Nov 18

“Melancholia”: A Film Headed to a Planet Near You

Naturally, the movie title catches my eye: Melancholia. Sadness. I’ve seen a lot of that as a therapist. Also, of course, as a human being.

It’s a new film. As of today, in limited release.

Oh. It’s sci-fi about the world ending. Not my bag, I think. And, no wonder there’s melancholia.

I’m still curious, though. On the official website:

In this beautiful movie about the end of the world, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and brother-in-law John (Kiefer Sutherland). Despite Claire’s best efforts, the wedding is a fiasco, with family tensions mounting and relationships fraying. Meanwhile, a planet called Melancholia is heading directly towards Earth… MELANCHOLIA is a psychological disaster film from director Lars von Trier.

Interesting, and now certainly more intriguing. I mean, it’s a “beautiful” world-ending, not your typically envisioned ugly one.

I find out that Dunst’s character Justine is severely depressed. (Melancholia–it’s not just an Earth-colliding planet.) Richard Rushfield, writing for The Daily Beast, calls her, in fact, “the saddest bride in history.” Not only that, Dunst gives “the performance of a lifetime.”

So, a sad person, well-acted, in a beautiful film. What a catharsis this could be for a shrink who sometimes needs to feel and express emotions that build up with seemingly nowhere to go, occupational-hazard-wise.

I’m browsing The Huffington Post and find that E. Nina Rothe, a writer and “global culture explorer,” got to preview the film in New York before the tenth anniversary of 9/11. She states:

As the film ended, I…uncontrollably wept the deepest tears I have been able to shed since the horrific events of one crisp, tragic morning 10 years ago. For that, I silently thanked the genius of von Trier, for having the vision to create a film that would at once show our fragility on earth but also exalt the power of humanity, while feeding our fears of alienation and framing it all in his exquisite shots and painting-like images.

Oh my god, I could cry already.

Can all the rest of the reviews be this good?

Many indeed are. But, oops (to quote Rick Perry)—some are downright terrible. Rex Reed, for instance:

…the critics who fill the quote ads for this dirge with words like ‘masterpiece’ keep me manic with mirth. Wander into this idiocy and by the time it’s over, you’ll know the meaning of ‘melancholia’ yourself.

The trailer’s below. If you do see (or have seen) the movie, please let me know your thoughts.

Nov 17

“Happy”: Roko Belic’s Documentary Examines Different Cultures

What really makes people happy?

Documentarian Roko Belic attempts to answer this age-old question, traveling to 14 different countries to ensure the inclusion of various cultures.

As reviewed by Walter Addiego, San Francisco ChronicleHappy is an “amiable documentary” featuring “…a grab bag of ideas about how to transcend everyday misery, using insights from an international group of scientists, religious and government figures, and regular people.”

Included in the scientist category were leading researchers in the field of positive psychology, defined as “the study of human thriving” and “a relatively new field that examines how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled” (Psychology Today).

Happiness spoiler alert!! Reading this next part may give you all the answers to finding happiness!!!! (Can you handle that?)

A sneak preview of what Belic discovered is reported in an article by Sylvia Somerville (Update, 10/2/12—the link to this article is no longer available):

  1. A sense of friendship and community
  2. Caring and doing for others
  3. A personal involvement with nature
  4. A balanced life, with plenty of leisure time
  5. Engaging in activities that one finds enjoyable

Below is a basic introduction to the film, video-style:

For further info, here’s the website; and find out here if Happy is coming to your area anytime soon. (Hint: If you live near Boulder, Colorado or Fairfax, Virginia, you may be in luck—and happiness-–today.)

Nov 16

“Shockaholic”: Carrie Fisher’s Used Electroconvulsive Therapy

Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher‘s new book, became available a couple weeks ago. A recent review by Will Durst states the following:

In her new book, “Shockaholic,” Hollywood’s new poor little rich girl – acknowledging an insatiable fascination with herself – continues her tour down the rabbit hole of Crazy Town, sparking us through brightly lit secret corridors while twisting self-deprecation into an art form.

Durst adds that “Chapter 2 is a love letter to electroconvulsive therapy,” while the rest of Shockaholic covers various other topics, including her adventures with certain pop culture figures such as Michael Jackson and her difficult relationship with her famous father.

Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times: “One of the side effects [of electroconvulsive therapy] is memory loss, and this, Fisher tells us, is the impetus for the book — she wants to write things down before she forgets it all. And while she’s writing it down, why not publish it, since people will never tire of celebrity memoirs and Fisher is, at her core, a very good writer who’s able to keep us entertained.”

A pertinent quote from Shockaholic:

You see, even after decades of therapy and workshops and retreats and twelve-steps and meditation and even experiencing a very weird session of rebirthings, even after rappeling down mountains and walking over hot coals and jumping out of airplanes and watching elephant races and climbing the Great Wall of China, and even after floating down the Amazon and taking ayahuasca with an ex-husband and a witch doctor and speaking in tongues and fasting (both nutritional and verbal), I remained pelted and plagued by feelings of uncertainty and despair. Yes, even after sleeping with a senator, and waking up next to a dead friend, and celebrating Michael Jackson’s last Christmas with him and his kids, I still did not feel—how shall I put this?—mentally sound.

