's okay to take a break.

Speaker 4: Really. Everyone has songs that they can't listen to because it goes back to an ex, it goes to a bad breakup. And you'll hear that on the radio, like turn that off.

Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely. And I also think that for many people, um, at the same time, music can be so healing, right. In terms of reminding us of, um, you know, of a, of a powerful memory or, or maybe giving us the permission to feel something. And so, and I know you're a musician Johnny, and I think, I imagine that there's probably a lot of the music that you make that is really transformative for a lot of people.

Speaker 4: It's, it all has a specific in my life. There's

Speaker 2: Certainly waves of music that I listened to in certain times of my life that even a theme or a sound can drag me back. And I probably just the way I was raised and how important music is to me, it's probably one of the, the most powerful sensory cues that, that definitely has a way with my emotions, Johnny and I are huge fans of acceptance commitment therapy, and, you know, listening to your origin story and recognizing, and accepting yourself through reading and watching other superheroes origin stories. You know, that was really heartwarming. And I want to talk a bit more about the commitment side of things. And I know on the show here, we always preach core values. We talk about finding your core values, how important that is to a filling life. And for many in our audience, that's a tricky one. They write back, how did you do it? How do you figure out your core values? And for myself, I've gone through the process a few times now to really determine mine. And they do change as you grow and change as well. And currently mine are low, are adventure acts of service and loyalty. How can we use superheroes to get to a place of understanding our own core values and create that commitment to take the next step, to take action and grow.

Speaker 1: I like to go at it from like a playful side and encourage folks to think about, to imagine that there is maybe a graphic novel or a movie made about you at the end of your life as kind of your legacy project. And so this graphic novel, or this movie depicts your life in a way that will then be inspirational for everyone who reads it and watches it. So the question is, what would you want people to take away from this? Maybe they would see the kind of superhero that has been through so many obstacles and so much trauma, and yet, uh, was because of it, or as a part of it maybe was able to help so many other people in, in helping them to understand that they're not alone for instance, or somebody that was able to use their talent for art or music or storytelling to then encourage other people, to maybe share their creativity or to learn that they're not alone.

Speaker 1: And so I encourage people to actually write out maybe a brief outline for this graphic novel or a movie, um, or maybe even draw a few comic comic book panels, and then to think about what are the most important things that you see here. Maybe this is a character that that is giving. Maybe they're compassionate. Maybe there's somebody that no matter what they're going through, remembers what they want to give back, for example. And then, so from these core values, we can then create certain actions. For example, what is something I can do today to be this kind of superhero to put on this, either metaphorical or maybe real Cape, and to do something that's helpful, um, whether it's maybe I'll make a post on social media about what it's like to live with PTSD, for example, or a specific challenge that you're facing so that other people know that they're not alone, or maybe something helpful that you've learned that that has been helping you along the way, so that may be, can benefit someone else. And when we can look at this big picture at the kind of graphic novel at the kind of book, the kind of legacy that we want to live behind, it can help us to map out certain steps that we can start taking today to make that possible.

Speaker 3: I love that exercise, and I think it's a helpful one. If you're listening and you're struggling to nail down those core values, or you think of so many, it can become overwhelming. But if you really think about the stories that you gravitate to the heroes that you really enjoy and look up to, you can start to take those little pieces to now commit to taking action in your life. That's meaningful. Okay, great. Now many have heard the phrase fake it till you make it. We think of superhero characters at times, putting on costumes and becoming someone completely different. What is your thought process behind that idea of fake it till you make it, do we need to wear capes to become the superhero or are there ways that we can do it from the inside?

Speaker 1: You know, the opinion on, on capes is, you know, is one up for debate, you know, Edna from the incredible says, no capes, I'm a big fan of capes. Uh, but I think really it's up to you, real capes are metaphorical ones. Um, but I think, uh, I think really it's, it's just, it's just about remembering what you stand for and remembering that about 70% of the world experiences, something called the imposter syndrome, the imposter syndrome is when we feel like where the imposter, like, we don't quite fit in, like we're not good enough. And the truth is, I don't think it's about waiting until we're good enough or expert enough to do something. I think it's about knowing why we're doing something right to help people, for example, and showing up, even if you are feeling terrified and overwhelmed and frustrated and insecure, because I actually think that's the biggest part of the journey. It's not showing up when you're feeling brave and confident, it's showing up regardless of how you feel and trusting yourself to follow your core value.

