My ex-superpower, and how I managed to defeat it


When I was younger than I am now1 I believed implicitly that I had a superpower. It was a pretty mediocre superpower, consisting of a sort of long-term, fuzzy version of Spider Man’s spidey-sense. I often wished that I had something useful, like invisibility, or teleportation. Instead, I occasionally got a vague sense of unease, which persisted until circumstances conspired to justify it. I was certain that I could tell when something bad was going to happen to me or someone close to me.

In short, I had a sixth sense of Impending Doom.

Until I discovered that it I wasn’t, in fact, a D-list superhero, there wasn’t really much that I could do with this feeling, other than wait as patiently as possible for the awful thing to happen. Waiting for something terrible to happen without being able to do something about it is excruciating. Alas, dear reader! This was my burden, and I bore it!

It wasn’t until I was a good deal older and more worldly-wise that I recognized my “superpower” for what it was: the low-level anxiety that everyone deals with from time to time.2 The truth is, if you wait around long enough you’re going to experience something crappy. That’s a freebie: I can prophecy that not with my eldritch powers of supernatural perception but in the logical likelihood that you reside on the planet Earth, where bad things happen frequently to good and bad alike.3

I came to the realization that my sixth sense wasn’t one around the same time that life was teaching me in other ways that I wasn’t as quite special as I’d thought I was. This is part of growing up, and it often makes you a good deal more bearable.

Once I knew that it wasn’t an unexplainable phenomena I started wondering whether I could opt out of it. It turned out that there were two distinct paths towards mastering the sixth sense of Impending Doom.

The Way of Stuff & Things

The first route is the road much more travelled by, and the one that I initially found much softer underfoot. You can blanket your spidey-senses fairly effectively in the short term by indulging in pleasurable activities. Drinking, eating, buying things, watching 8 episodes of Battlestar Galactica in a row. I found all these to be extremely effective ways to stave off what you might call the Demon Dogs.

This path takes you pretty far. Hell, some people make a career out of it.

The Way of Grinning Into The Wind

When you’ve spent a decent amount of time walking on the previous path, and you realize that if you paused for even a moment the old sick feeling is going to come burrowing up through your gut, you start wondering if there might be other options.

OK, you already knew there are other options, because we all live with the constant intertextuality of post-Christendom where the hard thing to do is always the right thing to do. Whatever, right? But eventually you may start wondering if the wisdom of centuries might even be a little bit true.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered how easily I could master my sixth sense of Impending Doom by just turning to face the wind and squinting into it until I could see where it was coming from, then walking towards it. I’ve found there were two main causes of queasiness that sat at the root of every spidey-sense I investigated, and they can be solved (for me) by the following steps:

  • Exercise

  • An Omnifocus review

  • Actually doing things that need doing, not putting them off.

Repeat as many times as it takes to properly put down those Demon Dogs. Don’t worry, more will be along soon. That’s life. But now you won’t have an entire pack screaming at your heels.

I was amazed when I realized what the real kryptonite for my “superpower” was. I baffle myself regularly every time I decide not to pick up the kryptonite, and reach for the blanket instead. It happens more and more rarely as time goes on, though. Against my nature I think I’m cultivating (for once) a good habit.

The real trick of this path is something you’ll only master when you can figure out how to start enjoying the face-off.


  1. How much younger, I’d hesitate to specify. 

  2. At least, the rational part of my brain did. I’ve never fully been able to dissuade the visceral part of my brain of the certainty that I’m tapped into some kind of cosmic NORAD. 

  3. I realize that, depending on when you read this, you may not actually live on Earth. (Always good to make some kind of nod to the historians.)