Clinical psychologist and author of The Defining Decade, Meg Jay takes us into the world of the supernormal: those who soar to unexpected heights after childhood adversity.
Whether it is the loss of a parent to death or divorce; bullying; alcoholism or drug abuse in the home; mental illness in a parent or a sibling; neglect; emotional, physical or sexual abuse; having a parent in jail; or growing up alongside domestic violence, nearly 75% of us experience adversity by the age of 20. But these experiences are often kept secret, as are our courageous battles to overcome them.
Drawing on nearly two decades of work with clients and students, Jay tells the tale of ordinary people made extraordinary by these all-too-common experiences, everyday superheroes who have made a life out of dodging bullets and leaping over obstacles, even as they hide in plain sight as doctors, artists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, parents, activists, teachers, students and readers. She gives a voice to the supernormals among us as they reveal not only "How do they do it?" but also "How does it feel?"
These powerful stories, and those of public figures from Andre Agassi to Jay Z, will show supernormals they are not alone but are, in fact, in good company.
Marvelously researched and compassionately written, this exceptional book narrates the continuing saga that is resilience as it challenges us to consider whether -- and how -- the good wins out in the end.
Clinical psychologist Jay (The Defining Decade) makes an "empathic choice" on behalf of resilient people, defined here as those who exhibit "unexpected competence" despite traumatic experiences. She challenges the idea that such people are damaged and abnormal by redefining them as "supernormal" heroes. Jay shares stories collected from celebrity memoirs alongside the stories of her own clients. Though Jay provides a strong enough overview of the current scholarship on responses to adversity to make this a solid pop-psychology text, her real target readers are not fans of the genre but the resilient themselves. Her messages to them include the following: therapy is good and not shameful, rewriting our own stories is powerful, and being at risk is not the same as being destined to fail. Jay keeps up the superhero conceit throughout the book, giving her subjects "origin stories," framing their responses to stress as "fighting the good fight," and calling traumatic surprises from the past "kryptonite," but she never lets her framework get in the way of her message. Instead, she uses her theme to help make the people whose stories she shares more relatable, in the way that children, especially children in difficult situations, look to their fictional heroes for affinity and affirmation.