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  • Writer's pictureQuique Autrey

Holding The Opposites: She-Hulk and Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Hulk and She-Hulk clasp their hands
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law – Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2022

**Warning – Spoilers ahead for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law**

While I don't typically watch Marvel shows, two of my sons asked me to watch the first few episodes of the new series, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Jennifer Walters is an attorney with a superhero cousin, Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk. In a mysterious car accident, the Hulk's blood seeps into Walter's system, thus transforming her into the She-Hulk.

After the transformation, Banner brings Walters to his house in Mexico. Jennifer needs time to understand what has happened to her. More importantly, she needs to learn how to control her negative emotions and harness her newly discovered power.

Part of her training includes Yoga and mindfulness meditation. In addition to these techniques, Banner introduces Walters to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

A DBT chart
Carla Barrow, LMFT/ Bayview Therapy

DBT is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a talk therapy that helps individuals understand the connection between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. DBT is a form of talk therapy designed for people who experience intense emotions. Thus why the show emphasizes DBT as an effective strategy for the She-Hulk.

As Carla Barrow, LMFT points out, DBT is a mix of behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology and mindfulness practices. DBT was founded by Dr. Marsha Lineman. DBT seeks to find a middle way between the opposites within us. In DBT, the word dialectical means combing opposite ideas. Banner introduces DBT to Walters as a therapeutic modality that

allows us to hold two opposing truths at the same time.

Wise Mind

Venn Diagram

Therapists in the DBT tradition talk about this holding of the opposites as Wise Mind. Before explaining the meaning of wise mind, it's important to explain what DBT refers to as emotion mind and rational mind.

Emotion Mind

According to DBT, emotion mind is when our thoughts are being controlled by our emotions. People in a state of emotion mind are not thinking rationally and seem to behave in a way that is governed by feeling. We could say that Bruce Banner was in emotion mind when he was taken over by the Hulk and did not have control over his anger and rage. Common examples of emotion mind include:

  • Escalating a simple disagreement in a fight

  • Road rage

  • Blindly following impulse and hedonistic desire

  • Buying something you can't really afford

  • Letting anxiety dictate your social interactions

Rational Mind

Rational mind is an emphasis on logic, rationality and reasonableness. Rational mind focuses on empiricism and analysis. Problems are solved with reason, rather than emotion. This mindset is helpful in some situations but misses important parts of reality. Spending time with a lover and not engaging the realm of emotion won't result in intimacy or connection. There are important parts of life, including art, religion and music (to name a few), that cannot be appreciated solely by the rational mind.

Wise Mind

DBT seeks a synthesis of the emotion mind and the rational mind. It's the space between in the Venn diagram above. To quote the Hulk, the wise mind "allows us to hold two opposing truths at the same time". Psychiatrist C.G. Jung once said, "without an experience of the opposites, there is no experience of wholeness." I think this wise mind is so important when it comes to facing reality and difficult, strong emotions. Without it we fall into unhealthy extremes. All emotion or all reason. Neither one of which honors the entire picture. With wise mind we find balance, meaning and a sense of well-being.

Practicing Wise Mind

Venn diagram
Psychology Compass/

As a therapist, I often encourage my clients to engage in an exercise to help cultivate the wise mind. To begin with, I encourage them to consider whether they naturally gravitate toward the rational mind or the emotion mind. Most people tend to emphasize one or the other. After thinking about which mindset is their dominant style, I ask them to reflect on what a small step in the other direction would look like.

If someone leans toward the rational mind, it might be beneficial to consider how emotion could enhance their decision making. I work with some clients who challenge themselves to consider how their words will impact the emotional world of their partner or co-worker. Thinking about the emotional side of things helps with the quality of their interpersonal relationships.

If someone leans toward the emotion mind, encouraging rational and analytical reflection is beneficial. Planning what they are going to say in a difficult conversation or analyzing the consequence of decisions are small ways they can bring in the rational mind.

The goal is to develop a mindset that's big enough to include everything that happens to us. The good, the bad, and the ugly. A wise mind holds space for the gray areas in life.

She-Hulk represents an interesting take on the wise mind. She is not fully human (rational mind) or a Hulk (emotional mind). She is a synthesis of the two. She is an embodiment of the wise mind. I wonder how this will play out in the rest of the series?


Teen Therapy Can Help

Teen Therapy can help your teen son open up. One of the ways to help them identify their emotions is by signing them up for teen therapy. A teen therapist is someone your son can trust and develop a relationship with.

A teen therapist can also work with a teen boy to help them develop goals and healthy coping strategies. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective ways to work with teenagers. CBT is a short-term, problem focused approach. CBT is effective at treating a variety of problems.

Start Your Teen Therapy Journey with Quique Autrey: Katy, Tx & Houston

You and your teenage son do not have to do this alone. If you don't know what to do next, please contact me and set up your first appointment. I am here to help. I can work with your family to help bring healing and hope. I'm just off of I-10 and 99. I am centrally located for those living in Katy and Houston. To start your teen therapy journey, follow these simple steps: 1. Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling. 2. Schedule your first appointment with Quique Autrey. 3. Begin your teen therapy journey and start healing. Your teenage is not defined by his struggles. I want him to realize his true worth and potential. I want your son to embrace a bright future. Imagine what life will look like for your son free of his struggles.​ The mission at Katy Teen & Family Counseling is to restore hope, happiness, and connected family relationships. I look forward to starting this process of hope and healing with you!

White man in navy waist coat and jeans sits with his legs crossed

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