As a young boy, I adored many characters from comic books and graphic novels. However, I had a difficult time sitting still and concentrating long enough to read for any significant amount of time.
Therefore, I appreciated television and cinematic adaptations of the heroes and villains to whom I connected. And yes, there were some villains who intrigued me. Personally, I think this suggests little of my morality and ethics.
At any rate, one superhero I enjoyed was the Hulk. I was first introduced to him in association with the live-action television series The Incredible Hulk (1977-1982). As I grew older, I enjoyed various Hulk comic book runs (the time the writer and/or artist worked on a series or character).
According to one source:
In his comic book appearances, the character, who has dissociative identity disorder (DID), is primarily represented by the alter ego Hulk, a green-skinned, hulking and muscular humanoid possessing a limitless degree of physical strength, and the alter ego Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, a physically weak, socially withdrawn, and emotionally reserved physicist, both of whom typically resent each other.
I appreciated how similar Hulk’s background was to mine. For instance, I grew up in abusive households and had a father who experienced alcoholism. As a result of my upbringing, I developed what would later be diagnosed as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In regards to Bruce Banner, one source expands:
When Robert Bruce Banner was born in 1969 to Dr. Brian Banner and Rebecca Banner, his father became instantly suspicious of the boy’s genetics. Adamant that the radiation from his incident at the nuclear base had mixed with the ‘Monster Gene’ passed through the Banner bloodline, Brian developed a deep loathing for his baby son, thus causing him to neglect the child – he even made it his mission to try and have Rebecca ignore Bruce, also. Though Bruce was met with deep resentment from his alcoholic father, it was compensated for by the love of his mother, which was returned by the young child. This only served to provoke Brian’s jealousy of Bruce, and his anger at the child intensified accordingly to suit his paranoia’s fantasies. Often left by his father in the care of a neglectful Nurse Meachum, the boy knew little of affection asides that of his mother, but ultimately remained protected by a child’s blissful ignorance.
Unlike Bruce, who experienced compassion from mother, I endured abusive behavior from both my mom and dad. The one adult who was able to compensate for the maltreatment of my childhood came from my stepmother.
Unfortunately, I lived with her from only the end of my fifth grade year to halfway through seventh grade—shortly after which I was placed in a children’s home. There, I plunged into comics and even tried my hand at drawing Hulk, as art was my preferred method of escapism.
Noteworthy, I appreciate what one fan of Hulk stated in reference to the superhero, grammatical errors purposely left intact:
The first “alter” (which is what each identity is called) besides Bruce himself was the Hulk. As we know, the Hulk acts like an angry child. Thats because the Hulk is an angry child. He’s a child alter created to hold Bruces childhood trauma.
Bruces other alters also serve purposes to help him survive. For example, the devil hulk is a protector alter, who formed to actively protect Bruce from his father.
The other reason we know Bruces trauma is to blame for his hulk persona’s is because no other gamma mutates have issues controlling their gamma powers.
Unlike Hulk, I didn’t develop DID. Depending upon which iteration of Hulk one prefers, his psychological symptoms suggest the diagnosis of PTSD. Though I maintain skepticism of DID in general, one source claims, “PTSD is the most common comorbid condition in men and women diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.”
Similar to how one source states, “Hulk would become enraged when confronted by the victimization of others as it reminded him of his own trauma and feelings of powerlessness,” I also devoted many years towards acting out against victimizers and with little understanding of what underlaid my behavior.
Aside from psychological matters, the gamma radiation which alters Hulk’s physiology could be akin to my diagnosis of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which represents the neurological impact of multiple concussive events I sustained when in the Marine Corps.
Bruce’s final scene in The Incredible Hulk shows him meditating, with the “Days Without Incident” counter returning to zero right as Bruce’s eyes turn green and a smile comes to his face. As is later revealed in Bruce’s return in The Avengers, he has finally gained control over his rage with Bruce saying he’s “always angry.”
Concerning this, my identification with Bruce Banner and the Hulk speaks to the crux of this blogpost. Metaphorically speaking, there’s a Hulk inside of me. He’s been there for as long as I can recall.
