“Happy” may conjure up an image of blithe extroversion that feels impossible, undesirable, or both. Others have an ideal of the perfect romance or covet the lives of creative professionals and celebrities. Even 4s who have achieved significant insight and perspective often find themselves chronically unhappy. While some kinds of type 4s seem happier on the surface, I have personally seen attainable happiness come to even difficult combinations of wing, instinct, and tritype.
This article is about how, in coming to terms with a different gender, trans people often encounter qualities like these that they once attempted to reject in themselves. (For a more general overview of disowned selves, look at the Voice Dialogue article.) Insofar as they and others are now able to accept these qualities in themselves and their new gender, this process can be freeing and affirming. The trouble is that disowned qualities often appear to come from outside the self.
When you are feeling gender dysphoria, what exactly are you feeling? Is it entirely a physical sensation, or do you feel some… frustration? Confusion? Envy? Grief?
But when I heard “life’s like an hourglass glued to the table,” I thought, “flip the table.”
“Superhero therapy” consists of densely-packed metaphorical content. The concept of “superhero” has a structure including having powers, facing challenges, having enemies, having a secret identity, and being valued. An individual story or character comes with specific metaphors. Some of these are particularly well-suited to mental health struggles. For example, J.K. Rowling intended her Dementors to represent depression. You fight them off by concentrating on a happy memory… and chocolate helps you resist their influence.
Say that you want to get to point D. Except this isn’t a linear path. All you know is where you are, where you want to be, and, maybe, what looks like the right direction. There are lots of dead-end point Bs and point Cs. In fact, it’s probably more like point G you want to get to, or point P, or point Z. But let’s stick with D for now. Identifying which point Bs connect to your point A doesn’t help. We need to know, first, what point Cs connect to your point D.
Finding experiences of feeling, behaving, and being treated in new ways can expand your unconscious ideas about who you are and how the world works. This is related to exposure therapy, but three key factors give it more potency, more staying power, less difficulty, and wider applications.