Sep 28

The Need to Vote: Pop Culture Wins This One

VPC [Voter Participation Center] coined the term Rising American Electorate to describe the powerful and growing voting group that includes unmarried women, people of color and millennials. The RAE now makes up the majority of eligible voters in America (56.7%). But RAE members do not vote in proportion to their share of the voting eligible population, and one of the key reasons is their registration rates. Page Gardner, Huffington Post, 9/27/16

The need to vote has never been so essential.

In advance of the first presidential candidate debate several major newspapers finally fact-checked Donald Trump and determined what many of us have known: He lies. A lot. Like, every three minutes and 15 seconds (Politico).

Then Hillary Clinton and Trump faced off, and we found out how you actually win such a debate. You do it by not “acting” presidential but by showing how you are in fact presidential.

Clinton, toward the end of the debate: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.”

How can the preferable presidential candidate win not just debates but also the election? I’ve certainly never denied being a fan of pop culture, and in these stressful political times I love when it challenges us to do the right thing: Register to vote. Then Vote.

A group of famous celebrities, plus a few less than famous ones, plus some very important non-celebs recently got together to emphasize the need to vote—and if you do, good things are bound to happen. (Not everyone will agree on how good and for whom.)

If you watched the above clip, you know that Mark Ruffalo may or may not do a nude scene in his next movie if you vote. Katy Perry, on the other hand, has a different kind of nude scene in mind when she pushes for the need to vote. She suggests that you get up on voting day and “come as you are” to your polling place. In other words, who cares how you dress for it? You could be in your robe, or whatever, or like her, in her pj’s—then out of her pj’s. (Regarding the latter option, we learn, you should reconsider.)

And, interestingly enough, Katy Perry makes another “appearance” in this brand new reunion of the stars of one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, Will and Grace (1998-2006). Relax and enjoy this nearly 10-minute gag-packed scene in which not everyone agrees on who’s the best presidential choice.

Sep 26

“Indignation”: College Guy Meets Troubled Gal

James Schamus‘s new Indignation is a film adaptation of author Philip Roth’s 2008 novel. And David Edelstein‘s review title, “Indignation Is the Best Philip Roth Film Adaptation By a Mile,” is a sentiment echoed in various ways by other critics as well.

The plot summary on Rotten Tomatoes:

Indignation takes place in 1951, as Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a brilliant working class Jewish boy from Newark, New Jersey, travels on scholarship to a small, conservative college in Ohio, thus exempting him from being drafted into the Korean War. But once there, Marcus’s growing infatuation with his beautiful classmate Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon), and his clashes with the college’s imposing Dean, Hawes Caudwell (Tracy Letts), put his and his family’s best laid plans to the ultimate test.

Some family background, per David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter:

Back in Newark, funerals for local boys are fueling the spiraling anxieties of Marcus’ father, Max (Danny Burstein). ‘The tiniest mistake can have consequences,’ he says, fearing that his straight-A student son will be led astray in pool halls and gambling dens. Max’s paranoia is scaring his levelheaded wife Esther (Linda Emond) and pushing Marcus away.

Sexually inexperienced, Marcus is at first conflicted about his attraction to the more open and emotionally fragile Olivia. Stephen Holden, New York Times:

After a separation, they warily reconnect, and Olivia, who has scars on her wrist, confesses to Marcus that she had a breakdown and attempted suicide. In Ms. Gadon’s sensitive performance, you can feel the vulnerability just beneath the surface of her apparent poise. Marcus isn’t worldly enough to understand fully the implications of her instability. But when Esther visits and meets Olivia, she immediately notices and pleads with her son to discontinue the relationship.

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Very much a character-driven film, ‘Indignation’ focuses on its young protagonists as they movingly attempt to determine who they are both as individuals and as a possible couple.”

