->''[[TropeNamer "We're either gonna die, or we're gonna fly."]]''
-->-- '''Jamie Hyneman''', ''Series/{{Mythbusters}}''

Evidently, life-threatening situations bring out our hidden powers. [[DontTryThisAtHome Do not try this at home, though]]. The threat seems to have to come from Fate for it to work out.

At a moment of extreme stress, a superpower pops out that the character never knew was there. They might have continued to lead a normal existence, doomed to be -- at best -- a character in a romance, if it had not been for that car wreck, or fall from a great height, or evil-doer...

A preferred training method of the SinkOrSwimMentor. Contrast with NewPowersAsThePlotDemands, which is about powers manifesting as an easy way out of danger. This trope is about danger being used as a not-so-easy way for powers to manifest. This trope is a common way of introducing PowersInTheFirstEpisode. If the power can only ''ever'' be used in life-threatening situations, it's a DefenceMechanismSuperpower. Compare with TraumaticSuperpowerAwakening, when the powers appear as a result of trauma that is not immediately life-threatening.

This trope is the central concept of JapaneseSpirit.

A DeathActivatedSuperpower is when ''both'' happens. They die, ''then'' they fly.
----
!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* In ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', Jiraiya resorts to literally ''throwing Naruto off of a cliff'' to force him to learn how to tap into the power of the [[SealedEvilInACan Kyuubi demon]] [[SealedInAPersonShapedCan sealed within him]]. [[spoiler: Luckily for Naruto, this "strategy" actually '''works''' and enables him to get the chakra needed to summon a giant toad.]]
** Also, the Uchiha clan's hereditary super-eye power, Sharingan, first manifests in a life-or-death situation. For some reason, they can use it at will afterwards, although it takes time to get to full potential.
** Naruto's first successful use of the Rasengan is in his battle with Kabuto, in a situation in which failure would have meant defeat.
* Mai's powers manifest themselves this way in ''Anime/{{Mai-HiME}}'', after Natsuki attacks Mikoto and she tries to defend her.
* ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' Gendo Ikari: [[FallingIntoTheCockpit "Pilot the mecha against the thing that just wiped out an army and survived a nuke."]] Shinji (rather sensibly): "Uhhhm....what!?". But seriously, this is how the first few Unit 01 battles go. Shinji (with little-no training) has to go out and fight things that ignore (basically) nuclear strikes. To quote: "Unless you (Shinji) succeed, humanity HAS no future." Have fun with that.
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'':
** This is the only method of development that works on [[HotBlooded Ichigo]]. He has to be put into life-or-death situations where he has no choice but to power up or die, including when he first obtained his own shinigami powers - Urahara severed his chain of fate which meant Ichigo had to transform into a shinigami or die. [[SinkOrSwim Urahara]] is a firm believer in this method of training anyway but all Ichigo's mentors have noticed it's the only way to train Ichigo.
** [[BarrierWarrior Orihime]] and [[GeniusBruiser Chad's]] powers manifest the first time when they are on the verge of being killed by hollows. Both of them not only have their own lives on the line but need to protect the lives of others. Tatsuki's life is almost lost while trying to save Orihime and Karin gets caught up in Sado's battle. Without them manifesting their powers, there would have been several lives lost, not just their own.
** [[AloofAlly Uryuu]] thinks he is successfully rebelling against his [[RefusalOfTheCall anti-Quincy]] father but appears to actually be following the path his father has secretly laid out for him. While [[HeroicNeutral Ryuuken]] denies Isshin's accusation that he's putting his son through the die-or-fly experience, his reaction (that it's entirely up to Uryuu whether he lives or dies in Hueco Mundo) produces a smirk from Isshin, as it's exactly what a SinkOrSwimMentor would say.
* The 2003 anime version of ''Anime/AstroBoy'', which addresses the ridiculousness of his various built-in gadgets by giving him a highly modular construction that reconfigures itself in response to danger. He gains his iconic rocket boots after tripping and falling out the window of a high rise office tower.
** Also used in [[WesternAnimation/AstroBoy the 2009 movie]]; the rocket boots activate under similar circumstances, while his weaponry activates in moments of crisis during the final battle.
* In the [[TimeToUnlockMoreTruePotential Hiryuu Shouten Ha story arc]] (Rising Dragon Wave in the [=US=]) of ''[[RanmaOneHalf Ranma 1/2]]'' [[OldMaster Cologne]] never gets around to disclosing the legendary technique's final step to Ranma. However, he figures it out all on his own just as Ryouga's fist is about to turn him into paste on the side of the mountain.
* The Nekoken of RanmaOneHalf. Cover a child in fish. Throw them into a pit full of starving cats. The child learns or dies.
* Retasu in ''TokyoMewMew'' gained her mermaid form when she jumped into the ocean, despite being terrified and unable to swim, to try and save a small child. Technically, a [[McGuffin Mew Aqua]] also helped.
* ''Anime/FutureGPXCyberFormula''
** Hayato Kazami and Asurada learn the Lifting Turn in ''Saga'' completely by accident. Asurada in its AKF-0 version bounce off course during a test drive and in order to avoid a painful crash landing and keep Hayato, its driver, safe, it reverses its effect fans and causes the car to float around the turn. Lo and behold, Hayato's just discovered his most [[GameBreaker gamebreaking]] driving skill ever.
** Before that, he learns the Internal Drift when Super Asurada AKF-11 is about to crash on the wall, also during a test drive.
