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Think Counseling is Weak? Here are 4 Tropes from Geekdom That Will Make You Think Again!

A large robot known as a Gundam looks up at the sky with a look of determination.
It takes a lot of inner strength and resolve to confront the things you struggle with and train yourself to live in new ways.

A lot of people put off counseling for fear of "looking weak." There is a lot of cultural baggage around mental health counseling, and you may have gotten all kinds of messages about it depending on how and where you grew up. So many people that come to counseling come with that worry, but the fact that they're there proves that the last thing they are is "weak."

But if there's anything we can learn from geeky media like anime, martial arts movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars, it's that the journey to strength starts with vulnerability.

Here are 4 common tropes from geekdom to demonstrate that!

Trope 1: The Power of Resilience

"Fall down seven times, get up eight." - Japanese Proverb

In many anime and movie series, the key turning point is often the moment of greatest struggle. The main characters are seemingly outmatched at every turn and it looks like there is no hope for them. It is in that moment that they know something has to change, even if they don't know what.

One of the things that gets The Empire Strikes Back hailed as the greatest installment of the original Star Wars trilogy is that departs from the easy resolutions of A New Hope and shows more drama as the all-important second act of many stories in which things seem at their worst. Countless anime series and martial arts movies have a moment in which the struggle seems too great to continue. The main character is down with the villain looming over them and it seems like all hope is lost.

But this is when their true strength emerges. They find it somewhere deep within themselves to get back up one more time to face the overwhelming odds. Moments like this show that true strength doesn't come from never struggling, but from developing resilience - the ability to dust yourself off and try one more time.

In fact, despite all of the amazing powers and gadgets, resilience is often considered one of the core defining traits of characters like Spider-Man and a theme that finds its way into movies like Into the Spider-Verse.

When you reach that point when you know you need to turn to someone for help and reach out to a therapist, that's not weakness. You've spent a lot of time falling over and over. You're getting up one more time with new resolve to try something different.

And this time... it's personal! (Okay, I couldn't resist throwing another trope in there.)

Trope 2: The Mental Game

Sure, the main characters in movies, comics, and anime are generally physically powerful and have all kinds of amazing abilities, but have you ever noticed the story often revolves around their mental journey? A common theme in Spider-Man movies is the classic line of "with great power comes great responsibility." Peter Parker has to learn to manage the balance between his job as a photographer, his relationship with Mary Jane, his responsibilities to Aunt May, and more while also having to deal with the stress and struggles of being Spider-Man!

For all of his physical abilities, it's the mental and emotional struggle with stress and the weight of responsibility that is truly at the heart of many Spider-Man stories.

The mental game also shows up a lot in anime and martial arts movies. While characters may train their skills and bodies in fighting styles, swordfighting, and other physical aspects there is often something that holds them back from actually putting it all together and achieving their true potential. One of the more recently popular examples of this is Demon Slayers: Kimetsu no Yaiba. In this series, the four main characters of Tanjiro Kamado, Nezuko Kamado, Zenitsu Agatsuma, and Inosuke Hashibara all face their own challenges with the mental game.

Tanjiro struggles with the trauma he has endured and the self-doubt that makes him question his ability to protect his sister and friends. Nezuko must struggle with her literal inner demon that would pull her into acting violently in anger and rage. Zenitsu similarly struggles with self-doubt but also his own overwhelming fear about, well... everything. Inosuke presents a tough front, but he struggles to accept that he sometimes needs help from others.

Despite the abilities they learn as demon slayers in training, it is only when they can move past their own mental blocks and emotional struggles that they emerge triumphant. The message here for therapy?

Accepting your mental and emotional challenges isn't weakness - it's where your true strength can be found!

Several figures of anime characters sit atop a shelf.
The characters of Demon Slayers: Kimetsu no Yaiba know it's the mental game that makes the difference!

Trope 3: The Step into Vulnerability

The themes of resilience and the mental game lead naturally into what I'm calling "the step into vulnerability." Many of the previously mentioned stories such as the Star Wars Saga, the Spider-Man comics and movies, and anime such as Demon Slayer involve a period of denial. The characters are at their lowest and are struggling mentally and emotionally, but things haven't yet fallen into place. It's not the struggling alone that leads to the transformation. After all, they've been struggling for a while! If it sheer struggle and willpower were all that were needed they probably would have figured things out by now!

The real change doesn't happen until the characters step into vulnerability and radically accept their struggle instead of denying it. It often plays out as a moment of crystal clarity in which the characters stop struggling in the same way over and over and admit that they are vulnerable. Time seems to freeze and, for a brief moment that seems to stretch out into infinity, everything leading to that moment snaps into focus. It's time to drop the struggle, admit that they are afraid of letting others down, afraid to accept the help of others, afraid of what making a change might mean, and lean into that vulnerability.

The "What's Up, Danger" scene from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is critically acclaimed as a brilliant visual manifestation of this surrender into vulnerability - the leap of faith required to admit you don't have it all figured out and that there will be challenges ahead, but you can do it.

Seeking the help of a therapist isn't weak, it's a brave step into vulnerability. It means you recognize that you've been struggling and trying to push through all of it on your own and, strong as you may be, it's time for something different.

It's your leap of faith.

It's the moment you look at everything you've been carrying, all of the times you've fallen before, draw yourself up one more time, look at your problems and ask, "What's up, Danger?"

The moments of rock-bottom, the fall and rise, the mental game, and the step into vulnerability lead to our final trope...

Trope 4: The Training Arc

"A weakness denied remains a weakness. A weakness acknowledged becomes a strength." - Ninja teaching

Having admitted their struggles and need for help, characters going through the classic Hero's Journey often have a training period when they learn new skills and new ways of doing things. Tanjiro and crew train with the Demon Corps. Luke Skywalker was guided by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda in the ways of The Force. Miles Morales had friends like Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy to help him learn how to web-sling. Dragonball Z is classic for having training arcs spanning many, many, many episodes.

In these story arcs, the characters have come to realize there is a lot they don't know about the things they struggle with and ways to overcome or manage them. They need guidance. Sometimes that guidance isn't even from an actual teacher but simply someone who can offer a different perspective.

At the risk of sounding like I'm placing therapists like myself and others squarely among the likes of Jedi and ninja masters, seeking a therapist is a lot like looking for a sensei to teach you techniques to overcome your struggles. Not to say that we are great gurus who will impart all kinds of esoteric wisdom on you and tell you how to "conquer your demons." We're just human. But, we are humans who have learned a thing or two about the things you're struggling with and how to manage them.

And just like the training arcs of these shows, comics, and films, learning to let go of your struggles, unhook from your emotions, and manage your thoughts involves building skills. Things like mindful awareness of your thoughts, emotional regulation, and good communication within relationships aren't just things you suddenly start doing because a therapist told you about them - they're skills that you build.

A good therapist can help you find those skills that make sense to you rather than just telling you what to do like a doctor might. It's kind of like finding your own lightsaber style.

You start small and slow and build them over time. You'll struggle at times, but you'll get there. You'll master the skills and learn to "live above your demons," as the Ancient One said in Doctor Strange.

You've got this. I believe in you.



Are you ready to step into vulnerability, learn the mental game, and begin your training arc to rise above your struggles? Click the button below to contact me or auto-schedule a free, no-strings-attached 15 minute consultation to see if we'd be a dynamic duo for counseling!



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