Your road to self-empowerment

The ‘Batman-Effect’: How an Alter Ego Can Make You Feel Like a Superhero

October 31, 2022.Merijn Duchatteau
A man is but the product of his thoughts, what he thinks, he becomes.” Mahatma Gandhi

Marilyn Monroe. Rowan Atkinson. Beyoncé. Eminem.

Each, in their own right, massive names in the entertainment industry.

But they have something else in common.

Norma Jeane Mortenson (also Marilyn Monroe), recently portrayed by Ana de Armas in the Netflix movie Blonde, was one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s. Her films grossed what would be more than 2 billion dollars in 2022 and she continues to be one of the largest icons in pop culture to this day.

Despite struggling with mood disorders, Norma was able to seemingly ‘turn off’ her internal struggles at will and ‘turn on’ something else entirely:

“As we we’re walking down Broadway, she turns to me and says, ‘Do you want to see me become her?’ I didn’t know what she meant but I just said ‘Yes’ — and then I saw it.

I don’t know how to explain what she did because it was so very subtle, but she turned something on within herself that was almost like magic. And suddenly cars were slowing, and people were turning their heads and stopping to stare.

They were recognizing that this was Marilyn Monroe as if she pulled off a mask or something, even though a second ago nobody noticed her. I had never seen anything like it before.

~ Amy Greene, wife of Marilyn’s photographer Milton Greene

Famous actor Rowan Atkinson, most known for his role as ‘Mr. Bean’, was bullied as a kid for having a stutter. As he grew older, he found out that he stopped stuttering when he stepped into the skin of a character that he had to play on stage.

“I find when I play a character other than myself, the stammering disappears. That may have been some of the inspiration for pursuing the career I did.”

~ Rowan Atkinson

Marshall Mathers (also known as Eminem) has referred to himself as Marshall, Eminem and Slim Shady throughout his rap career. But they’re not just fun nicknames.

Any Em-fan will tell you that no matter which identity he decides to take on for the day, it drastically influences the entire style of his performances.

“Marshall is the real person, Eminem is the quick-spitting master lyricist, and Shady is the outlet for all of the artist’s angriest, most violent impulses.”

~ Eminem (..or Marshall / Slim Shady)

Lastly, Beyoncé. Queen Bey’s third studio album, ‘I Am… Sasha Fierce’, was named after a person she created to overcome her timid personality and the nerves she experienced before shows.

“The moment right before when you’re nervous and that other thing takes over for you. Then Sasha Fierce appears in my posture and in the way I speak… and everything is different.”

~ Beyoncé

What do these idols have in common?

They all turned into someone else at some point in time. Someone that didn’t have the same problems as their ‘actual’ self. Someone that was able to act in a way that they themselves wouldn’t be able to.

They all created superior alter ego’s.


“The Batman-Effect” And What It Can Do For You

The act of creating an alter ego and adopting all of its thoughts, feelings and mannerisms is what’s referred to in psychology as ‘The Batman-Effect’ — named after the character transformation Bruce Wayne goes through when he becomes the world’s favorite bat-affiliated superhero.

By creating an alter ego and identifying with it, we essentially get to recreate ourselves. Into whatever we want. As long as we’re specific enough.

How cool is that? Before you know it you’ll be the one that’s slowing down cars and causing people to turn their heads to stare at you, feeling on top of the world. You can become the new Marilyn! Or anyone else that:

· Is excited for performances instead of nervous

· Is an amazing manager and leader

· Is the life of the party and a social butterfly

· Has all the confidence in the world

· Experiences deep peace at all times

· …Is the total opposite of all of the above. If that’s more your thing. No judgement here.

Why Alter Ego’s Work, According To Science

1. Self-distancing Leads To A More Objective View Of Yourself

Self-distancing is the concept of distancing yourself from…well, your Self.

In our day to day lives we’re so engaged with our lives that we often forget to take a step back. To zoom out.

Self-distancing is doing exactly that. It allows you to look at your own life with more objectivity.

This leads to better decision-making and decreased negative emotional response to whatever is going on, simply because you’re not as close to the fire.

It’s a common technique used in therapy. And using an alter ego is a way to be your own therapist.

Distancing yourself from your emotions reduces the intensity of negative emotions, but it won’t cause new feelings or behaviour. Yet that is absolutely something that happens when using alter ego’s. Which brings us to point 2.

2. Mental Imagery Allows Your Brain To Tap Into New Ways Of Conducting Yourself

When we envision a specific alter ego, we create a clear image of their character. What their posture would look like, how confident they would feel and how they would handle themselves in certain situations.

By envisioning these aspects very clearly we give it our conscious focus and ‘activate’ the concepts in our brain.

In doing this, we trick our brain into making these concepts more accessible to us on a subconscious level. In other words, we’re more easily able to ‘tap into’ and adopt those thoughts, feelings and mannerisms, effectively lowering the threshold to turn ourselves into someone new.

3. Cognitive Dissonance

Lastly, there’s something at play that psychologists call cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort due to inconsistency within ourselves, for example in our beliefs, attitudes and behaviour.

People hate inconsistency. We can’t deal with it. We’re just programmed that way. To overcome these inconsistencies, we either change ourselves so that everything is aligned again, or we come up with excuses that make it feel ‘okay’ for us to be inconsistent.

For example: you really want to workout because it’s healthy, but you never do it (inconsistency). You say it’s because you’re too stressed so you feel better (rationalization) or you actually start to workout (alignment).

By adopting a new way of conducting yourself, you’re creating inconsistency within yourself. After all, you’re using your alter ego to change into something that you aren’t.

This will create cognitive dissonance, a.k.a. a subconscious feeling that something isn’t totally right.

Lucky for us, research shows that people who ‘play a role’ in real life actually start to believe that they are that role over time. It’s something our brain does for us as a way to solve the feeling of inconsistency.

Meaning that over time your brain won’t be able tell the difference between you and your alter ego. Everything that’s part of your alter ego will slowly turn into something that’s also part of your actual self. Which is exactly why it’s so effective.

How To Create And Activate Your Personal Sasha Fierce

1. Specify

Create who you want to become and make it as specific as possible. Think about their thoughts, feelings and posture. How they look out of their eyes. What their internal dialogue would be. How energetic they would feel and how they would deal with your current situation.

2. Visualize

Use mental imagery to bring your alter ego to life. What does the complete package look like? Take some time to imagine them sitting next to you and to feel their presence.

3. Integrate

Visualize your alter ego taking over control, like they’ve just been beamed into your consciousness and have now taken over.

I like to view them as a ghost that first sits next to me, but then physically steps into my body. As soon as they do, I feel all of their character traits taking over.

Some people like to have a ‘totem’ of sorts that they only wear when they integrate their alter ego to further enhance this effect. A necklace, for example.

4. Maintain And Refocus

Your focus may slip sometimes. Your ‘old self’ may take over. That’s fine.

Try and be conscious of this happening and simply take a minute or two to go through step 3 again.

Much like meditation, this will become easier with practice. In no-time you’ll be able to reactivate your alter ego within seconds.


Go through the steps and bathe in that feeling for a second.

That new gaze you have? The new focus you feel? That clear, confident mind you’re experiencing?

That’s the new you. At least for now. Nice to meet you!

Using the Batman-Effect is not just a temporary solution for overcoming challenges. It’s also the first step towards permanent change.

To quote Beyoncé:

“I don’t need Sasha Fierce anymore, because I’ve grown, and now I’m able to merge the two.”

Now it’s your turn to become your own superhero.