In this Dr. Phil Episode, an adult daughter says she was kicked out by her mom at 15, and the show sits down mother and daughter to talk about what happened.
From the start, mother and daughter disagree on key details, and at one point the mother describes her daughter’s testimony as “false statements.” But you can tell from the daughter’s tears that this was her actual experience – it appears from the mother’s confidence that she did not see it at all that way. So…who’s “right”?
Well, Dr. Phil makes it pretty clear that the mother is continually casting herself as the victim. He says “Pretty soon you’ve got to understand, you’re the jerk!” And then the audience claps.
Watching this, I’m impressed by…how clear-cut this is (just see the therapist’s letter). But also, the distortion of reality on the mother’s side appears so pervasive and so complete…how is it that we haven’t discussed the distortions of memory among abusers? Does this correlate to distortions of perception among social groups, such as we see with racism and sexism?
I think this may be worth juxtaposing with Goldhagen’s discussion in Hitler’s Willing Executioners. LaCapra critiques Goldhagen for using the rhetorics of personal narrative without actually having that kind of connection with Hitler’s executioners – we don’t actually know the degree to which the perpetrators of the Holocaust may have genuinely thought that they were somehow “saving” Germany. To read Hitler’s address of September 1, 1939, we see how he has cast the negotiations of Austria and Czechoslovakia as “failures” to “peacefully resolve” the situation in Europe, even though everyone else had capitulated to pretty much everything he demanded. My guess is that any proposals for “peace” he made came with so many strings attached that the “peace” itself (i.e. disarmament by the Western Allies) could not be accepted. Just the same, it’s disappointing that so many nations were willing to sacrifice the independence of Austria and other lands in order to appease a man who could never be appeased.