Hitagi Senjougahara: Trauma, Trust Issues, and Defense Mechanisms (Truth in Fiction)

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, molestation, and child abuse mentioned.  If you’re bothered by these things, please please please, for the sake of your mental health, do not read on.  Thank you.

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A traumatic incident can screw up one’s mind.  It creates defense mechanisms, anxiety, and trust issues.  Hitagi Senjougahara, main heroine of the anime and light novel series “Monogatari”,  experienced such things.  To repay a debt owed to a cult, Hitagai’s mother  set her up to be molested and rape by a high ranking cultist. Hitagi resisted, hitting the cultist with a spiked shoe.  Afterwards, her dad filed for divorce, and Hitagi haven’t  spoke to her mom since.

Overtime, Hitagi grew distance, hostile, and untrusting of others.

‘And now you’re kinda cold to the people you met
Cause of something that was done to you by some creep.’
Whodini: Friends (1984 hip-hop single).

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Throughout the “Hitagi Crab” arc ,  we learn of the condition and causality of Hitagi’s literal weightlessness, as well as her hostile nature.  After Araragi (series’s main hero) saves her from an otherwise fatal fall, he discovers that she’s weightless. In fear that he might run his mouth about her state, Hitagi attacks him. She shoves a mini stapler inside his mouth, stapling his check.

After removing the lodged staple from his check, Araragi reveals his healing factor.  Hitagi was shock that there was somebody like her (in terms of weirdness).  Araragi offers to help her regain her weight, taken by a god crab spirit.

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As Araragi and Hitagi bike to Oshino’s (friend of and occult advisor to Araragi) residence, the two engaged in an interesting conversation.  Hitagi refers herself as a tsundere (otaku slang for a character who’s hostile and cold initially, but grows softer and warm towards close ones overtime).  This fits her well. Hitagi is cold, distanced, and hostile due to her mental trauma and physical condition. With Araragi’s reveling  his powers, understanding her situation, and knowing someone who could help her, Hitagi gradually warms up.

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Right!

There are two points I want to explore here:

Prior to meeting Oshino, Araragi asks Hitagi if he could hold on to her school supplies (which double as her weaponry). She responds “You set me up, right?”, pauses, and surrender her goods.  At the second point, upom meeting Oshino, Hitagi asks if he could save her.  Oshino responds with that only she could save herself. Hitagi snaps on him, stating that  five people prior told her the same thing, only to try to scam her.  She then asks Oshino if he was a scammer himself, which he only laughs off her (somewhat baseless) fears.

This made me wonder: are her worries defense mechanisms?  If so, you can’t blame her. Victims of traumatic experiences tend to be more defensive and aggressive towards others.   Traumatic experiences can changed one’s point of view, as Oshino pointed out to Hitagi about hers.

‘If I trust a person so easily, I don’t know how many times I would’ve been tricked.”
-Hitagi Senjouhara

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Fasting forward to episode 2’s ritual scene, Oshino asks Hitagi a series of questions.  The first few are basic: school life, date of birth, and favorite author. All to each she answered unhesitating.  When asked about her most painful memory of her life however, Hitagi freezes up, taking a sharp breath.  Regaining herself, Hitagi painfully recalls the attempted sexual assault.   She brings up that  her mother was punished because she fought back against the cultist.

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Her parents divorced soon after.   Hitagi felt guilt for her resistance, blaming herself  for breaking the family apart (of course, it wasn’t her fault). She felt anger towards  her mom;  she did not save her. Oshino tells her that these were her feelings, feelings that she can’t transfer to others.

Feelings that she must carry the burden on her shoulders.

In their conversation, Oshino uses the word “omoi”, which can either mean “Feelings” or Weight” (depending on the kanji).  What I like about the word usage is the  symbolism of the meaning. The feelings caused by horrific, traumatic experiences are a heavy weight to carry.   You go through life blaming yourself when you should not, closing yourself off from others and being on edge; unsure if people will hurt you physically, or emotionally.

A weight that you can never get rid of;  just only overcome  it with proper help and support.

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At the end of the ritual, Hitagi  confronts  the crab god whom stripped her weight.  Hitagi freaks out.  Her breathing is heavy, eyes widen.  Her body is frozen in fear , muscles tensed.  Hitagi asks if anyone else can see the crab, which the others reply with that they cannot.

Hitagi shuts down right as the crab attacks.  Oshino rescues Hitagi and destroy the spirit.  He explains the crab is the result of her  mental state.  Finally, after thanking him, she breaks down and starts to cry uncontrollably.

Hitagi’s freezing, fears, tense body language, breathing heavily, avoidance of the crab, and crying made me think:  was she having a PTSD flashback of the attempted rape? Yeah I mean, the crab is a supernatural force for storytellin, but her response to not confront it, in addition to her being asked about her most painful life experience, can be debated in favor of this theory.

When triggered, victims of traumatic events experienced symptoms such as heavy breathing, feelings of tightness, emotional break downs, and avoidance of anything that reminds them of the incident to name a few examples.

After Hitagi regain her composure, Oshino tells her that despite how much she longs for her family to return, and her desires to remove the pain, those things will never happen.  She must learn how to overcome it and grow stronger.  At the end, she gained a new friend (and eventually boyfriend) in Araragi and  gain her “weight” back as well.

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Ohhh…tired of the strain and the pain’
‘There’s so much pain…’
-2pac: Pain  (1994 rap single)

Special thanks and shout out to my homeboy Mr. Y giving me advice and tips and checking if my info on mental health was correct.  Check out his blog here:

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/61835112

Further reading:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder
https://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-defense-mechanisms/
http://traumaabusetreatment.com/trust-issues-after-trauma
http://childhoodtraumarecovery.com/2013/06/20/childhood-trauma-defence-mechanisms-resulting-from-stress/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201107/effects-trauma-estrangement-family

Screenshots Source:
http://blog.seiha.org/index.php?s=bakemonogatari

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