* ''TheGirlWhoLeaptThroughTime'' made her first time leap when flipped into the path of a train.
* Basically the whole point of ''Manga/PlusAnima'', where people's ability to "transform" first manifests when they are in extremely dangerous circumstances.
* In ''GrapplerBaki'', a young Baki throws himself off of a cliff in order to trigger "endorphins" that enhances his senses.
* In ''Manga/OnePiece'' Zoro comes up against an adversary whose body is made of steel. With no option to retreat, it becomes a "cut steel or die" scenario. No points for guessing the outcome. It's even lampshaded to an extent, when Zoro declares, after learning of his opponent's ability, that he will be able to cut steel by the end of the fight.
** Garp's preferred training method, especially when it came to his grandchildren. Then when he realized that his being away from home for so long did not work towards his goal of making them marines, he left them with a friend to raise them and make them marines. Said friend was a ''mountain bandit''. He was asking for it, really.
* Early on in ''Anime/DragonBallZ'', Piccolo throws Gohan at a mountain for this express purpose. Good thing it worked. Of course, instead of flying, Gohan goes into "hidden power" mode and ''vaporizes'' the mountain, which was a lot more than Piccolo expected.
** [[AvertedTrope It didn't work]] in [[WebVideo/DragonBallAbridged the Abridged Series]]. Cue offscreen *smack*, then Gohan whining.
** The above was {{foreshadow|ing}}ed in Gohan's first appearance, where he was about to go over a waterfall. When Goku arrives, he's somehow clinging to a branch far above the fall with no idea how he got there.
* At the end of the Manga/SoulEater anime, Maka discovers that [[spoiler:she is also a weapon, like her father]] when fighting Kishin, though this is not what allows her to defeat him.
* ''[[Anime/AfterWarGundamX Gundam X]]'' has [[PsychicPowers Newtype powers]] work this way, as demonstrated in the Estard arc. [[BigBad The Frost brothers]] sic potential Newtypes on the Double X, with the intent that the near-death rush of battle will awaken their powers. Out of the four [[MonsterOfTheWeek Pilots of the Week]], only the last one develops powers in this way. [[spoiler:Which is just fine by the Frosts, who despise Newtypes and were sending the candidates to their deaths; the one who ''does'' develop powers and survives his fight gets shot anyway.]]
* In the {{Nasuverse}}, the [[MagicalEye Mystic Eyes of]] [[StoryBreakerPower Death Perception]] seem to be awakened by near-death experiences; though this is extremely unlikely to happen.
* In the first chapter of ''Manga/BusouRenkin'', Kazuki learns how to summon his Busou Renkin in the course of defending himself from a giant robotic cobra.
* The first time Leina pulls off the Dragon's Tail in ''QueensBlade'' is during her training session with Echidna. Said training session? Echidna openly and actively trying to kill her for three days straight. (Both combatants are coated in sap that prevents any injuries, but that sap ''does'' wear off over time...)
* In ''Anime/{{Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 2nd As}}'', Hayate's initial awakening as the mistress of the [[ArtifactOfDoom Book of Darkness]] is depicted like this, with the book whisking her up into the sky to save her from getting hit by a truck.
* This is how [[spoiler:Eren's titan shifting ability]] was awakened in ''Manga/AttackOnTitan'' when he was [[spoiler:in the belly of the titan who ate him]]. Also, [[spoiler:his ability as the coordinator]] manifested when their group was surrounded by titans outside the wall with little hope of surviving.
* In the Sakura Cards arc of Manga/CardcaptorSakura, this effect is deliberately invoked Eriol to help Sakura change the Clow Cards into Sakura Cards.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comics]]
* In the MarvelUniverse there is a relatively new phenomenon called Secondary Mutation, in which known mutants (typically Comicbook/{{X-Men}}) suddenly develop a new mutant power at [[DeusExMachina extremely convenient moments]], such as a healing power (after receiving an otherwise mortal wound) or the ability to become indestructible (in the middle of a bombing). It started as an excuse by Grant Morrison to give Emma Frost transform-into-diamond powers, since he had was not allowed to bring the transform-into-metal Colossus back from the dead, and had a story idea he wanted to use.
** The Richard Rider Comicbook/{{Nova}} is not a mutant, but he was depowered for a long time and the superhero, Night Thrasher, guessed that he could reignite Rider's powers with a high stress incident. To create one, he kidnapped Rider, dropped him off a building and found that his hunch was right when Rider instantly repowered in the fall, including his flight power.
*** He tried it a second time after another depowering, only to be rescued before the splat and having it made very clear that a second power up was not what would have happened (he got his powers back again of course in another storyarc).
** {{Spider-Man}} first discovered his powers this way. While walking home feeling sick after being bitten by the spider, a car is about to hit him. His new Spider Sense kicks in and he instinctively leaps up the side of a building and clings to it.
** The transformation of Jean Grey into The Phoenix was originally presented as this, then retconned into a subversion, with a primal power of the universe using her as a template to create an avatar. (This ultimately [[GoneHorriblyWrong went horribly wrong]].)
** Amara from ''NewMutants'' discovers her powers like that. Selene [[NoOneCouldSurviveThat drops her in a volcano]] and she ends up learning to [[PlayingWithFire manipulate lava]]. Guess her CodeName ? Magma, of course.
* {{Wolverine}} is a prime example of this-his claws first popped out during the attack on his parents.
