By Tim Stevens
The following is an excerpted transcript of a group therapy session with Firestar (Angelica Jones), Gravity (Greg Willis), Araña (Anya Sofia Corazon), Nomad (Rikki Barnes) and Toro (Benito Serrano). Due to a possible language barrier, a translator was also present in the session to translate for Toro if necessary. The translator proved to be only needed sparingly and those moments have been excised from the transcript for ease of reading.
TIM STEVENS: These team building support groups usually start with lots of get-to-know-you exercises. I often find that it is particularly helpful for new co-workers or, in your case, teammates to share a little bit about their families because everyone has a family and everyone can understand to both the strength and aggravation they provide us, right?
Nervous, half hearted laughter ensues
TS: Anyway, who would like to begin?
TORO: I...guess I can. Mine is easy. It was just my sister Marera and I and then I was...urged to join the local militia. I have not seen her since.
NOMAD: I think I can kind of relate to that. See, I am from an alternate dimension so my real family is all back there, including my brother John. So I am here all on my own, too, Toro.
TS: Ok...ok. So, Toro, do you hear wha-
N: The weird thing is, for a little while, I thought maybe I could have a family here too. This world's version of John was a great guy, not at all like my real brother, and he and I became really close. But then he tried to kiss me, got all mad at me, almost become a part of the Secret Empire, and died saving my life. I guess what I'm saying is that fam-
TS: Maybe family just is not the right place to start with this group. That's ok though, every group is different. Given all of your unique histories, maybe we can start with how you came to be a "super hero." Gravity?
GRAVITY: Umm, sure, yeah. I was in high school and there was an...accident. I got abilities that involved gravity manipulation, hence the name, and knew I had to come out here to New York City. I mean, that's where heroes go to prove themselves, right? Anyway, that was my thinking. I was pretty dumb and naïve back then.
TS: Could you talk a little more about that?
G: Well, it's like...I don't know. I knew it would be dangerous, of course. Super powered villains are dangerous, I got that. I just didn't expect to all be so...useless. We catch bad guys, we put them away, and they break out. The process repeats itself over and over again. The only thing that changes is that the villains keep getting more. More strength, more power, more government jobs, whatever. It feels like we are not making things better, we are just delaying the inevitable a day or two more every time we win some fight.
TS: I see. Does anybody else feel this way?
Everyone stares at the floor awkwardly before Firestar clears her throat.
FIRESTAR: I don't, but I do get where you are coming from. I've often felt like being a hero or however you want to label it was not for me, was not what I thought it would be. My powers have made me different; hell they looked like they might kill me at one point, so I know what you mean about feeling put upon.
G: It is not even that. I knew being a hero might sacrificing. My proudest moment was when I died-
TORO: You died?
G: Long story. What I am saying is that I'm fine giving things up if I am accomplishing something. But this, here, the way we do things as "heroes"...
TS: Araña, I noticed you've been looking like you want to say something. Would you share with the group what is on your mind?
ARAÑA: I'm just frustrated with Gravity's attitude. I don't...Never mind.
TS: Please, continue.
A: I don't even know the guy, really. I don't want to tell him who to live his life or anything. I just feel like, he's probably had a couple of bad things happen to him, you know. And he's ready to just give up.
G: I didn't say that-
A: Kinda, you did. You are all...whiny.
G (voice higher and angrier): Hey, why don't you-
N (matching G's intensity): How 'bout you let her finish?
TS: Yes, Gravity, please. Everyone will have a chance to speak their mind in group; it is the only way it works. That said, Araña, please try not to insult other members.
A: Fine. Anyway, all I was trying to say is that we all have had some bad stuff happen to us. Toro's not sure where his sister is. Nomad is on a totally different Earth than her own. Firestar is a mutant and she's like, I don't know, 20-something and clearly single.
A: Just saying. And me, I've got no powers anymore. So, we get it, Gravity. We get it. No one is making you do this, you know?
TS: It sounds like, if I am hearing Araña right, that what she is saying, Gravity, is that sacrificing can be anything, not just life or relationships. So your frustration is-again this is just my interpretation-the result of you "sacrificing" some of your innocence or optimism about being a "super hero" for maybe a more realistic perspective. And that, as you get more comfortable with reality, more accepting, you'll become less frustrated.
A: I'm not sure that's what I said...
TS: Well, like I said, just my interpretation. Anyway, Gravity how does that sound to you? Does that sound like it might be accurate?
G (slumping in his chair, mumbling): Maybe.
TS: So, maybe, in time, you might reconnect with the drive that brought you to the city in the first place? You might rediscover the hope that made you try to be heroic?
G (some posture, even quieter): I guess...maybe. Probably not though.
TS: Well, we'll keep checking in with that as time goes on and see how, or if, your feelings are changing. Would that be ok with you?
G (now looking out the window, not making eye contact): Fine.
TS: Good. Now returning to the question again, how did everyone else come to this choice?
T (raising his hand): While with the militia, they changed me. With an experiment.
TS: I...see. And was this something you wanted?
T: Then, yes. Now...complicated. It is, for me, hard to say...to talk about.
A: I am so there with you. This group recruited me and I thought it was great, at first. But then, this is even before I was powerless again, I found that not everything was what I had been told so I could not stay with them. So, I feel you Toro.
T: Yes. They told lies to me. All lies, no truth.
TS: So, in a way, Toro, yours and Araña's experiences are a lot like Gravity's. You began doing this because of something that turned out not to be true, or not entirely true at least, right? Can you guys relate to that, Firestar and Nomad.
FS (nodding): Yeah, definitely. Emma Frost tried to mold me into her soldier when I first started. If it wasn't for Randall...who knows what would have happened to me.
N: For me...not really. I was inspired by Captain America in my world and he's pretty great. Just like here. But I know when the Secret Empire was taking over my school I saw it there in my classmates. The confusion, the sadness about having this thing they intensely believed in ripped away.
|YOUNG ALLIES #2 cover by David Lafuente|
TS: How do you mean?
N: Well, mine was by force so when it broke, I was just coming back to me, my true me, I guess. For my classmates, they had been tricked so they had really bought in, you know. It is harder to come back from that I guess.
TS: Well, how about coming to terms with being on a new Earth? I am sure when you signed up to be Bucky for your world's Captain America you thought you would be making a difference on your planet, not stolen away to another.
N: Y...yeah. I guess I never really thought of it that way. But you are right. I never expected that.
TS: Uh-huh. So, despite differences, it sounds like everyone here understands how being a hero can be disappointing and not as glamorous or as exciting as it looks from the outside. And it seems like everyone is on their own journey about accepting that. Some, like Firestar have worked through it, more or less, and others, like Gravity, are right in the thick of it, and others still, like Nomad, are perhaps just acknowledging it. The key is that you are all here for each other and that you can help one another through the process. And we will start with that process again the next time we meet.
Doctors Sean McKeever and David Baldeon will facilitate the next group session on July 8. Their notes will be available for review in the file YOUNG ALLIES #2.
Psy D Candidate Tim Stevens is a Practicum Trainee at a Federal Correctional Institute and a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Consultant .
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