He’s served his purpose well, perceivably keeping me safe from the danger of childhood trauma. He sharpened his skills, gathered strength, and challenged himself as a means of growth in association with suffering when I hung out with gang members in adolescence.
Although I was nicknamed “2-Nice” by my gang-related friends, a member of another gang set once stated to me something like, “You’re fucking crazier than any of us! I’m gonna call you ‘Suicide-Psycho,’ ‘cause you’re fucking crazy, ese!”
I transferred that same disturbed mindset to the military, selecting the United States Marine Corps (USMC), because I wanted to test my inner Hulk against what was considered the toughest branch of service in the nation. USMC is colloquially referred to as Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children.
Because of my Hulkified opposition to authority and resistance to perceived oppressors, I was booted out of the branch of misguided children. Additionally, I’ve been fired from more jobs than I care to discuss and I’ve been the source of conflict in many relationships of various types, and throughout my life.
Like Bruce’s ‘days without incident’ counter, I once repeatedly reset my tally of moments without issue. Chasing people down in traffic, engaging in physically violent activity, and fueling my rage with righteous indignation; my Hulk was a blight upon society.
At least in the comic books and on film, Hulk was depicted as a superhero. I, on the other hand, was something akin to a public menace. Whereas others may be averse to such experience, I thrived in rage, hostility, aggression, and violence.
At this point, one may wonder why I’m discussing this matter. “Deric, why are you talking about being akin to a monster?” you may ask.
I suppose my answer to this is in the context of what Jordan Peterson once stated, “You should be a monster, an absolute monster, and then you should learn how to control it.” Rather than stating what I think should, must, or ought to be the case, I’ll instead comment simply on what is the case.
I have a monster inside of me. Of this, I’m not ashamed. Now, contrast Peterson’s aforementioned quote with something else he once stated, “A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.”
You see, from my perspective—largely aligned with the referenced Peterson quotes, the person who was born without the struggle of pain, trauma, hardship, and immense suffering is not virtuous for not having committed acts of violence. It seems like pacifism would be the default function of such an individual.
To me, one who’s worthy of admiration in this context is the person who is born with, or perhaps created through environmental influence, the capacity for enacting violence and aggression though who chooses peace over extreme force. It’s the individual who overcomes one’s own struggle that I think is worthy of acclaim.
This is why I appreciate Hulk’s character and Peterson’s quotes. I identify with the monster motif.
Often, people express surprise when learning that I’m a psychotherapist who has mental illness and whose knowledge of the mental health field isn’t solely derived from education and training experience. I can understand their amazement, because I’ve met plenty of plastic therapists within the field.
Many of these clinicians wear the garb of faux empathy while touting the attainment of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding about those of us with Hulks dwelling within or being. That sort of hubris is something in which I’m entirely uninterested.
This is one reason that early in my counseling education I chose a psychotherapeutic modality that could help me get better, not merely feel better. I ultimately sought training in and received licensure for the practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
In tandem with Peterson’s perspective, I admit to myself what is true—I have control of only myself. Even in this regard, I don’t have full control (i.e., I can’t consciously control my autonomic nervous system).
In fact, the effects of PTSD and TBI further challenge my ability to exercise adequate control in some situations. Limitations aside, REBT allows me to accept personal responsibility and accountability for the way I react to various situations. Of course, I do this imperfectly.
Just as Bruce Banner practiced techniques to control angry outbursts, REBT is a method of exercising control over irrational beliefs which lead to unpleasant consequences. Essentially, I’ve learned how not to upset myself with foolish assumptions.
In addition to learning how disputation of these beliefs can help me get better, REBT uses the practice of unconditional acceptance so that I may tolerate and accept matters over which I have no control and little influence. This is how one may choose peace over violence.
Almost completely gone are the days, during which I afflicted society with the product of my self-disturbing beliefs, Hulking out and causing chaos, because I now know how to manage the symptoms of my conditions and challenge unhealthy beliefs. Alas, I’m a work in progress.
For those who also struggle with tempering their tempers using healthier assumptions, I’m a psychotherapist who hasn’t gained knowledge about such experiences solely from books, universities, or seminars. If you’d like to know more about how to keep your Hulk at bay, I may be able to help.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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