* In its 1988 CrisisCrossover ''ComicBook/{{Invasion}}!'', [[TheDCU DC Comics]] introduced the "metagene", which gives humans superpowers as a way to survive lethal trauma, as a way to {{Handwave}} the many heroes and villains with FreakLabAccident [[SuperHeroOrigin origin stories]]. The concept was demonstrated by an alien scientist performing a mass execution of fifty abductees; six of them survived, gained powers, and briefly formed a superteam.
** ''ComicBook/{{Superboy}}'' later introduced a character called Sparx, who came from a family who had all tested positive for the metagene. Members of her family deliberately endangered themselves to try and trigger their powers.
** Another story featured wannabes hanging around hoping for the day of their Origin and one relating how one guy decided to stop waiting and shoved a fork into a toaster. While the guy he's talking with starts rattling off possible powers the answer for what it got was 'electrocuted'. Destiny doesn't like it when you try and cheat.
* There is a [[ComicBook/TheSandman Sandman]] short in which a dreaming man who falls off a cliff literally must fly or die. It ties into AnAesop about how you don't know if you can do something until you've done it.
* In ''ComicBook/StrikeforceMorituri'', candidates for the Morituri Process must survive Biowar Facility Alpha, a greenhouse garden loaded with lethal traps. The stress of survival is required to trigger the superpowers granted by the Process.
* In ''ComicBook/ElfQuest'', Zahntee's shielding power first manifests when he saves Skot and Krim from being struck by a falling branch. Justified in that this is the first opportunity he'd had to invoke it after being exposed to the Palace, which enhances elves' powers.
* The original Liberty Belle, a member of the ComicBook/AllStarSquadron, had an experience like this. She'd been kidnapped by Baron Blitzkrieg, who used her, a lightning bolt, and the stolen Liberty Bell in an attempt to cure his blindness (don't ask). The experiment worked, but the bell fell off its rig toward Libby; she raised her hand in a desperate bid to stop it, and it flew across the room, [[HoistByHisOwnPetard hitting Blitzkrieg instead]]. Turned out the experiment had given her sonic powers as a side effect.
* In ''Comicbook/{{Wanted}}'' this happens where Wesley must shoot the wings off of flies or Fox will blow his brains out.
* The "Pureheart the Powerful" sequences of ''{{Archie}}'' (1966-7) had this as Betty/Superteen's origin story, as she tried to rescue an unconscious Archie from falling off a cliff.
* This is Darwin from ComicBook/{{X-factor}}'s main power. He always mutates the most simple and convinient power he needs to survive whatever situation he's in. This can range from surviving without a head, to being part Death, to teleporting out of the way of an angry hulk.
* A RunningGag in the French comic Raghnarok: the titular Raghnarok is a young dragon who has yet to manage to fly, so his mother tosses him off a cliff every chance she gets (AmusingInjuries are in full effect, so he only get bumps, bruises, and an ever-deeper aversion to flying from the whole thing).
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Fan Works]]
* John in ''Fanfic/WithStringsAttached'', when he is held prisoner in a net he can't break and furiously wishes he could turn into water. Splash! Though the experience almost drives him crazy.
** Also Ringo, twice. First, he has his choice of telekinetically levitating himself (which he's never thought to do before, because he can only hold something 5-7 seconds) or getting torn apart by crazed "Beaglemaniacs." Then, after a pair of disembodied arms throws him off the garage roof where he stranded himself (ItMakesSenseInContext), he suddenly teleports to safety--if ending up in the Plaza Hotel, currently under siege by thousands of Beaglemaniacs, is "safety."
* Koizumi Itsuki from LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya can already use ESP to fly and fight, but only inside [[PhantomZone closed spaces]]. In ''Fanfic/KyonBigDamnHero'', to make him realize his powers were unlocked for use anywhere it took being thrown off of a cliff to fight against a robot attacking Kyon by Haruhi ([[NeuroVault who had]] [[LaserGuidedAmnesia forgotten]] [[PoorCommunicationKills Koizumi didn't know]]).
* In the Negima fanfic 'Fang Vice Addiction', this is how Evangeline tries to teach Negi to fly without a broom. [[spoiler:It repeatedly fails, with her having to rescue him, so eventually she just jumps herself, expecting him to save her. It works.]]
* In the [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic MLP:FiM]] fanfic ''Aurora'', the BigBad ([[spoiler:and Twilight Sparkle!]]) ascend to a higher plane of existence in moments of desperation. [[spoiler: The Princesses' moments of desperation are worthy of terror...]]
* ''FanFic/ThePowersOfHarmony'' invokes this when Blair, on Ophiuchus' insistence, forces Twilight to get over the mental block on using her powers by [[spoiler: tossing her over Neighagra Falls]]. To say that she's [[TranquilFury not happy]] afterwards is an understatement.
* In ''Fanfic/PonyPOVSeries''', this happens during the Wedding Arc. [[spoiler:To save Twilight and Sweetie, she grabbed Sweetie in a move that sent them both out a window, and, with the only other options being die or get captured by [[BigBad Queen Chrysalis]], finally manages to fly to save them both. This act ''also'' earns her Cutie Mark.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* In a rare case of Die ''and'' Fly, it is a violent death that causes potential immortals to become actual immortals in ''Franchise/{{Highlander}}'': unless immortality is activated in this way, they remain vulnerable to peaceful, timely death. This becomes a major plot point in ''Film/HighlanderEndgame''.
* The movie ''Film/PumaMan'' (featured on ''MysteryScienceTheater3000'') had Valdhino toss random people out of windows in order to find the man who has the Puma Man powers. He finally hits paydirt when he tosses Tony out and he lands on his feet like a cat.
