“But that’s what we do, right? Our best work after the fact? We’re the Avengers? Not the Prevengers, right?” -Tony Stark (Endgame)
My heart is moved and goes out to anyone holding a question like this today.
I’m also pulled in by the timeless ambiguity of it. It came from a person navigating their adoption journey. Yet, any one of us could have wrestled with it at some point in our lives, it could apply to such a wide scope of personal circumstances.
For this person, what if no one was available to counsel and provide support on the spot, assess for risk, confirm safety, and provide additional crisis/safety resources for the child and family?
I thought about this scene from Endgame, when Tony Stark confronts Steve Rogers in the aftermath of Thanos wiping away half the population.
Tony Stark: You know what I need? I need a shave. And I believe I even remember telling you this…
James Rhodes: Tony, Tony, Tony…
Tony Stark: …why that otherwise, that what we needed was a suit of armor around the world! Remember that? Whether it impacted our precious freedoms or not, that’s what we needed.
Steve Rogers: Well, that didn’t work out, did it?
Tony Stark: I said we’d lose. You said, “We’ll do that together too.” Well, guess what, Cap? We lost, and you weren’t there. But that’s what we do, right? Our best work after the fact? We’re the Avengers? We’re the Avengers. Not the Prevengers, right?
This idea needs more research and development (I’d love to hear what you think), but here are some first thoughts from that particular Endgame scene as it relates to today’s question:
1️⃣Prevenger Relationships: as parents and caregivers, family and friends, colleagues and leaders, let’s dismantle the culture that we need to pull ourselves up by our boot straps. Before the fact.
Inward, starting with our own biases and assumptions, asking for help when we need it.
Then outward, modeling and giving others space to be imperfect and real. With wisdom and respect of course.
We ask, “how do you be strong and get through it” because for so long that’s been the cultural expectation of our times.
So perhaps this is one of the most generous gifts we could give to our children and each other: allow ourselves to be seen in our own moments of need.
I’m not taking about the heat-of-the-moment unraveling that prevents us from providing calm, safe and soothing responses when our children need support for their emotion regulation.
I mean we challenge our standard of “getting ready to go out” with our emotional costumes to face the world. We shift our attitude from “Oh we don’t talk about that.” to “It’s ok, it’s normal, you can talk about that here.” From “Show us how strong you are.” to “I’m so glad you asked for help, let’s see what we can do together.”
We demonstrate for them the very attitudes and behaviors we hope to see in them; it’s ok to ask for help, to admit your weakness. It’s life-sustaining to ask for help and admit your weakness.
One of the most poisonous delusions we’d pass on to our children is, “you are strong enough on your own.”
Because we’re not.
And if they grow up thinking that, they will be a risk to themselves and others when they come face to face with reality. When a person feels shame or guilt or hopelessness in their own skin, the voice “no one here understands me, everyone is against me, no one is for me” becomes stronger than any other.
I think we can change that.
Seems counterintuitive, but part of our “Prevenger” safety plan is to normalize our sense of struggle and need; it becomes one of the largest protective factors, in health and well being, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
Let’s give each other that space. Let’s enter that space ourselves. Global cultural change flows from local individual change.
Before the fact.
2️⃣Avenger Relationships; after the fact. Depressive symptoms typically develop after a threatening or psychologically overwhelming event. Our response to a past happening.
If you get cut, it bleeds.
So, we allow ourselves to be seen by another and supported by another, so that we could receive and participate in the healing process.
Sometimes there are parts of our stories that make us feel untouchable, unreachable, unlovable. But isn’t that what could make you most helpful to another? I wonder if those are the very parts designed to connect us.
“But that’s what we do, right? Our best work after the fact? We’re the Avengers? Not the Prevengers, right?”
We still need “Avengers.”
And I plead with you. Ask for a helper or be a helper.
Do you need help? Find a trusted person, knowing that they too are in need of help. But work with what you find. You might hit the lottery and find that perfect confidant. You might also find someone who’s good enough, and that’s ok too. It really is a risk to put yourself out there. You’re taking such a risk by asking for help. You’ll get to decide your screening process for who to trust and team up with. It’s scary. It can also feel liberating.
Are you willing to help? Would you put aside your differences? Live in a border-zone. Suspend your judgments. Consider how this person might be holding something too heavy to carry alone. Would you imagine it from their perspective? Would you even become their defender against your own biases and stereotypes? It’s possible you and I helped create the culture and community of which they’re so afraid. Let’s confess where we’ve insisted on unhelpful ways, and open that door to a new and better place together.
- Prevenger Relationships are protective, it’s what we intelligently build as we listen, seek to understand, speak with grace and humility; about our own messy needs as well as about others’. We’re dismantling the old way and co-creating the new.
- Avenger Relationships recognize a world in need of rescue. That’s where we live right now. Yes, what gets in the way of restoration? People in need of restoration. And yet, we’re invited into this universal calling to ask for helpers and live as helpers, both and, you might be doing both at the same time. And I think that’s where the best Work is happening.
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