In our audio book “How to Be Super”, the four ‘Superhero Types’ are unfolded by a curious fellow named Scarecrow. He has become our protagonist’s trainer and though his methods are unorthodox (though what is orthodox in the world of superheroes?), he is effective. He lays the four types as:
Tenders: those whose powers involve a measure of empathy and understanding. They “get” people and animals and natural forces – so much so that they can motivate those forces to their advantage (think Aquaman)
Wardens: those whose dedication and focus give them power over their environment. They are disciplined and consistent and natural leadership give them powers like super strength, eagle eyes and agility (think Wonderman and Superman)
Makers: these are the superheroes with the toys: cars, planes, utility belts, intricate weapons, etc. Their superpower is the ability to manifest what they need in any given moment. (think Batman)
Points: these are the folks with a plan. They are big picture people who can see what is ‘so’ and then form a creative plan of action. They are tacticians and big picture thinkers (think Professor X of X-men)
Though “How to be Super” does not get into the pulpy side of superheroes, it is fun to think about which classic superheroes fit into which categories. I have found that they can also be divided up according to their origin
Tenders are Archaic – from the past (Atlantis in the case of Aquaman)
Wardens are Angelic – from outer space (Superman from the planet Crypton)
Makers are Technologists – normal people with the ability to make what they need.
Points are Mutants – those who have transformed (Spiderman and all the X-men)
There are fours everywhere in life and the world of superheroes is certainly included. They can be related to the seasons, the directions, the suits in a deck of cards and most importantly, the temperaments.
This was the inspiration of the superhero types – to recognize that superheroes are just an extreme representation of what it is to ‘live out’ your temperament.
Tenders are Meloncholics – those whose empathy rules them when young, but as adults use their natural awareness of others to serve the world.
Wardens are Cholerics – their focus and dedication might be abrasive in childhood, but in an adult manifests as the ability to get the job done effectively and efficiently.
Makers are Phlegmatics – those who can bring the world to themselves. They accumulate and ponder. Their dreaminess in youth transforms into the ability to create amazing things that they can then use to help people.
Points are Sanguines – the scattered, attention overloaded sanguines of childhood transform into big picture thinkers who can take command of a situation and spontaneously figure out a solution. Great in times of high stress and complexity.
Looking at the temperaments through the lens of superheroes was a satisfying and illuminating exercise. It helped honor the “power” of the temperaments and how they all (hopefully) lead to strengths and abilities in adulthood.
The thesis of “How to Be Super” is that we can reclaim our ‘superpowers’ if we look at our childhood. Though this is a story that children 7, 8, 9 years and up will enjoy – it is probably most effective and illuminating for adults. With this story we can look at our temperaments and see how they have either transformed or remain in dynamics that are appropriate for children, but out of place for adults. Are we tyranical, overly sensitive, scattered or spaced out? Then we have work to do.
Lastly is the matter of ‘Rogues’ that are the tension that lives in “How to Be Super”. As Scarecrow says, “Rogues are just Trascendents (superheroes) who are in it for themselves”. This is what happens when you use your temperaments for your own advantage – you start to steal from others. A selfish melancholic is always looking for sympathy. A selfish sanguine is disruptive. A selfish choleric is bossy. A selfish phlegmatic is entitled. These qualities, again, are normal in children – but hopefully we grow out of them as adults.
In most cases, people employ both transformed and untransformed temperaments throughout the day – depending on the level of stress, fatigue or overwhelm. But we try. Oh, how we try. And for me, seeing it as a mission for my inner superhero makes it all the more exciting and entertaining.
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