* In ''TheIncredibles'', [[spoiler:Jack Jack apparently doesn't manifest his powers until Syndrome tries to kidnap him. However, the short film "Jack Jack Attack" reveals that Jack Jack did manifest his powers beforehand: a Mozart CD is the catalyst. The sitter did say that Mozart is good for babies, I guess she just didn't know the effects on superbabies.]]
* Happens to the hero twice in ''Film/SkyHigh''. [[spoiler: Once literally.]]
* In ''Film/{{Jumper}}'', the main character Jumps to avoid drowning after he falls through thin ice into a frozen lake.
* A mentally ill would-be superhero in ''Film/KickAss'' takes [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BYmN02kVT0 the first option given by the trope name.]]
* Not quite the discovery of superpowers, but in the same vein: at the end of the ''[[Film/TheMatrix Animatrix]]'' short ''Kid's Story'', the eponymous Kid frees himself from the Matrix by throwing himself off the roof of his school.
* In ''{{Unbreakable}}'', David discovers his invulnerability after surviving a horrific train wreck unharmed. [[spoiler:Turns out his mentor, Elijah, was behind it because of this trope; he has caused many disasters in order to find someone like David.]]
* The climax on the film ''{{Rio}}''. Blu must fly or he and Jewel will die. [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome And he did]].
* ''Film/XMen'':
** Bobby Drake's [[spoiler: mutation turning him into AnIcePerson]] in ''Film/XMenTheLastStand''.
** There are several examples in ''Film/XMenFirstClass''. First, in a case of Die ''Then'' Fly, Dr. Schmidt threatens to shoot Erik Lehnsherr's mother unless he figures out how to use his power to move a coin. Erik is unable to do so until after Schmidt kills his mother, the pain of which triggers his abilities. Later, Erik [[SinkOrSwimMentor takes this approach]] during Banshee's flying attempts (though given that Banshee's costume contained metal, he could easily have caught him if it didn't work). Later, Alex Summers grasps his energy-blasting ability ''just as he needs to''.
* The film version of Film/FantasticFour also has this. Johnny has been trying to master flight ever since he got his powers (with no one really believing he can do it), when Doom fires a heat-seeking missile at the Baxter Building he leaps off the edge to try and lure it away and right before he splatters all over the pavement he finally nails it.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Gully Foyle of Alfred Bester's classic SF novel ''Literature/TheStarsMyDestination'' suddenly can "jaunt" ([[TeleportersAndTransporters teleport]]) much further than anyone has managed before when he is marooned in space -- and then gets really ticked off.
** "Jaunting" started as "burn or teleport" for the discoverer, Charles Fort Jaunte, about a century before. He was later put in an inescapable, slowly flooding chamber by his fellow scientists [[ForScience to force him to replicate the process]].
* In a more literal example, the ''Literature/HarryPotter'' books mention that Neville Longbottom's Uncle Algie made multiple efforts to "scare" Neville's hidden magic into manifesting when he was a baby -- most notably by throwing him off a pier and dangling him out a window. Neville's magical nature was finally revealed when Algie simply dropped him by "accident" -- and he bounced.
** In a less literal example, Harry finally masters a difficult spell when facing the prospect of playing chase with a dragon. He quips that now they know what to do the next time he has trouble with a spell.
* Bran's first dream sequence in ''ASongOfIceAndFire''. To all appearances, this does save his life, but the poor kid would be a lot happier about the flight he was promised if he could grasp a metaphor.
* In the Matrin novels by Holly Lisle, [[spoiler:the shape-shifting characters only fly after dropping out of a building, or off of a mountain.]]
* In Steven Gould's novel ''Literature/{{Jumper}}'', Davy first "jumps" (teleports) involuntarily to escape his abusive father. At first he thinks he just blacked out after his dad beat him, and began hitchhiking. The first time he consciously realizes he "jumped" is when some truckers tried to rape him, and he was suddenly back in the library.
** Happens again in the sequel, ''Reflex,'' in which the main character's girlfriend-in-the-first-book-wife-in-the-sequel "jumps" to safety after a probably-fatal fall. Apparently, being teleported by a teleport enough times can pass on the ability, though the characters have NO idea how that works.
* In Audrey Niffenegger's novel ''Literature/TheTimeTravelersWife'', great stress seems to be the activator of involuntary TimeTravel. The time traveller mentioned in the title uses his power for only the second time, completely involuntarily, to escape from the car crash which killed his mother. [[spoiler:And then later on, he [[BlessedWithSuck gets to travel]] ''[[BlessedWithSuck back]]'' [[BlessedWithSuck to this moment]] and watch it from the sidelines at multiple angles...]]
* In the ''WildCards'' series, people infected with a latent version of the wild card virus often "turn their cards" after a near-death experience. Examples include Will-O'-Wisp (stepped on a power line, gained electrical powers), Stuntman (botched a stunt during a student film and fell several hundreds of feet onto solid ground, gained the ability to regenerate from any injury), and the Harlem Hammer (exposed to nuclear waste, gained superstrength and invulnerability but needs to consume heavy metal salts to survive).
* This is exactly how ''[[Franchise/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy Arthur Dent]]'' manages to fly, after reading from the guide that flying is the art of "throwing oneself at the ground and missing" - he has to completely focus his attention on something else (typically something immensely banal, as per the themes of Franchise/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy) or simply ''forget'' that he's supposed to be falling. Once achieved, he simply hovers there and can move around at will... but he has to be careful not to think too hard about what's going on.
