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Imagine you've suddenly awakened to immense powers. But this isn't the Marvel universe, so you're the only human with these abilities. For the purpose of the question let's say these abilities are heightened strength, perception, and healing touch. You can lift cars and heal mortal wounds. Again, this is pure reality and you aren't the main character of any story. You are the only superhero who will ever live.

"How would a sole superhero on Earth seek therapy?"

Along this same branch, what psychological effects would arise from a neurotypical human being gifted with powers that defy natural law? Contrary to elation or excitement in popular fiction, how could they cope with the isolation or pressure? Does the person need to climb a mountain in Tibet and become a monk, alter their philosophy, numb certain areas of the brain?

You, a newly minted super human enter a therapy office. What questions do you ask someone who doesn't believe in superheroes, what are your worries and thoughts? What is your plan of action moving forward?

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! You're asking way too many questions at once here; I would remove everything from "Along the same branch..." onwards and just focus on your main question. $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Oct 2, 2020 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ "What questions do you ask someone who doesn't believe in superheroes, what are your worries and thoughts?" Actually professionals who don't believe in neither superheroes nor superpowers are sometimes asked about those in psychiatry wards, so that won't be new. $\endgroup$ Oct 2, 2020 at 17:00

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In response to the question “what psychological effects...?” It probably depends on the overall worldview or social situation of this person before they become a superhero. Some people would be much more stressed out by this than others.

A utilitarian would probably feel an overwhelming moral obligation to use their newfound powers to improve the lives of as many people as possible. A utilitarian who is a normal person may feel a relatively low level of obligation, since most people do not have the ability to affect far-reaching societal changes. However, these superpowers would greatly amplify an individual’s potential to improve society. With great power comes great responsibility, which would probably be very stressful. (To consider an extreme case, what would Peter Singer do if he had superpowers?)

A religious person who believes in a God that directly interferes in human affairs would probably also feel a heightened sense of purpose. Such a person would probably reason that God must have awarded them special powers for a specific reason, so the obvious question following this realization would be “why?” Like the utilitarian, this person would feel an overwhelming obligation to put these new powers to good use, though not necessarily to increase the overall happiness of society. Perhaps this person would use their powers to spread their religion, or seek a “villain” who needs defeating.

A member of a struggling political movement or repressed minority community might use their powers to further their cause.

For a person with no significant religious, philosophical, or political agenda, the psychological effects would probably consist of elation (“cool, I have superpowers!”) followed by paranoia (“oh god, what will they do to me if they find out I have superpowers?”). The latter would probably prevent most people from seeking professional help for fear of being ratted out and scooped up by the government. Most likely, a person would confide in/seek help from a trusted friend or loved one.

Now for some more fun examples. A radical anarchist might use their superpowers to personally dismantle the government and generally cause chaos. A solipsist or nihilist might be unfazed and just continue living their normal lives, using their powers to complete their everyday tasks more easily (as well as for the occasional chuckle).

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Many of the pressures on a superhero would be analogous to those on the super wealthy or politically powerful and so they could masquerade as one of them when seeking therapy. People with power (superpower or mundane) have many pressures and demands on them: people trying to recruit them to their cause (often with ulterior self-serving motives), a lot of soul searching about which causes are "good" and worthy of their limited time and attention, many people begging for help with genuinely heartbreaking stories but not being able to help them all, the trauma of trying to help a person/cause only to have it go wrong (analogous to a physician who has a patient die despite their best efforts). As a consequence of this, probably the biggest questions they would have of a therapist is how to deal with constant stress, how to deal with others who are demanding, how to deal with the isolation of being different (powerful), etc.

Another aspect is that super powers are used in super dangerous situations. Here they might masquerade as a soldier or firefighter and speak to a therapist about how to deal with fear, how to deal with the trauma of seeing the death of others, how to avoid PTSD and so forth.

[Addendum] You ask as well about how the superhero would cope. The answer is: badly. The superhero received super powers but not super intelligence, super knowledge, or super wisdom; their actions can change the fate of the world but they will be always uncertain what the right thing to do is. They also didn't get super emotional resilience either so they're no better at coping with this than any ordinary human. The most likely consequence that the superhero must become, even at best, emotionally detached and somewhat callous. And that assumes they don't go off the deep end outright; it's notable that physicians, who have a similar burden of helping people, have an extremely high suicide rate.

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What are you looking to get out of therapy?

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first question a therapist asks during an initial session.

This is an framing question. It helps the therapist know what the patient needs.

Possible answers to this question (by the patient) are:

  • I'm freaking out. I need to know that I'm sane.

    This is very likely the first question. The need is independent confirmation that what appears to be powers isn't : () some sort of psychotic break, () some sort of terminal illness, () some sort of awful joke. The Therapist's job, then, is to help the patient find the truth for his/her own self.

  • Why me? This is so unfair.

    The patient in this case has come to grips that the powers are real. He or she is imagining (maybe) that there's an expectation to put on a costume and start listening to police scanners. The Patient might not want to change his/her life. Maybe he hasn't told his parents, or partner, or kids. How do you tell someone you love about something like this? The Therapist might put the Patient in touch with a lawyer to help come to understand what (if anything) the law might require of him or her when using powers. Does accidentally thumping someone and breaking their nose count as assault? Is getting angry and yelling, knocking down a nearby house, terrorism? The Therapist can work through the Patient developing his or her understanding of how her role, rights, and responsibilities have all evolved.

  • What am I supposed to do about this?

    In this case, the Patient has accepted (maybe not completely) the new powers, and maybe has a sketched-out idea of how his or her role in society has changed. What this Patient needs is for the Therapist to guide the Patient to figuring out what he or she wants to do with these changes.

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As a certain someone pointed out, this is not a single question but ok.

So in short, there is no good answer for your question. No human is the same, and we would all act in a different way. And what we end up doing is dependent on so many factors, it is sort of impossible to predict.

In saying that, a few thoughts on the topic.

Everyone has a different understanding of "the perfect world". For some, religion is a major part of it and other think its the evil on earth. For some, a perfect world is where everyone is free and there are no Governments. For others, a single world wide government is the way to go.

If you suddenly gain the ability to be so powerful, what you think a perfect world is, becomes really important. Let's look at a character from "The Boys" for that. In this case, Stormfront. She doesn't think she is evil, for her everyone that isn't a certain "race" is a subhuman. That's what she believes in, thus what she works towards.

In saying all of that, I doubt someone will just go and seek therapy. And even if, what is there to fix? You just are a Superhero now, and what happens next depends on what you believe in. Most people don't and won't believe or admit to themselves that THEY are the problem. And not everyone else. So why should this person with superpowers do anything different?

Thus, I believe that the sole superhero on the planet would not seek therapy but rather start to think of him or herself as something superior. A sort of god complex if you will. Even with such limited powers as you gave them, it wouldn't take to long to have a cult following this "hero".

In the end, we can be happy that there are no superpowers.

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