The movie’s 15-minute “grueling centerpiece,” according to Edelstein (Vulture) (and others), is the one “in which Marcus is summoned to meet Dean Caudwell [Tracy Letts] and finds himself literally — and, folks, I’m not misusing that word — fighting to hold his insides together…Caudwell is the embodiment of right-wing, Christian authority and its penchant for hypocrisy (the charge against Marcus is a refusal to compromise), and Marcus’s attempts to assert religious and philosophical independence only tighten his own noose. Caudwell leaves Marcus in ruins while barely raising his voice.”

You can see the trailer below:

Selected Reviews

Stephen Holden, New York Times: “’Indignation’ might be dismissed as a small, exquisite period piece, but it is so precisely rendered that it gets deeply under your skin. There are a lot of words, and every one counts. You feel the social pressures bearing down on characters who, in accordance with the reticence of the times, tend to withhold their emotions and suffer in silence.”

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “…(T)he story and treatment keep inviting us to circle back to it and wonder what the characters might have done here or should have done there. Like the best wines and the best films, there’s a complexity to the finish, so that it reverberates with meanings beyond the obvious. ‘Indignation’ has the disconcerting quality of truth and is an altogether adult piece of work.”

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “The beauty of ‘Indignation’ can be found in how it builds, growing from a garden-variety coming-of-age story into a poetic, even prayerful, meditation on the pitiless vagaries of character and regret. Thoughtful and reserved, perhaps even to a fault, ‘Indignation’ winds up packing a wallop far greater than its modest parts might suggest.”

Sep 23

What Therapy Is Like “From Both Sides”

Reading these fascinating, no-holds-barred essays, it’s sometimes hard to tell who is “crazier” – the patients or the therapists! Author Lee Woodruff, reviewing How Does That Make You Feel? True Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch, essays about what therapy is like

Therapist Sherry Amatenstein, who’s edited a new collection of 34 subjective essays representing “both sides of the therapy couch,” reportedly actually wanted readers to realize that therapists are neurotic too.

While some of the presented writers have been “shrunk,” some have been the “shrinks”—and some, similar to the lead character in my novel Minding Therapy, have been both. All the contributors, many of whom have written professionally, are listed on the book’s website. (Scroll down to find them.)

Just a sampling of titles by those describing what therapy is like from the client’s perspective:

  • Beth Sloan: “I Really, Really Hate You”
  • Jenine Holmes: “Therapy Is For White People”
  • Charlie Rubin: “Why I Didn’t Enter Therapy Sooner”
  • Janice Eidus: “The Therapist of My Dreams”
  • Pamela Rafalow Grossman: “With Some Gratitude to My Asshole Former Therapist”

Some brief details about other pieces in this category follow.

Susan Shapiro, author of the 2009 comic novel Speed Shrinking, is “a self-described ‘shrinkaholic’ and ‘therapy-lifer,’ who describes lining up a UN of advisers—an Indian psychopharmacologist, a Middle Eastern hypnotherapist, a Jewish Jungian astrologer—to meet with shrink-seekers for three minutes to exchange numbers à la speed dating” (per Dorri Olds, Tablet).

On the other hand, Beverly Donofrio relates what she’s learned from her experiences with 10 “serial therapists” over the course of decades.

Anna March‘s “Lies I Told My Therapist” confesses to six years worth of big falsehoods—because she couldn’t trust that her therapist would really care about her actual life.

Estelle Erasmus was placed in therapy at the age of 16 by parents who could never have suspected the potential damage. Nancy Szokan, Washington Post: The unethical “…Ron ‘(name kept the same to protect no one)’ told her he was going to help her ‘become a woman’ by getting in touch with her sexuality — and she’s explicit about things he said and asked her to do. But then she relates how he led her to insights that rescued her troubled relationship with her family.”

At least a couple pieces deal with therapy termination: Allison McCarthy‘s “How About a Hug?” and clinical social worker Martha Crawford‘s “Back Into the Wild.”