Speaker 3: It reminds me of Spider-Man with all the iterations of his costume or iron man, constantly adding to his ensemble. It's that same journey that really matters and committing to it and not waiting for some magical moment. The perfect Cape, the perfect outfit.

Speaker 1: A lot of people might not know this, but in the comic books, Spider-Man struggles with anxiety a lot. So I love to actually get to know him a little bit more in my understanding. I think Peter Parker, Peter Parker's version of Spider-Man anyway, might struggle with generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety. He's constantly worrying about what people are thinking about him. He's perfectionistic. He, um, he's constantly worried about making a mistake and yet it doesn't stop him from being Spider-Man. So maybe we can all learn from Peter Parker or miles Morales, or Gwen Stacy, or whoever's your favorite. Right. And we can all show up in that way in terms of we can be afraid and we can still be Spiderman, or whoever's your favorite superhero. Anyway,

Speaker 4: I think it's interesting that for a lot of boys, their superheroes, when they were not in their Cape or, or in their costume, they were afraid to talk to girls. You have Clark cat, who's always stumbling and bumbling around, but yet Lois loves Superman. And if, if he could just figure out somehow to let her know

Speaker 1: Well, and you know, I also think that maybe I'm biased, but in my opinion, I think that the depiction of the way people who are confident and people who are quote unquote, like shy or nerdy has changed, right. Like I think that, um, currently like geek is the new sexy, right? And so I think for a lot of folks, it's not about pretending to be confident. I think it's actually allowing ourselves to display our insecurity, our inner geekiness, our, uh, vulnerabilities that actually allows people to feel even more connected to us. And I actually think is a lot more endearing.

Speaker 3: Yeah. It's that authenticity that I think about in these superheroes that we really gravitate to, it's not them hiding something about themselves, but it's them actually owning that thing about themselves that passion, that interest, or even that fear owning it and stepping into it. So what are the superheroes that you're bingeing on currently?

Speaker 1: Well, I've loving Wanda vision so far. I think it's really, really well done. Um, I'm actually watching some anime right now, so I'm watching Naruto for the first time. Um, and, um, gosh, and just recently finished Cobra Kai and the Mandalorian, both of which were incredible.

Speaker 3: I definitely agree on the Mandalorian that kept my attention through the pandemic here, both seasons. So you have a project, dark agents. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is?

Speaker 1: Arc agents is a graphic novel about a witch with PTSD. Um, so actually here it is right here, violet that's right. So, um, I wanted to create a work of fiction to help folks to learn about how to manage with the, how to manage PTSD through kind of a fictional character. And so the idea here is, is that violet decides to join Haiti's as underworld intelligence agency to become what's called a dark agent. That's somebody that kind of, uh, finds intelligence to keep peace and balance between the overworld and the underworld. But before she can fight supernatural forces, violet has to learn to fight the monsters of her own past. She has to learn to face and accept her own trauma through doing certain lessons, uh, in mindfulness and acceptance, um, and identify her own core values. So, um, fiction is something that I'm gravitating a lot toward now in terms of, uh, writing fictional story so that folks can maybe accidentally or on purpose learn some acceptance and commitment therapy skills as they're reading something maybe initially to escape, but hopefully finding themselves connecting to these characters as well.

Speaker 3: I love that. And, you know, I would love to talk just a little bit about PTSD because I think many of us have a lot of misconceptions around it. And there may even be some in our audience who are struggling with it and not realizing it. So, you know, what are those misconceptions that the general population has around that? And what are the signs that it may actually be something that we are struggling

Speaker 1: To this day? A lot of folks think that PTSD is something that only, uh, service members struggle with. So people in the military or veterans, but actually PTSD is something that can occur in anybody. Um, so anyone who's been through something traumatic, I personally don't know anyone who hasn't, uh, might develop PTSD, but not everyone who's been through something traumatic does. In fact, about 10 to 20% of people who've experienced trauma might develop PTSD and other people might not PTSD typically happens when people, um, have a hard time functioning after a traumatic event for at least one month or longer, they might have nightmares flashbacks. So kind of intrusive memories or reminders of the event, their mood might change suddenly. Um, they might become very angry or frustrated or irritable. They might be very impatient. All of a sudden they may be jumpy or easily startled and most important.

