(Yes, today’s blog is brought to you care of a bumper sticker. A funny bumper sticker, but still a bumpersticker.)
[Also, The Therapy is Dandy Guidebook to having a Narcissist for a Parent (or TIDGNP for short) will be back. Of course. Consider this an example of a survival skill: I needed to take a break from thinking about all those narcissists in our lives. I am also compiling a reading list on the topic and reading several interesting and mostly helpful books on the subject. Lastly, this topic you can sort of relate to narcissists, but is in itself a more general sort of topic.]
After years of work, either alone or in tandem with a professional counselor, you decide to confront someone in your past. What they did, however long ago, left its mark on you, hurt you, continues to hurt you, and so you make the agonizing decision to share your experience and your hurt in order to let it go. Because that’s what we are taught to do. It’s what you can hear from Oprah and Dr. Phil, his Holiness the Dalai Lama, and endless psychology blogs on the interwebs…
But when you tell your side of events, unburden your soul and your pain, you get a response you were not expecting.
“I don’t remember that at all.”
What? How can they not remember what they did? They were awful. Savage. Inconsiderate, selfish and self absorbed! What the hell?
“No, really. I don’t remember. Are you sure that was me?”
Your vital and important psychological recovery has just been waylaid by the Incredible Hulk bad memory excuse.
Some necessary background first: In the comics, the creature known as the Hulk and Dr. Bruce Banner have quite a love/hate relationship. Over the course of 40 years, the details always are changing, but basically when one of the two different aspects of the character took control, the other lost consciousness, or, perhaps worse, stayed conscious but was unable to affect any control. That perhaps overly complicated explanation should provide you with all you need to know on why the Hulk is the most interesting Marvel comics characters from a psychological perspective. He’s basically an American atomic age version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with elements of Dissociative Identity Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Paranoid Schizophrenia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Dissociate Fugue, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Amnesia, not to mention poor impulse and anger control issues.
The Hulk has issues. And for the record, I think no writer better explored the possibilities and traumas of a shattered psyche better than Peter David. Everything else is just second rate or dumb, regurgitated “Hulk Smash” pablum.
So what all of this necessary but perhaps confusing and/or boring (given your interests) backstory is supposed to set up, is that the Hulk really didn’t mean to knock down that tall skyscraper, or break that bridge, or hurt your feelings, because he was literally another person when that bad event happened.
People move on. People forget really important things. We have a host of fantastic defense mechanisms, some of which no doubt you have heard of: repression, denial, narcissism, being a really gigantic asshole, etc.
And it’s not just teenage brains that can do this. Take any adult who has lived long enough, experienced at least one or two traumatic emotional experiences, or done even a fair amount of drugs (alcohol is a drug too) and you will find buckets of people to which the “Not Hulk Fault” answer is valid.
Why am I telling you this?
Because you need to know. The gigantic wall inside your own psyche, be it colored green, red or blue, the secret, or the event that is so damning, so shaming, so gut wrenchingly bad, may not even register outside of your own experience of it.
Not that that you should then think it less valid. Oh dear god, no. Never that.
And this could happen even when you want to share a positive memory. A good memory. 20 year high school reunions, I am looking at you here.
So don’t let it surprise you. And don’t let it get the best of you either. You mean too much to yourself to let that happen.