Having a superpower means becoming a superhero and saving the world, right? In Greta Thunberg’s case, yes. For the young characters in the audio drama podcast The Bright Sessions, the answer is no... or at least, not yet. For them, having a superpower is making their lives completely impossible. How lucky, then, that there’s an atypical therapist in their neighbourhood called Dr Bright, who just happens to specialise in helping people with “strange and unusual abilities”.

Dr Bright records her therapy sessions and makes audio notes on each patient, so we get to eavesdrop on their progress. The plot develops in leaps, as we follow each patient from session to session. For example, there’s the high school jock Caleb, an empath, who is often completely overcome by the high levels of teenage emotion around him. Then there’s Chloe the art student, who can hear what people are thinking, which makes it impossible to attend crowded lectures. But the first patient we hear is Sam, an extraordinarily socially awkward time-traveller who inconveniently disappears to another time and place when she becomes stressed. She really, really just wants it all to stop. (“You don’t enjoy it?” asks Dr Bright, deadpan, in the first episode.)

Dr Bright helps her patients to gain control of their abilities using meditation and mindfulness techniques. She is occasionally funny, often warm, usually professional… but over the course of a few therapy sessions we start to question her motivation. Does she really have the best interests of her patients at heart? Meanwhile the atypical patients themselves have become so beloved by the podcast’s audience that fan art abounds across Twitter and Tumblr. And when I watched Brené Brown’s TEDx talk on the importance of vulnerability in living a whole-hearted life I had a mini-epiphany and understood why: it puts the vulnerability of its characters at the core of the character and plot development. And that’s when those strange and unusual abilities come into their own. And once the characters start to make connections, and especially once they meet each other, things get really exciting. The whole of Episode 50 for example takes the form of a musical as it follows dreamwalker Rose as she travels through the other characters’ dreams. It’s quite extraordinary. But then, aren’t we all a little strange and unusual? And doesn’t the magic always happen when we get together and connect? And that’s the joy of it. So, as Bright Sessions writer and producer Lauren Shippen says: #staystrange.

Brené Brown’s TEDx talk: tinyurl.com/TED-brene-brown
Mothiur Rahman talks about the impact of Brené Brown’s findings on his own activism and the work of Extinction Rebellion in our Resurgence Voices podcast at resurgence.podiant.co

Rachel Marsh is a podcast addict and designs Resurgence & Ecologist.