--> '''The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (on flying):''' ''...Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of, 'Good God, you can't possibly be flying!' It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.''
* A [[PropheticDreams prophetic dream]] from ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'':
--> Perrin (walking off a cliff): It must be done. I must learn to fly before I reach the bottom.
** This probably refers to his mastery of the [[DreamLand World of Dreams]], particularly his EleventhHourSuperpower of [[spoiler: moving between the dreaming and waking worlds at will]]. He had a mentor, albeit a [[SinkOrSwimMentor tough one]], for most of it, but that particular trick was one that only one other person had ever accomplished, and that through very unusual means.
** This is also how Nynaeve finally overcomes the mental block that prevents her accessing the [[FunctionalMagic True Source]] unless angry. Trapped in a sinking ship, her only option is to fully surrender to the Source, and thereby control it.
* In the world of ''Literature/{{Belgariad}}'' and ''[[Literature/{{Belgariad}} The Malloreon]]'', Creator/DavidEddings uses this trope straight for sorcerers, who usually discover their power by accident, in a fit of anger or frustration. Since the one unbreakable rule of the universe is "you can't unmake something with sorcery, and if you try, the universe unmakes ''you''", most potential sorcerers don't survive the discovery of their powers.
** Also done literally when Silk tosses Brill off a mountain, forcing the Dagashi to try to learn how to fly before he hits bottom. Does bouncing count?
* This trope is played [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin literally straight]] in ''[[TheAgeOfFive Priestess of the White]]''--the heroine is knocked off a cliff and manages to use magic to stop herself before hitting the ground.
* [[DiscussedTrope Discussed]] by Rock, in Literature/TheStormlightArchive when talking about [[spoiler: how to test the extent of Kaladin's Surgebinding powers]]
** Invoked in a ''horrifying'' manner by the Envisager cult in the same universe. They ''thought'' this trope was how you gained Surgebinding powers, and deliberately jumped off cliffs and otherwise put themselves in deathtraps in hopes of bringing back the Surgebinders. Since at that point it was impossible to create new Surgebinders (the spirits that allowed it having retreated to their own world after the humans killed most of them), all the Envisagers succeeded in doing was killing themselves in horrible ways.
* In ''Franchise/{{Mistborn}}'', Allomantic powers are activated by "Snapping", which involves some form of trauma. Most nobles give their children a savage beating at some point in their life, hoping they're latent Allomancers. Kelsier was Snapped by the death of his wife. [[spoiler: The best way is to experience "mist-sickness", which only affects latent Allomancers and by design causes just enough harm to Snap them.]]
* Several times in Katheryne Kurtz ''Literature/{{Deryni}}'' universe someone discovers that s/he has Deryni (magic-user) blood in an extreme situation. Not all Deryni, even very powerful ones, are Healers; but those who are often first discover that they have that power when someone is hurt and there is no Healer available.
* In Creator/JRRTolkien, magical powers are often unlocked by an intense need to use them.
* In ''Literature/TheSecretTexts'' Kait discovers she can Shift into a flying form this way. [[spoiler:Specifically, jumping off a tower.]]
* Obligatory ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' reference: Archchancellor Ridcully once [[InsaneTrollLogic disputed]] Ponder's notions about evolution using this trope, proclaiming that nobody's ever ''seen'' a lizard evolve into a bird to save itself after falling off a cliff.
* The Literature/VampireAcademy character Lissa Dragomir had her spirit powers (which includes the power to bring the dead to life, at the possible cost of her own sanity) when a car crash kills her parents, brother, and best friend, while leaving her alive. In the moments after the crash, she unintentionally, brings her friend back to life, though at the time she does not realize that she was actually dead.
* Richard's magic, a lot of the time, in TheSwordOfTruth series. Being a War Wizard, Richard's magic tends to do whatever the plot requires of it, without Richard understanding what he's doing, or how he's doing it.
* An odd varient in the ''KnightAndRogueSeries''. When Michael is tossed off a cliff his magic activates on his own and saves him. Despite not wanting to die, he stops it the moment he realizes what's going on. (Fortunately, he's only a few feet from the ground at this point). The only time they don't manifest when his life depends on it is when he's desperately trying to put out a fire.
* In ''Literature/SeptimusHeap'' - ''Darke'' Septimus must try the '''Flyte''' spell without its charm in order to escape from Dungeon Number One, and succeeds at it.
* In the Literature/WearingTheCape verse, breakthroughs usually occur as the result of a life-threatening or traumatic experience.
* In the ''Literature/{{Darkover}}'' series, the most effective test to see if someone possesses the Alton Gift of [[{{Telepathy}} telepathic]] [[MindRape forced rapport]] is to have someone who has the gift use it on the person who might have the gift. If they have it, then it will activate. But if they don't, then they probably won't survive the attempt. This is why Lord Kennard Alton risks doing it to his oldest son Lew as a child to prove to the Comyn Council that he is a valid heir to the Alton Domain, but not his younger son Marius for whom there is no urgent need to prove he has the gift.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action Television]]
* Nathan Petrelli from ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' discovers he can fly when he unconsciously rises into the air while his car is being shunted from behind by employees of a crime boss he is attempting to prosecute. This happened completely against his will; without him in the driver's seat, the car crashes, paralysing his wife from the waist down and leaving him with lasting guilt about his wife's condition.
