We ask our clients time and time again: “What would help you remember your worth?” It can be a difficult question to answer. Using the tool of therapeutic fanfiction, it’s possible to give clients a totem or talisman by which to remember their worth: Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. We’ve been using this intervention quite a lot recently as Thor is present in the social consciousness by virtue of his appearance on the big screen. For those unfamiliar with the story, Mjolnir was a magical hammer gifted to Thor from his father Odin. As told by the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Odin enchants the hammer with his words “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.”

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Thor himself seems to hold the belief that the hammer is what gives him his strength. It takes him losing his hammer, and being faced with fighting without it, for him to realize that he is not “the god of hammers” but rather the god of thunder. He inherently has the strength within himself. The hammer is simply a tool. This imagery allows clients to see that while it’s important to have a tote—their own Mjolnir—this isn’t from whence their worth springs. Their strength and value come from within. This is highlighted in the most recent iteration of the Avengers films when Thor experiences a bout of depression. While it is never overtly stated, we see him in his home where he has clearly been for a very long time. He has ceased to care for his mane of hair or his god-like physique with the love that he once did.

Even during Thor’s depressive state, when he calls for Mjolnir, the hammer flies to him. He is still worthy despite his profound struggle with loss, depression and loneliness. Our clients too have experienced loss and felt despair; lacking in important others to validate them. If clients do not have significant others to help remind them of their worth, their own Mjolnir can serve as a tangible reminder of their value.

If clients can place themselves in the narrative of Thor, a hero who has met with some setbacks much like they have themselves, they can use the power of therapeutic fanfiction to find the Mjolnir within themselves. Embodying Thor also allows clients to practice self-compassion. Thor blames himself for what transpired with the destroyer, Thanos, but is this truly the god of thunder’s fault? Or is it the fault of the destroyer, Thanos himself, for creating the situation, when Thor was simply doing the best that he could to manage it? If we can find compassion for Thor, can we not also find compassion for ourselves?

A good place to start with a client who is struggling to find their own self-worth is to begin with a character like Thor—one who has inherent power, though it may not be readily apparent. Luke Skywalker wielding the force that is within him, not in his lightsaber, is another great example, as well as imagery of wands for witches, or Wonder Woman’s bracelets. Encourage clients to engage in imaginative world-building with you, their psychotherapist, as a helpful guide. You can spend 1-2 sessions world-building in this way—the key is to encourage your client to find a character within modern mythology that speaks to them. This world-building includes setting the metaphorical scene that the client will inhabit and placing them within that therapeutic context. Once the client has settled on a personal fandom, you can help them begin to cast themselves as this character and to explore the challenges of their daily life in which they need a Mjolnir, a light saber, a wand, or whatever tool the character wields.

From there, client and therapist will use the power of therapeutic fanfiction to help the client first foster an increased sense of strength with their own Mjolnir. Once they approach mastery, the clinician will prompt the client to explore the deeper truth: with or without their Mjolnir, they are their own hero.

Such was the case for Chris (an amalgam case), a 33-year-old white bisexual cisgender man with whom we have been working for three months around family of origin concerns, specifically a lack of attachment to primary caregivers. Recently Chris’s feelings around lack of self-worth have come to the fore. During one such session, we remarked “if only there was some way that you could remember that you are inherently worthy.” We paused and held the therapeutic space, allowing the word “worthy” to catch our own attention. The metaphor took shape. “Chris, are you a fan of Marvel?”

Having worked with us for some time, Chris knew that this conversation was moving in the direction of therapeutic fanfiction and was open to seeing if this would be a fandom fit for him. “Oh yeah! Thor’s cool. I loved his arc in Endgame” “Do you remember the scene where Thor talks to his mother and she says a bunch of wonderful things and a couple of shamey ones?” Chris nods. “He then calls for Mjolnir and the hammer flies right to him! Mjolnir still saw his worth! And of course, Thor had the power inside of himself all along. It was really just validation; a way to remember. We wish that you had a Mjolnir to remind you of your own worth.”

Chris was able to take the lead as the author of his own therapeutic fanfiction, talking with us in detail about situations in which his own Mjolnir could be both helpful and healing. Two weeks later, Chris came into session with his own Mjolnir and a story of how his personal totem helped him navigate a challenging situation with a friend. Helping clients find their own Mjolnir is a powerful first step on their journey to embrace the hero within.  

File under: The Art of Psychotherapy