Speaker 1: One of all is that folks are more likely to avoid reminders of the trauma and to avoid talking about what happened to them. Unfortunately, it's the avoidance piece that actually maintains the trauma for a long period of time. Now, for some folks, trauma could be one event, for example, a car accident or a one incident of sexual assault. And for other people, it might be more complex where there might be years of ongoing trauma, for example, ongoing abuse or experiences of ongoing racism, prejudice, and intergenerational trauma, um, can also, uh, lead to somebody developing trauma like symptoms too.

Speaker 3: And is there situations where it may come, that we recognize this years after that trauma where we may have repressed it and not realize that we actually suffered it?

Speaker 1: Absolutely. Yes. Thank you for asking that. A lot of folks think that if we were affected by something, we would experience symptoms right away. But in fact, a lot of times we might be in survival mode shortly after a trauma. So we might be just focusing on maintaining our life and keeping safe. And it might be years later when either we can hold this trauma no longer or when something reminds us of it, or maybe when we're finally in a safe enough space to where we can process it, that we might suddenly start having symptoms. So not everyone experiences symptoms right away. Some people might experience symptoms decades after the initial trauma occurred.

Speaker 3: Yeah. And that, that was a important lesson for me. I did not know that. And that's why I wanted to share that with our audience that, uh, many, a number one, yes. Think of service men, think of men as, as only having it and not realizing that you can have PTSD from a trauma you suffered in your childhood years and decades after the fact.

Speaker 1: Absolutely. I've seen folks who had witnessed horrific things, including witnessing homicide, for example, as children or experiencing, um, childhood sexual assault had no symptoms until the age of 40 or 50. And then suddenly some something reminded them of it. And then they started having full on PTSD symptoms that they've never experienced before. Whichever way your symptoms manifest and whatever trauma you witnessed or experienced, your symptoms are valid. Your trauma is valid. There's no degrees of trauma, meaning there's no trauma. That's more validating, right? That no one, um, is here to say that if you didn't experience X, Y, and Z, then your traumas and valid, your trauma is your trauma. Your feelings are valid and help is available. There are therapists that specialize in trauma focused therapy that can be very helpful. Um, and so I do highly recommend therapy that focuses on trauma for anyone that's struggling.

Speaker 3: Thank you for sharing that with our audience. We love asking one last question of every guest. Uh, what is your X-Factor or your super power to talk about superheroes? What has allowed you to achieve success in your life?

Speaker 1: I think honestly, it's my creativity. It's, you know, since I was really small, I always loved writing and creating stories, which has allowed me to as uncomfortable as it may be sometimes to step outside of the box and try something new. Um, even though I was always terrified that somebody would say, Oh, you can't do that. Nobody else is doing that. Uh, but because of my creativity, I think it gave me the willingness to try something that other people haven't and to, to ask, well, why not? And, you know, and can we combine, you know, Batman and therapy together and see if that can work. And we put Harry Potter and therapy all in one context and see if that will work. And so for me personally, that's allowed me to be more fulfilled in my work and hopefully to, um, to be more tuned in with my clients.

Speaker 5: Well, Johnny and I are so grateful that you survive that childhood trauma and Ukraine, and we're able to rewrite not only your story, but your client's stories to unlock superheroes in themselves. And when it comes to acceptance commitment therapy and utilizing story, to get people, to accept themselves and commit to change, it's so powerful. And we're so thankful that you shared this experience with us and with our audience.

Speaker 1: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It's an honor.

Speaker 5: And where can our audience find out more about you, Dr. Janina?