** Similarly, Claude attempts to help Nathan's brother, Peter, control his power-stealing powers by throwing him off a tall building, hoping to trigger the flight power he'd mimicked earlier from Nathan. In a unique subversion, [[spoiler:while Peter's flight power is ''not'' triggered by the attempt, the regeneration powers he took from Claire Bennet are triggered when he dies after crashing and being impaled on a cab.]]
* Similarly to ''Franchise/{{Highlander}}'' above, in ''Series/KamenRiderFaiz'', certain humans that are genetically predisposed to evolve into higher forms have no idea that they have the ability unless an early death kickstarts the process.
* Paige's first use of her teleportation power in ''Series/{{Charmed}}'' was to escape her parents' car as it crashed and exploded (discovered through the magic of TimeTravel).
** Her first use of her [[HealingHands healing power]] came when she had only three options: orb out (exposing herself as magical in front of cameras, police, and civilian hostages), let her boyfriend Henry die right in front of her, or figure out how to heal (which is much less obvious as visually it's just a bit of light, and the wound didn't heal all the way as to seem suspicious). Naturally she was glad to discover that the third option was possible (as before she begins to heal him she had no idea that she could).
** A literal example occurred when Phoebe first discovered she could levitate; a demon wielding a dagger took a swing at her neck, and she literally flew up and out of his reach to dodge it.
* In the Nickelodeon remake of ''Series/TheTomorrowPeople'', Jade spends much of her series hanging out with Adam and Megabyte and wishing she could be a Tomorrow Person. Her powers are revealed when she saves herself (and her crush Megabyte) from an exploding boiler room.
* On ''Series/{{Fringe}}'', David Robert Jones subjects Olivia to a series of tests for telekinetic ability, including a game where you make lights go off with your mind. With the Bishops' help, she fakes the test. She later finds a bomb attached to a skyscraper that will take out half of downtown Boston unless she can beat the same test for real.
* On ''Series/{{Sanctuary}}'', Tesla's [[spoiler: "experiments", a group of kids whose DNA he mutated so they would]], as part of a very complex and convoluted end-game of his, [[spoiler:become Vampires under his command in 30 years,]] turn into very powerful Vampires ([[spoiler:30 years ahead of time]]) when they're killed, because the [[spoiler: gene was designed to, above all else, focus on self-preservation.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Music]]
* See the video to "Ich bin wieder hier" by Music/{{Bluemchen}} for a literal example: Jasmin Wagner's character falls off an airship and [[WingedHumanoid grows wings]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* According to the background for the tabletop role-playing game ''TabletopGame/{{Aberrant}}'', the first recorded superhero following the Space Station Galatea's explosion was a firefighter whose flame-manipulation powers kicked in when he was trying to save some kids from a burning bus. Likewise, the "eruption" of several other Novas in the setting usually comes about as the result of a massively emotional experience, such as a near death experience. Given the celebrity associated with being a Nova at this point in history, a lot of people often try to kick-start powers of their own through such experiences; the results are often unpleasant and messy, to say the least.
** Aberrant is unusual this way; the moment of becoming a Nova is similar to exposure to LSD, in that the results are dependent on the personality of the individual and the circumstances under which it occurs. In consequence, Novas demonstrate this trope by their very nature.
* In the story of the ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering'' trading card game, those with the "planeswalker spark" can become Planeswalkers, powerful, immortal mages (representing the player in the game). To become a Planeswalker, one must "ascend", which involves great stress and usually horrendous death -- the most famous example, Urza, was literally blown to atoms before ascending.
* In the ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' setting ''TabletopGame/{{Eberron}}'', the dragonmarked houses try to induce this on purpose in blood members in their late adolescence to see if they'll develop a dragonmark or not if they haven't already; this is called the Test of Siberys. While [[SubvertedTrope contrary to the usual form of this trope]] it often works, sometimes someone who's assumed not to have a mark due to failing the test [[DoubleSubversion needs to encounter a]] ''[[DoubleSubversion real]]'' [[DoubleSubversion Die Or Fly situation]] in order to manifest a mark.
** The TabletopGame/{{Eberron}} novel ''The Grieving Tree'' had [[spoiler:Ashi]] develop a mark to defend her friends from an angry dragon.
* Deconstructed in the ''TabletopGame/MutantsAndMasterminds'' setting "Paragons": it's common knowledge that superpowers occasionally manifest this way, so a common cause of death is idiots attempting to invoke this trope by e.g. skydiving without a parachute or setting themselves on fire. Worse, once in a blue moon it ''works'', which means that someone who is suicidal and/or not particularly bright now has superpowers, and moreover, everyone else has renewed encouragement.
* In both ''TabletopGame/MageTheAwakening'' and its predecessor ''TabletopGame/MageTheAscension'', Mages tended to Awaken under life-or-death situations, or at least situations of incredible duress. Of course, many mages still end up dying shortly after Awakening anyway, since they tend to lose control of their powers or get careless and [[LaserGuidedKarma start eating a Paradox buffet]].
* In ''TabletopGame/{{exalted}}'', people tend to Exalt at a moment when they are in dire need of a boost of heroic supernatural power. It's supposed to be fated, but considering how many things muck about with Fate on a fairly regular basis, not even the [[CelestialBureaucracy Sidereals]] can always figure ''whose'' life or death situation will end up resulting in Exaltation.
** The Lunars get a weird variant on this, seeing as they usually Exalt after managing to ''survive'' a life-or-death situation.
* In ''Brave New World'' superhero rpg, superpowers are only ever known to manifest as the result of near-death experience (and the books even mention that it is not known how many people develop superpowers that do not allow them to the survive the life-threatening experience that triggered them).