Therapists’ essays also include one by the book’s editor. Some of the others:

  • Juli Fraga: “When the Therapist Cries”—About dealing with therapist-patient boundaries.
  • Molly Peacock: “Not Even a Smidgen”—On her belief that long-term therapy need not be considered pathological. “…(I)f you work with people who are creatively re-inventing themselves, then the therapy is inventive. You don’t have to give it up like smoking or alcohol! Instead it increases the likelihood that things will work out. I have the absolute conviction that it’s a creative process, that it isn’t pathological, not even a smidgen” (from Partisan).
  • Dennis Palumbo: “A Long, Strange Trip”—“…(A) mystery novelist and Hollywood screenwriter,” says Szokan, [Palumbo] “describes how he left a successful career and launched himself into six years of training to become a licensed psychotherapist. His friends said that proved he’d lost his mind. ‘I pretty much thought the same thing’.”
  • Jessica Zucker: “The Pregnant Therapist”—And all that entails.
  • Nina Gaby: “I’m Not Supposed to Love You”—As she states in her own blog, “…I wrote about a kind of transparency, a kind of love…Not romantic love, not familial love, but a love that helps us do the work we do, a word that is often taboo in our profession.”

And in the grouping of essays penned by therapists who’ve also been in therapy:

Sep 21

“Little Men”: Their Friendship Compromised By Parents

The phrase “quietly devastating” could have been invented to describe this movie. It is patient, it is keenly observed, and it is acted impeccably, especially by teens Taplitz and Barbieri. Rich Juzwiak, Gawker, regarding Little Men

A brief description by IMDB of Little Men: “A new pair of best friends have their bond tested by their parents’ battle over a dress shop lease.” Tagline: Be on each other’s side.

Rotten Tomatoes provides a longer intro to this “slice of life” film:

When 13-year-old Jake’s (Theo Taplitz) grandfather dies, his family moves from Manhattan back into his father’s old Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends the charismatic Tony (Michael Barbieri), whose single mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia), a dressmaker from Chile, runs the shop downstairs. Soon, Jake’s parents Brian (Greg Kinnear) and Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) — one, a struggling actor, the other, a psychotherapist — ask Leonor to sign a new, steeper lease on her store. For Leonor, the proposed new rent is untenable, and a feud ignites between the adults. At first, Jake and Tony don’t seem to notice; the two boys, so different on the surface, begin to develop a formative kinship as they discover the pleasures of being young in Brooklyn. Jake aspires to be an artist, while Tony wants to be an actor, and they have dreams of going to the same prestigious arts high school together. But the children can’t avoid the problems of their parents forever, and soon enough, the adult conflict intrudes upon the borders of their friendship.



Bob Mondello, NPR: “Caught in the middle of a financial struggle, they [the boys] exercise the only power they have, and stop communicating with their parents. Not one word passes among them for several days, which exacts an emotional penalty without quite fixing any of the problems. Awkward repercussions ensue.”

Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice:

 …The impassioned teens…spend their hours playing video games and dreaming of getting accepted into the LaGuardia high school for the arts, but they’re not truly a couple. Are they gay? We can’t say, really. What tingles between them, for most of the film, is the mysterious attraction of boyish friendship and the gently dangerous chance that it might flower into something more.

Here’s what Ira Sachs, the director of Little Men, told Juzwiak at Gawker: “I think these kids—particularly Jake—were on the pre side” (of sexual identity awareness).


David Ehrlich, IndieWire: “…(A)s their friendship deepens and they’re forced to defend themselves against their parents’ legal woes, the film assumes a low-key ‘When Harry Met Sally’ vibe: Can people of different classes really be friends? Or does money always get in the way?”

Sheila O’Malley,, lauding Garcia’s performance (Leonor) as “one of the best of the year,” states “Leonor goes against every unexamined assumption about ‘class’ that Brian probably didn’t even know he had. He doesn’t say this, but it is clear he expected her to be grateful that she got a break in rent for as long as she did. Leonor is not grateful, not deferential to his supposed higher status.”


