Dr. Sandra Cohen, a Beverly Hills psychoanalyst, writes about your favorite film, TV,
and book characters and their real human problems.

“Now the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of things people don’t understand. Take the Einstein theory. Take taxes. Take love. Do you understand them? Neither do I. But they exist. They happen.” - Dalton Trumbo Dalton Trumbo is right. Things we don’t understand do happen. And, some things we don’t understand invoke intense fear. Jay Roach and John McNamara's timely and historical film, Trumbo, illuminates the terrors set off by the anti-Communist hysteria of the late 40’s and 50’s. Out of these dark days of the Cold War came persecutors and their victims, evidenced in the...

Home is where we start from. This truth, and the title of one of D.W. Winnicott’s books, captures much unspoken about the impact our families have on how we develop. What happens to us in those environments sets the tone for differing separation struggles we see in young people, including Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) the main character in John Crowley and Nick Hornby’s film, Brooklyn. For Eilis, an Irish girl transplanted to Brooklyn in the 1950’s, the severe homesickness that settles in arises out of the emotional residues of a difficult mother. A Difficult Mother Eilis’ only parent is her mother (Jane Brennan)....

October 2015 is Bullying Prevention Month: Defeat The Inner Bully Lifetime TV UnREAL’s Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn King (Constance Zimmer) are the quintessential bullies. They use, torment, humiliate, tear down, and pit their reality show women contestants against each other for a chance at Everlasting love. Love is the key word here. Because it isn’t love that’s being offered. It’s a trick. The women contestants have sold their souls to do everything and anything to be the one that wins over Adam Cromwell (Freddie Stroma), a rich British playboy. They want to believe everlasting love is possible. The bullies (Rachel and...

What Happened, Miss Simone, Liz Garbus’ documentary of the brilliant and troubled Nina Simone’s life, ends by diagnosing Miss Simone with bipolar disorder. Does that explain her outrageous behavior? I don’t think so. Those with bipolar disorder are taken over by extremes of moods. But, in my experience, there’s much more to being bipolar than that. Each person has an individual history and reasons for their extremes. A diagnostic category just doesn’t cut it as a method for understanding anyone. How do you explain it then? What could possibly make Nina Simone destroy her career and treat her fans (and her...

Steve Jobs, the recently released film, beautifully written and conceived by Aaron Sorkin, and directed by the gifted Danny Boyle, is brilliant and unexpected. A MUST SEE. I saw a screening at the Director’s Guild on Saturday, October 10th. It is without question Best Picture worthy. I can’t give enough accolades to the director and actors who made the film come to life on the screen. But, I really have to say that Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is the piece de resistance. In the panel afterwards - with Aaron Sorkin, Danny Boyle, Kate Winslett, Seth Rogan, and Jeff Daniels - each gave...

I’m not shocked by much – but UnREAL’S Episode 3, Mother, disturbed me. Rachel’s mother is clearly trouble. And, she’s a psychiatrist. Bad combination. I was left thinking about how deeply mothers affect their children. How mothers can make or break a child’s confidence and psychological stability. We don’t have to wander very far to discover the origins of Rachel’s capacity to use, manipulate, turn against, and tear down the women on UnREAl’s Everlasting; and, just as tragically, herself. Yet, in spite of what seems obvious, there are complicated psychological reasons for why Rachel (Shiri Appleby) does what she does. I’ll...

Ashley Judd is speaking out. Good, because sexual harassment is damaging. You feel powerless. You end up with a lot of unwarranted shame. You even blame yourself. But, when someone has power over you, of one kind or another, it’s hard to say, “No” - to report it, or to stand up for yourself. You might feel too scared. Maybe you change the reality around in your mind as if it’s not really happening. Or tell yourself it’s not as bad as you think. Perhaps you even feel you have way too much to lose. That’s the problem with sexual harassment...

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary film, He Named Me Malala, on the life of 18-year-old Pakistani Nobel Prize laureate and activist for the education of girls, has opened in theaters to mixed reviews. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will. I’ve been thinking about the part a father plays in whether a daughter loves or hates herself as a woman. Whether she has the courage to speak her mind. Some reviewers ask the rather provocative question: why did Ziauddin Yousafzai name his daughter, Malala? After all, her namesake the Afghan Malalai of Maiwand was killed in war before her wedding day. Malalai...

Listen. It is 1941 in Bergen-Belson concentration camp, a non-extermination camp where many prisoners died nonetheless of starvation. Francine Christophe is 8 years old, bearing a large Star of David (Juif) on her chest, imprisoned there with her mother, the barracks head. A strong and reassuring mother, keeping chocolate for the moment her daughter needed it the most. Listen. As now-83-year-old Francine Christophe - holocaust survivor, writer, and poet - tells you how her mother and she and her piece of chocolate saved an emaciated woman giving birth in the camp. Not only that – how years later, she was given that chocolate back. Hers...

M. Night Shyamalan’s new psychological horror film, The Visit, has twists and turns and unexpected surprises that I wouldn’t think of revealing. Of course, this film has one of Shyamalan’s shock endings – it wouldn’t be a Shyamalan film without it. But for me as a psychoanalyst, there’s something else of more interest. What this film’s characters tell us about the ability or inability to work out the sometimes very scary feelings of loss and guilt. In The Visit, we have a family – a Mom (Kathryn Hahn), a 15-year-old daughter, Becca (Olivia DeJonge), and a 13-year-old son, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould)...