Speaker 1: Thank you. So I have a website superhero-therapy.com. My partner and I have a few podcasts, superhero therapy, Harry Potter therapy, supernatural therapy. So if you're interested in learning more, you can always check those out.

Speaker 5: All right, this week's coach's corner is a question from a core confidence participant. I'm a procrastinator, and I want to break this bad habit. Can you please help me? So there's a very common misunderstanding with procrastination. So first and foremost, I feel you because I am a procrastinator as well. So I know how, how this goes. There's a very common misunderstanding around procrastination, and that is that people mostly think that this is an issue of productivity. I need to learn the right tools. I need to download the right apps. I need to have the right journal. I have to have the perfect fountain pen, and then I can overcome my procrastination. What are the right apps in reality? However, procrastination is an issue of emotional management. It is uncomfortable to maybe write that difficult email. Uh, you don't really want to sit down and do it.

Speaker 5: So you do it in 15 minutes and then, you know, and then I'll do it. Now. Here's the tricky thing. This kind of works because you feed a little bit anxious that you have to write that email. You have to make that phone call, and it's not like you're not doing it. You're just doing it 15 minutes in the future. And that makes the anxiety goes away and replace it with a positive feeling because you are going to make that phone call. It's going to take 15 minutes and then you ready. So your solution here is to less, uh, find the right tactics to make phone calls happen. But to learn that every once in a while, you might have to sit outside of your comfort zone and do stuff. And whenever you, whenever you find yourself wanting to quickly do something else before, you know, before you make that phone call, see if you can just get started because usually our emotions are there to protect us from adverse, uh, future events.

Speaker 5: So, um, making that phone call might be problematic. So my anxiety wants to kind of protect me. So I'm not making the phone call, but the moment I'm making a phone call and I'm on the phone and doing it, my anxiety can go away because you know, it, it couldn't do its job. It's no longer useful. It's it's useful before I get started. But once I'm in there, it can no longer make a difference. So usually, and we see this a lot with comfort zone challenges as well, which is the perfect example of people doing something that pushes them outside of their comfort zone. And people procrastinate on this. They will, they will get their first comfort zone challenge to do something that I'm not going to spoil it here. I'm out in public. And they walk around for half an hour before they actually push themselves to do it, which is an amazing learning opportunity because in those 30 minutes that they've been procrastinating with the challenge, they can suddenly see all those patterns that, um, pop up in their mind and in their, in their chest. Um, the, the anxiety, the inner critic, the doubt that what are people going to think? And they get this opportunity to watch all of those thoughts in, in slow motion. And then the next time they're actually procrastinating in real life. They they've already experienced this and they know what's coming their way.

Speaker 2: This has been a huge trick for me is recognize the procrastination is emotion and get started. The smallest step forward will overcome that procrastination. So if you're procrastinating a big project, what's the smallest bite you can take, because once you get that momentum, it's so much easier to complete the task, but it's very hard as we know, and I haven't studied physics extensively, but it's very hard to get from zero to 100, but it's easier to get from 60 to 100. So recognize that if you are completely stationary, of course, it's going to be very difficult to complete the whole task, but getting that first step dialing that first digit is going to be the easiest way to break that procrastination.

Speaker 5: Also, don't use the word lazy. When you look at your habit of procrastination, it's very easy for people to say I procrastinate a lot because I'm really a lazy person and being lazy is isn't really a thing. When you come to think about it, it's something that we use a lot, but it's really a construct that doesn't work. So I could say, well, I don't work out because I'm lazy. But if I really dig deep, I don't work out because it's very uncomfortable and I'm tired and hungry, which is very different than lazy. I could say, well, I don't write the email because I'm lazy. But if I really look into it, it's, I don't write the email because I am already two days late and I have to apologize for being late. Now that again, it's a very different reason than I'm lazy, right?

Speaker 5: I don't, I don't cook myself because I'm lazy. No, there must be another reason. Well, I don't cook because I, you know, I screwed up cooking when I was a kid and I set the kitchen on fire. And now I'm kind of scared to be in the kitchen all by myself and prepare some food. So eliminate lazy when it comes to procrastination and really look at the underlying issue there, because the clarity that you have there is going to help you a lot to actually identify this emotion that comes up and then sit with that emotion because it's not going to be lazy. I don't think so.