* The timeline for the ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}} International Super Teams'' roleplaying worldbook cites several such metahumans, including two caught in a nuclear bomb test in 1951, a girl whose rapist tried to burn her alive, and an early-1970s illicit American military program to "destruct-train" draftees in order to force a few metahumans out of their numbers.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The second ''VideoGame/KnightsOfTheOldRepublic'' applies this trope to the player character character, who learns on-the-fly to survive extremely deadly situations, such as poison attacks.
* The ''VideoGame/{{Persona}}'' series uses this trope for the main characters of each game, usually by having them attacked by {{Mooks}}. ''[[{{Persona 2}} Innocent Sin]]'' does it differently; the main characters all awakened their Personas at different times, and it's not {{Mooks}} they were in danger of.
** ''VideoGame/{{Persona 3}}'' uses this as a ''game mechanic'', and it's symbolic.
** ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}'' subverts this with most of your party members. While the Protagonist still has his classic "Per...So........Na..." invocation scene, his powers were [[spoiler:awakened by Izanami at the start of the game]], the source of the rest of your party's powers is the very same thing that would have ''caused'' the DieOrFly reaction in the first place.
* In ''VideoGame/ArcTheLad'', Kharg's affinity for magic awakens when he is about to be executed by firing squad.
* The player has to do this in ''SteelBattalion''. No training, no tutorial, just the imposing controller and a complex manual. Good Luck!
* In ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'', the protagonist Emiya Shirou first uses most of his abilities when protecting himself or, more usually, someone else, from immediate death. The first example is on the [[RoadCone third day,]] in which he easily and instantly uses a perfect strengthening magic, which he normally has a less-than .01% success rate on with an hour to practice.
* ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings: The Two Towers'' throws you right into the fray after the lengthy unskippable intro.
* ''EvoSearchForEden'' does this in the age of dinosaurs, and quite literally at that. After climbing to the top of Mt. Brave, you are given a choice to jump off or leave. Jumping off results in an evolution... you become a pterodactyl.
* In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'', when a l'Cie falters in his or her resolve, they may be challenged by their own power in the form of an Eidolon. Failing an Eidolon's trial is guaranteed death; overcoming the trial grants the l'Cie the ability to summon the Eidolon to assist them. Eidolon battles tend to be ThatOneBoss.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* In the backstory of ''VisualNovel/NineHoursNinePersonsNineDoors'', [[spoiler:Gentarou Hongou]] believed that people who have minor psychic abilities (such as communicating telepathically through the morphogenetic field) could unconsciously develop and increase these abilities if faced with emotional trauma. To prove this theory, he kidnapped nine children and forced them into a DeadlyGame. [[spoiler:Gentarou was right, but he realized too late that his 'subjects' could use their newfound power to get revenge on him]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Happens to ''Webcomic/{{Terinu}}'' when his Bion abilities activate when he's drugged and kidnapped.
* A more literal example occurs in the current ''Webcomic/OneQuestion'' storyline, as Ranu falls off a building and his ''wings'' suddenly appear. Unfortuantely he needs some tutoring to learn how to use them...
* Also [[http://www.crfh.net/d/20040627.html literally happens to Marsha]] in ''Webcomic/CollegeRoomiesFromHell''.
* Faevv of ''Webcomic/{{Juathuur}}'', at first, seems to be able to release her powers only when threatened by imminent death.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'', Vriska strands [[TheFool John]] on a tiny island in the middle of an ocean of oil that's about to be engulfed in fire in order to get him to develop his [[BlowYouAway powers as the Heir of Breath.]] [[spoiler: Luckily, it works.]]
** Even before that, she tried it in a much more literal sense with Tavros. [[spoiler:He didn't fly, and wound up paralyzed from the waist down for his trouble.]]
* In ''Webcomic/ElGoonishShive'', Grace first discovers how to create legion forms when she is under pressure to change to a form strong enough to maintain her telekinesis without passing out in order to save Ellen and Nanase's lives during the fight with the Omega Goo as seen [[http://www.egscomics.com/?date=2002-11-28 here]] and on the next page.
* Played with and lampshaded in Webcomic/TheDreamlandChronicles. While taking flying lessons, Alex asks if the lessons involve him getting thrown off a cliff. The teacher asks why on earth he would do something so risky. After exhausting all of his other ideas, the teacher does throw Alex off the cliff, only to realize that also isn't going to work, so he reminds Alex of his promise to his LoveInterest. This motivates Alex enough to save himself and learn to fly.
* "Dear Webcomic/AxeCop, is it possible that you have a secret attack that is so secret you don't even know about it?" [[NewPowersAsThePlotDemands Unsurprisingly]], the answer is yes, and one of them was that [[http://axecop.com/index.php/acask/read/ask_axe_cop_68 when he's tied up, his ghost comes out and kills everyone and frees him]].
--> "Wait... That was a secret attack!"
* In ''Webcomic/{{Pacificators}}'', this seems to be how [[NewMeat Daryl]] learns new tricks. When her platoon were stranded out on the ocean with no food supplies, she learned how to [[LightEmUp flare her staff's orb brightly]]. [[spoiler: Later, when faced with gun-toting Preservers, she became the first person to discover how to use [[ThePowerOfTheSun solar power]] and used it to sting the enemies.]]
