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

Director Lenny Abrahamson and writer Emma Donoghue's film, ROOM, takes us directly into the emotional experience of trauma. As the film opens, we hear a young boy’s voice introducing us to a girl named Ma. Kidnapped, stolen from her life, and kept in ROOM for seven years, Ma lives in a world as incomprehensible as Alice’s in Alice in Wonderland. Those victimized by trauma know its terror. Yet that terror,  not manageable alone, is put far aside someplace else in order not to feel it. What kind of help do those who’ve been severely traumatized need to slowly give words to terror? Terror Terror is a...

The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay, starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt, tells more than the story of the U.S. housing bubble from 2001 to 2005 and the risky advantages taken by mortgage companies, hedge funds, and investment bankers to profit from it. I’m a psychoanalyst not an economist. The housing bubble is one thing. Living in psychological bubbles leads to dangerous behaviors and disastrous consequences, not unlike the 2008 U.S. economic crash. Selina Gomez, at the blackjack table, says it well: “I’m on a winning streak … how could I lose, right?” Believing Things That “Just...

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one” M. Garabedian Secrets are damaging. The film, Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy, tells the story of one very pernicious secret uncovered by an investigative team, named Spotlight, at the Boston Globe. That secret, the wide spread sexual abuse by Catholic priests of many young congregants, managed to evade attention for years even though it was right under people’s noses. Why? The coercions that maintain secrecy, both external and internal, must be taken seriously in order for abuse victims to come forward and get help. The Secret Cardinal Bernard...

As much as I loved Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, I can’t say I felt the same about The Revenant. I know the film won big at the Golden Globes and has received Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Actor. Perhaps that’s because a fantasy lives deep inside us about exacting revenge where we believe revenge is due. Still, spending close to 3 hours watching the agonies of a man who’s brutally mauled by a bear, who can’t catch a break, is left to die by supposed friends, and has to endure one gruesome circumstance after another became almost unbearably tedious. Yet,...

Director Tom Hopper’s beautifully conceived film, The Danish Girl, begins and ends with artist Einar Wegener’s paintings of barren trees. The barrenness in these trees tells volumes about the lonely depletion of a self when the real self is split off and hidden. The story of artist Einar Wegener’s courageous transition from male to female, together with Eddie Redmayne’s tour de force performance as Lili Elbe, offers timely support to counteract the still current and often egregious misunderstanding and mistreatment the transgender population suffers. Yet as a psychoanalyst watching the film, I was rivetingly aware of how Lili’s emergence speaks...

“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...