Speaker 4: This question brings up another topic, which we're not going to get into. However, you have to look at your motivators or lack there of what is your why for what you're doing. And then also, what is the influence that you have around you? Is it pushing you to take action or is it telling you that inaction is okay. The chill out to relax. I can tell you an environment can make all the difference. You're in a social circle or peer group with people who are getting after life, man, you know, how much easier it is to take action when you're surrounded by action and how easy it is to not take action. When no one around you is taking action. And you can just look at everybody else to go, well, no one else was really doing anything. This comes with the idea of aligning your motivators to make every day productive. Now we can get into all that, but I will just say that is something that you want to take into account and start to look around and help you

Speaker 3: Yourself. If you're struggling with procrastination, self-doubt lack of confidence or not surrounded by a group of highly motivated people and struggling, as Johnny said to stay motivated, check out our core confidence program with Michael to grow that inner confidence, to take on anything on your to-do list, any challenge thrown at you, and finally start living life to its fullest, potential head over to the art of charm.com/questions or tag us on social media so we can support you. And of course, answer your questions on our new segment, coaches

Speaker 4: [inaudible] age. I got to tell you every once in a while, there is a new development in psychology that is so much fun, and it is going to attract a whole new crowd. Because as you know, the tools that we talk about on this show are just not for people who need help, but for people to thrive and flourish in this world.

Speaker 2: Absolutely. And I have to say anytime that you can pull in superheroes, wizards and more into psychology and bring it to the masses, I'm all for it. It was so fun. Nerding out around some Harry Potter and psychology today with Dr. Scott

Speaker 4: This week, shout out, goes to the bed on main street folks. They are a grassroots organization, encouraging people to spend cash and tip big in your local town, restaurants, bars, the local butcher and grocers. Some cities and towns are slowly opening back up from a long time of being partially or completely shut down. Don't forget about what these small businesses mean to our communities. Go out there and bet on maintenance.

Speaker 2: I love that. It's such a great cause. And as a small business owner myself, I know how important it is to get support of your community.

Speaker 4: J does this sound familiar, professional or personal conversations leave you feeling invisible or misunderstood knowing exactly what needs to be said, but never having the right impact. When it said wishing things could be different.

Speaker 2: Here's the thing. You can become a better communicator show up as your best self and build meaningful relationships that take your life and career to the next level.

Speaker 4: Bottom line is the communication is more than knowing the right things to say, it's a skill and no one has ever given us the tools to succeed. That's why we've created captivating connect. Check it out at the artist, charm.com/captivate

Speaker 2: Inside. You'll discover the proven framework to become a better communicator and create unforgettable. First impressions, move past small talk and have meaningful conversations and show up high value. No matter the situation

Speaker 4: You deserve to be seen, heard, and valued,

Speaker 2: We make it easy with captivating connect

Speaker 4: The art of charm.com/captivate.

Speaker 2: You enjoy this episode, tag us on social media at the art of charm and share with us your favorite part.

Speaker 4: If you love this show, head on over to Apple podcasts and give us a review. We love hearing from you guys, and it helps others find the show. You can also

Speaker 2: Email us your [email protected] or find us on social media at the art of charm on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Speaker 4: John podcast is produced by Michael Harold and Eric Montgomery until next week. I'm Johnny

Speaker 2: And I'm AIJ have an Epic one.

Speaker 6: [inaudible] [inaudible].

Check in with AJ and Johnny!

AJ Harbinger - author of 1175 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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in Art of Personal Development, Confidence, Empowerment, Finding Your Purpose, Life Hacks, Podcast, Podcasts, Self Mastery

2 Comments on “Dr. Janina Scarlet | Your Superhero Identity & the Power of Heroic Stories”

  1. Pingback: Dr. Scarlet invited as special guest on the Art of Charm Podcast | Superhero Therapy

  2. Pingback: BRF: 15+ Superhero Therapy Books & Games for Kids - The Beguiled Child

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