Joanne Schneller, Globe and Mail: “By the end, Sachs has raised urgent questions about immigration, classism, gentrification, loyalty, family and nascent sexuality – but he’s done so utterly organically, via 10 square feet of city. Lovely.”

David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

If the film is weighted towards the white kid, and ends (with tremendous grace) by focusing on what he might take away from another person’s trauma, there’s a good reason for that: The gentrified don’t need to learn the human cost of being displaced — the onus is on the gentrifiers to recognize the true price of pricing people out. ‘You’ve gotta learn to let go,’ Jake’s dad tells him. Sure, but you have to learn how to hold on, as well.

Kevin P. Sullivan, Entertainment Weekly: “[The boys’] scenes together are nuanced and joyful. The restrained script from Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias takes these boys seriously, without one whiff of condescension, and places value in life’s mundane miracles, like forgiveness and the love of a true friend.”

Sep 19

Impostor Syndrome, AKA Impostor “Experience”

Did you know that the well-circulated term impostor syndrome has been acknowledged by psychologist Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, the woman most responsible for it becoming pop psychology fodder, to be a misnomer? The term, that is, not the concept.

L.V. Anderson, Slate, quotes Clance, author of The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming the Fear That Haunts Your Success, below:

In truth, impostor syndrome doesn’t fit the clinical criteria for a psychological syndrome, which is defined as a cluster of symptoms that causes intense distress or interferes with a person’s ability to function. ‘I’m not sure when it began to be called a syndrome, but I do think that somehow that’s just easier for people to think about than phenomenon,’ Clance told me. ‘They’re not quite sure what phenomenon means.’ For the recent book Presence, Clance told Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy, ‘If I could do it all over again, I would call it the impostor experience, because it’s not a syndrome or a complex or a mental illness, it’s something almost everyone experiences.’

Clance describes those identifying with “impostor experience”:

Even though they are often very successful by external standards, they feel their success has been due to some mysterious fluke or luck or great effort; they are afraid their achievements are due to “breaks” and not the result of their own ability and competence. They are also pretty certain that, unless they go to gargantuan efforts to do so, success can not be repeated. They are afraid that next time, I will blow it.

Her website directs those interested in self-assessment to the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS). (Scroll down the page and click on the “test” link.)

As Clance states above, most people at one time or another will identify with impostor-ism. In addition, it affects both men and women, though the latter were the group most targeted in the early studies and are still the group most likely to seek help.

Indeed, Clance has seen it in herself, as has another impostor phenomenon expert, Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful WomenWhy Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It (2011).

The following, from Young’s website, explains her particular focus on women:

While the impostor syndrome is not unique to women, they are more likely to agonize over tiny mistakes and blame themselves for failure, see even constructive criticism as evidence of their shortcomings; and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. When they do succeed, they think ‘Phew, I fooled ’em again.’ Perpetually waiting to be ‘unmasked’ doesn’t just drain a woman’s energy and confidence. It can make her more risk-averse and less self-promoting than her male peers, which can hurt her future success.

What other issues might accompany impostor-ism? Jesse Singal, Science of Us:

Impostor phenomenon has been linked to various mental-health problems, including depression, though the direction of causality is unclear — it may be that people already prone to depression are more likely to fixate on IP thoughts, rather than that IP leads to depression, for example. Either way, in its severest forms IP can take a serious toll on sufferers’ ability to function — it’s the sort of thought pattern that can lead people to dark places and rob them of everyday joy and excitement.

Christian Jarrett (The Psychologist) cites Dr. Young’s top suggestions for helping clients:

  • Normalize the feeling.
  • Help clients understand their attitudes toward/ definitions of competence and failure, and help them to shift these.
  • Explore other reasons they might be ambivalent about success – what often feels like fear and self-doubt is in fact, an awareness of the other side of success.

Below, a worthy video explanation of the “syndrome” provided by The School of Life: