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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Treatment Tuesday - Bruce Banner/Hulk

An old friend of mine, Glory, wrote in with several comic book characters that she believes need to form a support group. Since my queue for character assessments is empty, I'm going to start diagnosing these superheroes. Bruce Banner is up first.

Bruce is a smart guy. Like, PhD in nuclear physics smart. He was the mind behind Bannertech technology, which is on par with Tony Stark's (Ironman) stuff, and includes a force field and teleporter. Bruce had a teeny, tiny accident with a gamma bomb he himself invented, which transforms him into the Hulk when he gets angry.

Bruce came from a very difficult and tragic background. His father, Brian, thought Bruce was a mutant son due to Brian's radiation work at Los Alamos. His mother, Rebecca, really loved Bruce, which caused Brian to be jealous and hate his son all the more. Brian began to abuse both Rebecca and Bruce, and when Rebecca tried to flee with Bruce, Brian killed her in her attempt. Eventually Bruce testified against his father, which led to his father's institutionalization for many years.

During this time, Bruce created an imaginary friend called "Hulk." He used this coping technique well into his high school years. Brian was eventually released and moved in with Bruce, but his insanity and deep-seated hostility against his son caused him to attack Bruce at Rebecca's gravesite. Bruce killed him, but repressed those memories, choosing to remember a confrontation at the gravesite, but that his father walked away.

Bruce has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Since my research led me to understand that his imaginary friend was called the Hulk, this made me think that his DID was latent (not showing up on the radar) until he got shot with that gamma bomb, which was the traumatic event that triggered his alter identities to begin to taking over.

I discovered five bona fide personalities, three of which were described well on this website: Savage Hulk (a.k.a. Green Hulk), "Joe Fixit" (a.k.a. Gray Hulk), and the Professor (a.k.a. Merged Hulk). This website here discusses the Guilt Hulk and the Devil Hulk, among several others. According to the comics, however, Bruce has hundreds of personalities locked away in his mind.

Due to Brian Banner's abuse, the Savage Hulk split from Bruce's early childhood experience. He's the most well-known of the Hulks, typically referring to himself in the third person. He possesses the IQ and temperament of a child, and just wants to be left alone following one of his "temper tantrums." He represents Bruce's childhood wish to be strong enough to protect his mother.

Joe Fixit split from Bruce during late adolescence/college. He was cunning, crafty, hedonistic, arrogant, and hard-to-reach. He did though, have a conscience he often tried to hide. He represents the typical teenager Bruce never allowed himself to be, a personality repressed by Bruce due to his childhood abuse at the hands of his father. He mostly appears at night, and it could be because Bruce was ashamed of this side of himself.

Bruce receives psychiatric help from Doctor Leonard Samson. Samson tries to reintegrate the Green Hulk an Grey Hulk, but instead creates a third split: the Merged Hulk/Professor, who possesses Banner's intelligence, the Gray Hulk's cunning, and the Savage Hulk's strength.

So, Bruce as the scientist leads a very emotionally detached life, almost Schizoid Personality Disorder in description. It's little wonder, because when his emotions get the better of him, whether it's anger, fear, or grief, he morphs from Dr. Jekyll into a Mr. Hyde-like green monster/humanoid. (Indeed, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein were the creator's influences.) He holds people at a distance and shuns emotional intimacy. According to Arie Kaplan's book Masters of the Comic Book Universe Revealed!, "Bruce Banner lives in a constant state of panic, always wary that the monster inside him will erupt, and therefore he can’t form meaningful bonds with anyone." He feels that if he shows emotion, people get hurt.

Bruce also struggles with a diagnosable form of Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Let's face it. He might have a moral compass when transformed into the Hulk, but he doesn't exactly walk around on tiptoe when he's mad. He's like a bull in a china shop...carnage and destruction follow him everywhere due to his aggression. His overreaction is a hallmark symptom of this disorder.

Thanks for bringing this character to my attention, Glory. What a messed-up childhood he had! I had no idea.

Q4U: Did any one else not realize how dark Bruce Banner's past was?

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Sierra Gardner said...

Great post Jeannie! I never thought to analyze comic book characters, but I have a feeling that I'm going to see a theme develop =)

Shannon said...

This is very cool. Its amazing how much thought the developers of comic books sometimes put into their characters.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

there is totally a theme, sierra. and shannon--for sure. i think that's what surprised me the most. i mean, bruce's psyche is really well thought out. i just thought some guy went to a blank sheet of paper and drew the hulk and was like, "hmm. he'd make a nice comic book character...." how little i knew....

Glory Fink said...

Old friends, Jeannie? I consider us childhood friends since I know I'm far too young to be old anything. ;)

On to Bruce Banner... I wasn't familiar with exactly how abusive and traumatic his childhood was. It sounds like the young Banner family had a large void where a support system of family and friends would normally have been found. I wonder if that lack of a support system was a contributing factor in the development of young Bruce's destructive coping skills.

Michelle said...

Very interesting! I was not aware of Banner's traumatic past.

You know, I think it would be interesting to analyze the main characters in an ensemble cast, like NCIS' Gibbs, Tony, Ziva, Tim and Abby. It would be interesting to see an analysis of their personalities and how that affects their interactions with one another.

Anonymous said...

The marvel universe is known for having its heroes and villains both havin emotional and psycological problems, this spreads to many comics. Hulk is a perfect view an the sentry an moonknight are gteat as well. DC comics batman an the loss of his parents. Superman an his tragic events. Wonder women an her issues with men an others. The flash has a villain who focused on tormenting flash toake him a better hero (zoom/reverse flash) he used a point blank sonic boom on his pregnant wife causing a misscaraige of twins, later taking him back in time ti relive it over and over. Hulk is perfect for observation because his past always has a habit of reserfacing repeatedly.

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