Being A Supersurvivor, And Conquering The Unimaginable

Being A Supersurvivor, And Conquering The Unimaginable

Feldman closes his article with the sentence that "believing that someone is by your side -- someone you can count on -- is one of the great secrets to supersurvival."


"Please, I know you're going to write something. I'm just asking you, don't write it in a way that makes people feel sorry for me," Jimmy Butler once said. "I hate that. There's nothing to feel sorry about. I love what happened to me. It made me who I am. I'm grateful for the challenges I've faced. Please, don't make them feel sorry for me."

The quote from Jimmy Butler of the Philadelphia 76ers indicates the kind of person he is: a supersurvivor. Everyone goes through adverse circumstances, but there are survivors, and then there's the distinction of the supersurvivor, the people who bounce back and succeed in ways unimaginable, in ways no one ever thought possible. Supersurvivors don't just bounce back, however. They bounce forward and channel their rage and energies into "a new calling, a new mission, or a new path." Above all, they have dramatically altered their lives after facing a crisis.

David Feldman of Psychology Today studies individual stories and case studies of people who are labeled in as "supersurvivors," and often they don't have any special abilities or fame like Jimmy Butler, but rather are ordinary people, people like us, who "aren't powerless in the face of tragedy and suffering."

The first person Feldman follows is Asha Mevlana, a 38-year-old cancer survivor who started taking violin lessons. Often, she improvised, telling her interviewer that "I played the anxiety that I felt when they injected me with chemo, and I played how I tried to be strong for everyone else when I was terrified." After playing for a year, and encouraged by a friend, Melvana took a risk: she moved to Los Angeles to start trying to get paying gigs playing the violin. "She still considered herself an amateur violinist. Then again, she had nothing to lose."

She auditioned to join a tour as the lead violinist in the famous band, "Twisted Sister," and went on to perform alongside musicians like Alanis Morissette, Jay Z, and Mary J. Bilge. Feldman then inserts a note in the article, emphasizing the fact that Melvana, like us, is not a superhero and isn't superhuman. Supersurvivors like her "wrestle with the same questions we all face: Who am I? What do I believe? How should I live my life?"

The next supersurvivor surveyed is Alan Lock, a 34-year-old British veteran who was once a navigation officer on the British destroyer, HMS York. One day, he couldn't read his navigation charts, had his eyes tested, and had tests done that showed he had a genetic abnormality named macular degeneration. Normally affecting people in their 60s and 70s, Lock showed severe symptoms at 23, and "would never read, drive, or fully see again."

Many of his friends encouraged Lock to think positively, to look on the bright side of his struggle. However, this didn't feel very genuine for him: as a natural pessimist, he was well aware he couldn't bring back his vision or life in the navy. "Thinking realistically was the only way to move forward," he said. He rejected positive thinking, and this acceptance of his reality made rooms for other options in his life. Called grounded hope, the approach relies on building choices based on a firm understanding of reality.

He ended up being successful: in 2008, he was the first legally blind person to row across the Atlantic. With his friend, he started rowing from the Canary Islands to Barbados, with no motor or sail, and only food to survive, a compass, GPS, and gas-powered cooking equipment. They faced setbacks from rough seas and winds, but those setbacks did not deter Lock. "It wasn't as if I didn't see this coming," he said. But the question then was "what show I do now?"

Boreham and Lock completed the task in 85 days, and Lock cemented his name in the Guinness World Record book as the first blind person to row across an ocean.

Casey Pieretti, a 48-year-old stuntman, had a different approach and formula to becoming a supersurvivor. He lost his right leg at 19 in a car accident with a drunk driver, but when he awoke in the hospital, he immediately accepted his situation. "I could have died; I should have died," he thought. In that accident, his father and brother also died, but he made a goal that day: he was going to run a triathlon within a year. He pushed through rehab, and with a prosthetic, almost a year after the accident, he ran a 7-minute mile.

Pieretti believed in positive illusions about his control over his life and his ability to control his future, and friends found his unapologetic confidence admirable and delusional simultaneously. Positive illusions are defined by psychologist Shelley Taylor, as "people's mildly distorted positive perceptions of themselves, one example of which is an exaggerated sense of personal control."

