Batman is the common man with an uncommon mental discipline. While others turned to evil, Batman grew from deep trauma. As the article Develop The Mindset of a Superhero puts it, “Batman has a mind of steel because of the journey he has undertaken,..”
Everything Bruce knew about safety and security was stripped away when his parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne, were killed by a criminal right before his eyes. Although traumatized to the core, Bruce Wayne became the superhero we know and love as Batman.
Not limited to superhero stories, Post-traumatic growth is a real thing. First introduced to me by Jane McGonical, it’s possible to frame and train your mind in such a way that you are more likely to grow from severe trauma.
In Seven principles of building personal resilience: practical ways of growing through adversity, Rod Warner outlines ways of approaching life that makes one more resilient, able to recover, and actually thrive from adverse events. An essential piece for handling overwhelmingly negative thoughts and emotions was shared in the “Generate Positive Feelings” section:
Strategies to deal with strong personal negative emotions include deep breathing, taking time out, positive self talk (although recent studies have indicated that simply reciting affirmations can in some cases do more harm than good) and meditation [emphasis added].
This seemingly contradictory “positive self talk” and yet “simply reciting affirmations can..do more harm than good” can be confusing. If you look deep into the “Seven principles..” link shared above, you see they talk about writing in a journal daily and reflecting on your good deeds. Although that works for some, it was often too much overhead for me.
For me, there’s a way that’s much easier. It’s called lovingkindness meditation. Here’s a funny, wonderful, and pragmatic introduction to lovingkindness meditation given by Dan Harris and Sharon Salzberg which is expanded on in the 10% Happier app:
An article that hosts this video and associated text is How Compassion Leads to Success.
From my decades of mediation, I think that applying lovingkindness meditation has a better chance of success than the “positive self talk” approach mentioned above.
Why? I think trying to generate positive thoughts is not sustainable and creates its own stress. As Andy Puddicombe says in I’m plagued by negative thinking:
It’s almost like a form of denial if we are feeling unhappy and really being honest with ourselves, to sit there and repeat “I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy,” fearful that the not-so-happy thoughts might arise.
If we adhere to the spirit of the “positive self talk” and couple it with meditation, we get lovingkindness meditation. With that, here are the “Seven principles..”steps distilled down:
- Breathing deep
- Schedule a time and place to recharge
- Do lovingkindness meditation
As a sentence it could be:
Schedule in your day some lovingkindness meditation and take some deep breaths.
Sounds like a simple prescription for building resilience and growth, doesn’t it? Admittedly, the non-simple part can be finding a place to do this during the day. I’m fortunate that I work at CARFAX where they actually have rooms for recharging, reflecting, or whatever else you need to do in solitude. Find such a spot and do it, meditate! It’s scientifically shown to be worth it.
As said in the video above, this lovingkindness approach is backed by science. From episode number 81: Sharon Salzberg, ‘Real Love’ author of the 10% Happier podcast, the science shows that seven minutes of lovingkindness meditation will change your brain! Since no-one is an island, this change effects everyone you meet and everyone they meet.
Just like Batman achieved his “mind of steel” through meditation, personal growth, and support from Alfred, we can do the same through lovingkindness meditation. There’s a strength in lovingkindness that supports our heroic selves.
To sum up, I believe one can flourish in life by meditating. Based on the science shared above and my own experience, lovingkindness meditation can serve one extremely well. It’s powerful, nourishing, and life changing. In tribute to Adam West, who died on June 9, 2017, I say: Holy Lovingkindness, Batman!