Black Widow: Deadly Bite or Debilitating Guilt?
Marvel has finally produced a film solely dedicated to the story of Black Widow, and it’s fantastic. The protagonist, Natasha, shows complexity, stoicism, fearlessness, and efficiency that don’t disappoint.
As we go deeper into Natasha’s world, we learn that she was taken into the KGB as a child and trained to be an assassin by Dreykov and The Red Room. But as an adult she learns that Dreykov is still alive, as is his daughter.
This is when we discover that Natasha is supposed to have murdered the child, and that the guilt she feels about this has plagued her throughout her life.
As she reunites with the family from her early childhood, Natasha has to face two challenges: explore these broken family relationships and go after Dreykov, to kill him once and for all.
Removing the mask of fear
How does Natasha undertake such an important mission, when she constantly feels guilty about her past? She can do one of two things:
- She can approach the guilt with a fixed mindset, which will disempower her; or
- She can approach the guilt with a growth mindset, to empower herself and move towards her purpose.
One way to do this, according to the Neuro Change MethodTM (2021), is to seek emotional discomfort as a starter point:
“To change beliefs, you need to be presented with evidence that contradicts them. When we think of evidence, we tend to think about proof and research that show you that your beliefs are invalid. This works, but most effective is information that plays in on your emotions or creates a moral dilemma (Horne, Powell et al. 2015). This creates the most intense emotional discomfort, allowing for a quick rectification and update of beliefs.”
How does she seek her ikigai?
Natasha’s search for her ikigai would need to happen in a very specific way. Kashdan and McKnight (2009) studied many different individuals and identified three main processes to find purpose: social learning, reactive development, and proactive search.
This is as simple as copying behaviour that produces desirable consequences. It’s the most passive way to pursue purpose, because it is the most unconscious.
This is when you experience a transformative life event that either forms or helps to initiate the development of purpose in life. Such events offer the opportunity to develop purpose because they spur you to re-evaluate your life, values, direction, and goals.
Most of us have to explore this, the third and hardest path of finding purpose. Proactive search is an effortful and gradual development process that should result in a purpose statement, which you can experiment with extensively. This is the kind of work that Black Widow has to do.
Having been part of the Red Room since childhood, Natasha undergoes profound social learning. As such, when she exits the Red Room, this constitutes reactive development. And, at the end of the movie, as well as by joining the Avengers, we find that she is engaged in a proactive search. Be aware, therefore, that there are no right or wrong ways to find your path.
The quest for purpose
The search for purpose takes time and patience. Inspired by the Black Widow, Natasha, we can try to be persistent, curious, explorative, and introspective when searching for our purpose. If this doesn’t bring us fulfilment and joy, we want to be prepared to change it.
Which character from popular fiction do you think could benefit from coaching?
Please note: This article was informed by the learnings of the Neuro Change MethodTM, Copyright © 2021, Life in Balance Careers Pty Ltd.