Pieretti once said that "There's no limit to what I can do...I'm willing to try anything." He later embarked on a journey to skate across the country with a friend, from San Diego to D.C., and he succeeded. Hollywood called and asked for him to be a stuntman, and is now one of Hollywood's most coveted stunt actors.

Feldman makes sure to differentiate between positive illusions of control and the denial-based, disingenuous positive thinking that Lock rejected. Positive illusions are inflated views of someone's ability to control the future, not distortions of the situation. It's the ability to see your failures and problems accurately, but it's also the ability to ask "what now?" and believe there's always something you can do about them.

In all these stories, however, is a common theme. Lock rowed across the Atlantic with a friend. Pieretti also skated across the country with a friend, while Melvana, encouraged by a friend, moved to Los Angeles and grew successful as an electric violinist. None of these subjects were alone, and there were people who were there for them, unconditionally.

The truth is we will all have different ways and formulas to become supersurvivors in our own lives, and everyone has their own style of resilience. Feldman closes his article with the sentence that "believing that someone is by your side -- someone you can count on -- is one of the great secrets to supersurvival." Supersurvivors didn't do it alone: they had support, and they had resources. They could not do it without the untold supporters who had their back, and although it's not everything, perhaps knowing and having someone who will always be at your side is one of the keys to supersurvival.

Popular Right Now

9 Reasons Crocs Are The Only Shoes You Need

Crocs have holes so your swag can breathe.

Do you have fond childhood objects that make you nostalgic just thinking about your favorite Barbie or sequenced purse? Well for me, its my navy Crocs. Those shoes put me through elementary school. I eventually wore them out so much that I had to say goodbye. I tried Airwalks and sandals, but nothing compared. Then on my senior trip in New York City, a four story Crocs store gleamed at me from across the street and I bought another pair of Navy Blue Crocs. The rest is history. I wear them every morning to the lake for practice and then throughout the day to help air out my soaking feet. I love my Crocs so much, that I was in shock when it became apparent to me that people don't feel the same. Here are nine reasons why you should just throw out all of your other shoes and settle on Crocs.

1. They are waterproof.

These bad boys can take on the wettest of water. Nobody is sure what they are made of, though. The debate is still out there on foam vs. rubber. You can wear these bad boys any place water may or may not be: to the lake for practice or to the club where all the thirsty boys are. But honestly who cares because they're buoyant and water proof. Raise the roof.

2. Your most reliable support system

There is a reason nurses and swimming instructors alike swear by Crocs. Comfort. Croc's clogs will make you feel like your are walking on a cloud of Laffy Taffy. They are wide enough that your toes are not squished, and the rubbery material forms perfectly around your foot. Added bonus: The holes let in a nice breeze while riding around on your Razor Scooter.

3. Insane durability

Have you ever been so angry you could throw a Croc 'cause same? Have you ever had a Croc bitten while wrestling a great white shark? Me too. Have you ever had your entire foot rolled like a fruit roll up but had your Crocs still intact? Also me. All I know is that Seal Team 6 may or may not have worn these shoes to find and kill Osama Bin Laden. Just sayin'.

4. Bling, bling, bling

Jibbitz, am I right?! These are basically they're own money in the industry of comfortable footwear. From Spongebob to Christmas to your favorite fossil, Jibbitz has it all. There's nothing more swag-tastic than pimped out crocs. Lady. Killer.

5. So many options

From the classic clog to fashionable sneakers, Crocs offer so many options that are just too good to pass up on. They have fur lined boots, wedges, sandals, loafers, Maryjane's, glow in the dark, Minion themed, and best of all, CAMO! Where did your feet go?!

6. Affordable

Crocs: $30

Feeling like a boss: Priceless

7. Two words: Adventure Straps

Because you know that when you move the strap from casual mode chillin' in the front to behind the heal, it's like using a shell on Mario Cart.

8. Crocs cares

Okay, but for real, Crocs is a great company because they have donated over 3 million pairs of crocs to people in need around the world. Move over Toms, the Croc is in the house.

9. Stylish AF

The boys will be coming for you like Steve Irwin.

Who cares what the haters say, right? Wear with pride, and go forth in style.

Cover Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

Related Content

Facebook Comments