* ''[[{{Webcomic/Morphe}} morphE]]'' begins with the galvanization party. The host puts captives in near death situations to activate their magical potential. It succeeds for 5 of the 8 entrants.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Being a superhero setting, this happened a lot in the ''GlobalGuardiansPBEMUniverse''. Three notable examples are:
** Gypsy gained her powers when she and her little brother were victims in a drive-by shooting. Her powers allowed her to survive. Her little brother was less fortunate.
** Aurora was caught in an uncontrolled fusion reaction. Rather than be vaporized, or die of radiation poisoning, she became a living, human-shaped fusion reactor.
** White Rabbit gained her powers in a car-wreck that almost killed her and her infant son.
* In Alex Reynards online novel "Dangerous Lunatics", Holly discovered her near-immortality-level HealingFactor through attempting suicide... six times.
* It happens to Tennyo in her origin story in the ''Literature/WhateleyUniverse''. She wakes up and finds herself a prisoner, and finds she now has energy powers. When mutant assassins come after her (to send a message to her superhero parents), she finds out (in the nick of time, natch) that she can create an energy sword, and that she can fly.
** Even closer to the trope, Jade's powers first manifested to save her from being possibly beaten to death by her abusive father. Die or fly indeed.
* In {{Phaeton}} this is one way to trigger manifestation in the youngest of people.
* In ''Literature/{{Worm}}'', all [[DifferentlyPoweredIndividual parahumans]] get their powers in a TraumaticSuperpowerAwakening, which can include one of these; [[spoiler:Brandish]] and [[spoiler:Lady Photon]], for example, got their powers when they were about to be murdered, and Grue got his powers during a violent fight with [[spoiler:Aisha's abusive stepfather]].
** Not that parahumans can't get this. Some of them have a ''second'' trigger event, which alters their powers. [[spoiler: Grue, for example, had the power-draining effects of his darkness enhanced and gained the ability to copy others' powers with it, alongside more minor changes in how the darkness functions.]] Some parahumans had their second trigger event essentially at the same time as their first.
* In Literature/{{Elcenia}}, mages have powers over a single element, however, in order for a potential mage to access their powers they have to get into the a situation where they would otherwise die from their element (e.g.. water mages must drown, air mages must fall from a height that would kill them etc). Fortunately, potential mages can be identified before they manifest powers, though not all of them will choose to access their powers.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Ben 10}}'', this is how Ben discovered his Wildvine form. It's downplayed in that Wildvine wasn't particularly useful that episode, though the form was able to handle the immediate threat.
* ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom'' busts out his Ghostly Wail to defeat his [[AxCrazy future self]] when it looks as though he's going to be defeated and everyone will die.
** Technically, he first got it when he was ganged up by some really angry ghosts, but the Ghostly Wail did serve as a hidden weapon for his final battle in the episode.
* In the unaired pilot of ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', Aang jumps off of a cliff in an attempt to trigger [[DefenceMechanismSuperpower the Avatar State]].
** In "The Avatar State," an Earth Kingdom general attempts to induce the Avatar State by putting first Aang, then Katara in danger. [[GoneHorriblyRight It works.]]
** Also, in "The Puppetmaster", Katara learns [[PeoplePuppets Bloodbending]] when her EvilMentor Hama takes control of Aang and Sokka and was about to make Sokka stab Aang.
** In ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'', [[spoiler: Bumi discovers he's become an Airbender (as a result of Harmonic Convergence) when he falls from a cliff and inadvertantly saves himself by airbending inches from the ground.]]
** [[spoiler:Literally,]] when [[BigBad Zaheer]], after [[spoiler:his lover P'li dies and he manages to capture Korra, he throws himself off a cliff while holding an unconscious Korra; and he discovers that P'li dying severed his last attachment to the world, allowing him to fly like Superman, and continue the final phase of his plans.]]
** Also in ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'', [[spoiler: Bolin discovers his ability to lavabend in "Enter the Void" when he, Mako, Asami, and Tenzin were about to be killed by lava flow. With nowhere to run, Bolin steps towards the lava and tries to bend it... and succeeds!]]
* Happens in episode 16 of ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'', when Rainbow Dash finally manages to pull off her Sonic Rainboom technique [[spoiler:to save her friend Rarity and her idols the Wonderbolts from plummeting to their doom after Rarity's wings failed and the Wonderbolts were knocked out in their attempt to rescue her.]]
** This is pretty much how Fluttershy's ability to fly at high-speeds works. She ''can'' match Rainbow Dash's flying speed, at least for brief moments, but only when it's absolutely necessarily and seems to be a fairly poor flyer at other times.
** Outright fails to work in ''Sleepless in Ponyville'' where the flightless pegasus Scootaloo ''still'' can't fly even when facing a fall to her certain death, it takes the timely arrival of Rainbow Dash to save her.
* In ''WesternAnimation/WinxClub'', Bloom discovers her powers in the pilot episode only after being threatened by [[OurOgresAreHungrier an ogre]] and some [[OurGhoulsAreCreepier ghouls]]. She also only unlocks her [[OurFairiesAreDifferent fairy form]] after almost being finished off by [[BigBad The Trix]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Some people believe that the best way to teach children to swim is to throw them in the water where it's deep. These people are wrong. Awesome way to teach children to thrash in water, develop a phobia, hate water/swimming/you or drown, though.
** Though there are those people who think it worked well enough for themselves.
* Averted in the case of some birds. The mother bird pushes the chick out of the nest, and the bird's die or fly instincts kick in, often resulting in the bird flying. However, the mother bird swoops down to catch the chick if it doesn't manage to take flight in time.
* Deconstructed with many Website/DarwinAward winners, and "breatharians."
[[/folder]]

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