By Tim Stevens
Ororo (Munroe) T'Challa is an adult female who presents as in above average physical fitness. She self-identifies as a mutant and possesses the ability to manipulate weather, which explains her “codename” of Storm. As Storm, the client serves as part of the mutant rights group the X-Men and has done so for several years. Currently, she holds a leadership role for one of the team’s specific squads. Additionally, she also sits as Queen of Wakanda, married to T’Challa, the Wakandan king and costumed symbol of his country, The Black Panther. Finally, she has recently joined the Avengers.
Simply from a time management and personal resource management standpoint, these various responsibilities would represent a challenging juggling act. However, the client must now deal with conflicts between the various groups she belongs to. She explains that the Avengers and the X-Men are currently struggling with a difference of philosophy on a problem that has come to blows. Her husband has taken the position that the Avengers’ choice is the most sensible while the client feels that the X-Men have a better handle on the situation. Still, she has no plans to end her relationship with him or to give up her place on the Avengers.
Thus, Ororo finds herself wrestling to achieve balance, to honor her principles, to follow through on her responsibilities, and to not sacrifice her romantic/intimate feelings. She is insistent that she will not accept that she cannot accomplish all these things.
Despite her assertions, however, the client is fearful that in reality, sacrifices will need to be made. She worries that her leadership of the X-Men is suffering as a result of her split focus; that her peer Cyclops will either control the group through her or simply push her out as he sees fit. She expresses distress that her joining of the Avengers has not helped the team but rather her inability to fully commit to them does more harm than good. Finally, she finds herself wondering where the line between compromise and submission is found in marriage and whether she errs too far on any one side. Is she losing herself to her marriage? Is she resisting compromise so hard it is sinking the relationship? Given external pressures and events, is there a middle ground to be found?
While the temptation is always in these situations to simply state an opinion and encourage the client to act in line with that opinion, it is a wrongheaded and inappropriate choice especially for someone as intelligent and opinionated as Ororo. Instead therapy has focused on finding out what her expectations are for herself and others and assessing how realistic those expectations are. We are also discussing what it might mean to her and her self perception to alter those beliefs and what benefits or harms such a move could make.
The therapeutic environment being establishment is of unconditional positive regard wherein the client can explore her various roles and offer up observations, thoughts, and feelings about them. This writer is acting as a facilitator to this process, keeping as nondirective as possible so the client can experience a sense of control that she often feels lacking in her day-to-day life.
Ororo is open to the therapeutic process and seems committed to making it work. She does exhibit strong boundaries but has also shown a willingness to relax them appropriately and work collaboratively with this writer. The client is currently seeing another therapist for couples work with her husband and this writer has reached out to this therapist, with the client’s permission, to explore a more integrated approach to our respective sessions.
Ororo (Munroe) T'Challa has multiple appointments in the coming weeks. She will see Doctors Victor Gischler and Will Conrad on May 30 (see file X-MEN #29), Doctors Matt Fraction and John Romita, Jr on June 6 (AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #5), and Doctors Brian Michael Bendis and Walt Simonson on June 13 (AVENGERS #27).
Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens, MA is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Consultant and Practicum Trainee at a community mental health center.