Selected Reviews

Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times: “Ultimately the book is about being honest with yourself, living with as few regrets as possible and about making peace — with family, friends, and strangers with whom you might have had a grudge. The book is kept aloft with Fisher’s endless dry wit, although there’s a melancholy that permeates the writing…Fisher may be trying to remind us that taking the leap and reaching out might be worth the risk, even without a safety net.”

Peter Conrad, The Guardian: “…Fisher spends the entire book decrying showbusiness as an industry devoted to deceit and a congenital disease, only to decide at the last moment that it’s a true religion and the balmiest and most soul-saving of therapies. She is due, I think, for another spot of self-appraisal in rehab. You can detoxify the body, but it’s harder to rid an addled head of its false values.”

Tasha Robinson, AVClub: “…(T)he real gold of the book comes in Fisher’s ruthlessly self-abnegating sense of humor, which refuses pity, or even much serious focus on her troubles. There’s a sense, at times, of a much larger pain underlying the gags, particularly over her depression-damaged relationship with her daughter, and her reunion with her drug-loving, dying father.”

Nov 15

“Bored to Death”: Spoofs of Therapy and Therapists

The HBO series Bored to Death, a sitcom currently in its third season, is about a writer named Jonathan Ames who pretends to be a private eye. Billed as a “Noir-otic Comedy,” it has been described as a show that “…depicts the variously inept adventures of a lazy, underachieving writer whose natural disconnection from humanity is only strengthened by his dependence upon cheap wine, marijuana, an enabling and wealthy mentor, and a self-loathing comic book artist for a best friend.”

On at least two occasions, therapy has been spoofed by this series.

Spoof #1: In the first season, Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) meets Dr. David Worth (Denis O’Hare), who seems neither very welcoming nor helpful. But when Jonathan’s ulterior motive for being in that particular therapist’s office is revealed, things become clearer to us, the viewers.

Spoof #2: A recent episode had guest star Sarah Silverman as a counselor specializing in “friendship therapy.” In the clip below, she’s supposed to be addressing the rift that’s occurred between Jonathan and his friend/boss George (Ted Danson).

Update June 3, 2012: The video is no longer available.

So there you go. Two shrinks to consult if you’re seeking not one shred of appropriate or professional behavior.

Nov 14

“HIMYM”: The Therapist’s One Helpful Contribution

So now that I’ve managed to get all caught up on HIMYM, I can weigh in again on what’s happening with Kevin, the therapist. (Please also check out my previous posts on this subject.)

  • Between him and his girlfriend Robin—very little chemistry. One can only hope it turns out to be an ill-fated romance because of his boundary-less choice to date a client.
  • As an individual character—nope, not much there either.

The most involvement he’s had, in my opinion, was in the episode that aired on 10/24 entitled “Noretta” (a word blend of the names of “Nora,” Barney’s girlfriend, and “Loretta,” his mom).

Although the series title is How I Met Your Mother (the point of view of the single male character Ted who has yet to meet the mom of his future kids), this episode is sort of a “How I Married My Mother/Father—as in the translation “I married a woman/man who’s very much like my mom/dad” as opposed to incest. Then again, no one’s actually married except Lily and Marshall. So never mind. We’ll stick with “Noretta.”

Toward the beginning of the episode, Kevin makes the general observation that people tend to pick romantic partners who are like their parents. We then witness the regulars proceeding to get grossed out by recognizing the similarities between their mates and their parents.

Regular character Robin, however, and her new beau Kevin are (wisely) excluded from this exercise. I mean, think about it—would the writers have had to make Robin’s father the perpetrator of incest? (Along the lines of Kevin crossing boundaries by dating Robin.)

Kevin’s insight is actually based on some solid ground, psychologically speaking. The work of Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., for example, is useful if you’re trying to figure out your patterns of choosing your mates and how you relate to them—and goes significantly deeper than just the idea of picking someone who subconsciously reminds you of a parent. Two relevant books of his are Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (also in Workbook format, co-authored by wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D.) and Keeping the Love You Find: A Personal Guide.

If you’ve been an avid Oprah fan, you may already know that she in turn is an avid Harville fan (as well as a You fan, in case you thought and/or hoped that’s where I was headed) and big believer in his Imago Theory. Her online Lifeclass “How Your Childhood Affects Your Adult Relationships” gives us a clip of a pertinent therapy session conducted by Harville. The set-up:

For Oprah, Harville Hendrix was the best teacher of validation. Harville developed the Imago Theory, which is that you end up imaging in your adult relationship what you most need to heal from, whether physical or emotional wounds, received in childhood at the hands of your parents or caregivers. In 2006, Harville facilitated an Imago therapy session for Louie, who was abused as a child and was verbally, emotionally and physically abusing his wife.

Check out the website for more info, including finding Imago therapy and/or workshops for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.