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

That self-loathing voice can’t be allowed to take center stage. It makes you believe other people are thinking terrible thoughts about you too. You keep your distance. It’s a lonely place to be. David Foster Wallace's short story, The Depressed Person, shows he knew that struggle well. So does director James Ponsoldt's film about David Lipsky's road trip with him - The End Of The Tour. I left the theater incredibly sad, after witnessing David Foster Wallace’s (Jason Segel) steady stream of self-denigrating apologies. I know from my work as a psychoanalyst it doesn’t have to be that way. Self-loathing is what...

Depression is outwardly a quiet torment. Inside it’s an almost constant implosion of self-deprecating self-doubt. That’s what we witness in director James Ponsoldt’s The End Of The Tour – wrapped around David Foster Wallace like his famous bandana. Woven all-too-frequently into the substance of his conversation with David Lipsky: the ravages of a cruelly oppressive internal voice. I left the theater feeling: “devastating. That’s the only word for it.” It is devastating. I can’t tell you how often I sit in my office helping people struggle against very similar self-loathing voices. These voices can ruin a life. Cast out hope. Create absolute...

Asif Kapadia's deeply truthful,Amy, makes clear to me, as a psychoanalyst, that although Amy Winehouse predicted fame would “drive her mad,” it was more her psychological troubles that set her on a fatal downward course. The lyrics to What Is It About Men - “my Freudian fate. History repeats itself. It fails to die,” touch the surface of those troubles. Yet, it’s not so simply that she “emulated all the shit her mother hated” or her animal aggression or taking someone else’s guy. Her real Freudian fate was hidden in her bulimic struggle. It’s what eclipsed the real Amy –...

Amy Winehouse tragically became the brunt of cruel jokes by comics the likes of Jay Leno. Every symptom of her psychological suffering was up for grabs: her bulimia, her drug addiction, and her state of mind: “She’s like a mad person.” Amy, the sensitive, sad, and revealing documentary by Asif Kapadia, sets those who brutally misunderstood her straight. There’s nothing funny about psychological troubles. In real footage of Amy from her childhood to the end, Kapadia gives us an emotionally raw window into the real Amy Winehouse. Her family and ex-boyfriend may criticize him for getting some things wrong. We’ll...

Woody Allen's new film, The Irrational Man, gives us a troubled philosophy professor, Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix), in an existential crisis. Although Abe is an expert in Existentialism, he can’t live its system of belief. He’d have to find meaning in his life and live it to its fullest, in spite of its limits (or his past). Abe can’t. He lives in despair, and this despair leads him to an irrational act. Yet, the clues to why he does what he does are lost in an imbalanced amount of philosophizing. The character of Abe Lucas could have used a script...

Albert Camus, best known for his masterpiece novel The Stranger, wrote an entire book (believe it or not) on The Myth Of Sisyphus. Camus’ point is that Sisyphus is happy because he’s accepted his life. This is exactly what Woody Allen's existential philosophy professor in The Irrational Man can’t find a way to do. He lives in despair until he commits an irrational act. Is his act an existential one? I don’t think so. Camus’ Sisyphus is the true existential man. Woody Allen’s Abe Lucas is not. For those of you who don’t know the myth, Sisyphus is a man condemned...

How is a little girl destined to live her life when her father gives her this reason for leaving her Mom: “Monogamy isn’t realistic … What if that’s the only doll you’ll ever get to play with your whole life? You wouldn’t want just one doll, would you? That’s why Mom and I are getting divorced.” With a father like that, a father you love with all your heart as Amy does – how can a girl trust love? Amy Schumer’s pulled off a delightful rom-com with a lot of meaty psychological truth for a psychoanalyst like me to comment on....

Date rape is a confusing thing. You know the guy. You went out with him. You consented to kissing him. Maybe even more. But, when it came right down to it, you said “No “and he didn’t listen. Is it your fault for having gone that far? It’s not. No is No. There’s no reason to feel guilty or take on the blame. That can interfere with your life. Look at Loretta Young. Look at her daughter, Judy, who wrote in her memoir (Uncommon Knowledge): “My life has been filled with hypocrisy and deception from the moment I was born.” Loretta...

The women of Litchfield were robbed of their power long before they got there. Piper, with her courtyard pulpit plea for self-respect in Season 3 of OITNB, is the new inspirational speaker on women’s empowerment. Granted, she’s got a lot to gain monetarily from convincing her fellow inmates to go along with her stinky panty plot. Yet, Piper’s (Taylor Schilling) pretty high on the idea of putting one over on the patriarchy and everyone else who has ever made her feel less than good about herself. So, she has quite a lot to say about standing up against self-hate. Self-respect is power -...

Amy Schumer just might be the most vocal supporter and spokeswoman for twenty and thirty-something women’s all-too-common struggles with self-esteem, body image, sexuality, and doubts about their lovability. Thankfully, Amy likes "tackling the stuff nobody else talks about, like the darkest, most serious thing about yourself.” Someone’s got to do it. It’s what I do, as a psychotherapist, if women make it into my office. Many don’t seek therapy, though, and these self-doubts and insecurities can seriously get in the way of satisfying relationships. Not to mention – happiness. Bravo to Amy for standing up for a woman’s right to...