Tag Archive | Movie Therapy

The Girl on the Train or The Wife of the Narcissist

“I am not the girl I used to be,” the beginning and the ending of the movie, somewhat like a poem. In between is the passion, frustration, and anger; all building toward self-awareness.

The Girl on the Train is about the lives of three women who are joined together directly and indirectly through one man. They are all involved with a narcissist. What is clever about this movie is that the director takes you on a long journey; giving you a chance to get to know these women but only their interpretations of what they believe is the truth. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are made to believe that you are the one causing all the problems. The narcissist causes you to feel as if you are walking on eggshells, that you are going crazy. Your reality becomes distorted as a result. In this movie, the woman is an alcoholic so this of course makes it very easy to assume she is the bad person.

Naturally the movie shows us a bad therapist, which is sad, but in this case it is just continuing to lead us down a tunnel of wrong turns. In fact, two of the three men in the movie are false assumptions and the guilty party seems like a good guy at first. That is the makings of a good suspense. In reality though, the narcissistic man often seems like the good guy. He comes across as very appealing, sexy, responsible, a good provider. So in a sense the director was doing his/her job of turning the audience into a victim of the movie. When they finally present the truth, it is done through a scene where the alcoholic has the courage to humble herself in front of another. Meeting up with a woman on the train whose party she had attended, blacked out and created a scene. After making amends, the woman is able to tell her what really happened and suddenly she is able to wake up and trust her instincts (not her perceived reality) for the first time.

Armed with that small dose of reality, she begins to re-build her sense of self. She revisits other scenes from her life and is able to remember what actually happened, not what she was made to believe happened. Stupidly, but then we all are, she confronts her emotional tormentor with the truth. A narcissist confronted is a very dangerous thing to do because they are unable to confront the truth. Naturally, victims often believe that they are doing the right thing by standing up for themselves and trying to make sense of things with the abuser. This is the nice person wanting to give the bad person a chance to apologize, to come clean and admit to the truth. Make sense of your reality on your own, you can’t try to get them to make sense of things because their life is pathological. They get rid of what is in the way; they detach themselves so far from reality that they are incapable of self-awareness. Instead of trying to make sense of why they do the things they do, learn from the experience and become a stronger person. However, The Girl on the Train is a movie, not real life. As it is not a nice new age storyline, with Louise Hay giving us an affirmation at the end and everyone doing yoga, it has to end with something violent and more to the point.

It has to end with women cheering in the audience. The bad guy has been assaulted and we can all go home feeling relieved that justice was served. Of course, in real life, this doesn’t happen. In real life I doubt that the other woman would have stood up for her either but it is possible. I think what might have really happened is that the wife would have defended her husband. In reality, the alcoholic finally made peace with herself. The other woman was just beginning.

The ending of this film shows the alcoholic probably in recovery; for real this time. She has symbolically moved to the other side of the train because she is ready to move past her trauma and move forward in her life. We look at the ending but don’t realize that the truth is so easy. Taking that step forward by sitting in a different chair, looking out a different window, getting a new job and just letting go, which is what everyone wants us to do. It is simple for someone who is facing a small problem. When the victims psyche has been wounded at a depth such as this, they become glued to the chair and cannot get up. Thus they force themselves to try and make sense of reality because their instincts are telling them there is just something not right about what they assume is the truth. Trusting your instincts can become a task when you have begun to give your power to someone else.

Emotional abuse is ABUSE. Living in a nice neighborhood and being married to a man with money, does not make it okay to be emotionally abused. Emotional abuse is Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence does not mean you have to ALSO be physically or sexually attacked for it to be named as such. So many women are victims of emotional abuse alone and are surprised to hear they are living in a domestic violence type relationship. They often feel unworthy because they have not been hit. Unfortunately, the physical abuse can happen, the longer you stay and where there is emotional abuse, often there is sexual abuse as well. If you are being pushed into acts of sex that are unwelcome, uncomfortable, unwanted, than this would be sexual abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.

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Emotional Abuse is Domestic Violence too

I like to use movies, literature, TV Dramas and other forms of art to discuss issues we face because then people will hopefully turn to them and re-examine what I am proposing. When it comes to Domestic Violence, most people think that it is simply physical abuse and nothing else.  In fact a woman is considered to be in a domestic violence situation when she is emotionally abused (even when nothing else is present). If you are trapped in a relationship because of emotional abuse and manipulation then you do not have the freedom to live your life or make choices and often lose a sense of self. Women are always surprised when I tell them this because they have tried so hard to cover up for their partners for so many years. Sexual abuse has long been undercover because of the assumption presented in society that if he is your husband you are supposed to have sex with him. Often sexual abuse takes play in emotionally abusive situations because he is not afraid to manipulate you in any situation he can.

When I turn to both literature and a musical, I think of characters who never got their woman – and in some situations we feel sad for this; i.e., Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights because it is written for us to believe Heathcliff and Catherine would have had this great love between them. I recall growing up, hearing my friends talk about this terribly romantic story of unrequited love, no different than Romeo and Juliet. In other situations such as Judd in Oklahoma, it is written for us to think of him as a lowlife, even though he is no different than Heathcliff and so in this musical we are grateful that he and Laurey don’t get together. Yet both characters are the same. They are possessive men who don’t get the girl but then continue to show how abusive they are to others. These types of men make me uncomfortable as a woman because I know that had they been able to be in a relationship with the girl, their possession would become much stronger, more dominant and she would have become strangled by their love. It would have led to sexual abuse, possibly even physical abuse. When a person is that narcissistic about their beliefs there is no self-awareness, no self-examination and the result is a catastrophe.

Currently, I am watching the Turkish Muslim TV drama on Netflix entitled “The Girl I Loved.” The story of Heathcliff and Judd are turned around because Timur (pronounced Tee-mur) is now a wealthy businessman and he has control over Mine’s family as he is the boss of the patriarch and later the son too. Mine (pronounced Mee-ney), is in love with Sinan (pronounced See-naan), also from a wealthy family though he is the son of a capitalist and comes across more like a socialist instead. He rejects his money and status for love. The difference here is that Timur is an adult male about 20 years older than Mine and Sinan is a man of about 18 or 19 when he first appears in the drama. Mine is 17 years old. Sinan’s father rejects his love for Mine and when she turns up pregnant (which happens when you have sex carelessly without a thought for being responsible and taking birth control), Sinan’s father whisks him out of the country to America without telling him that his love is pregnant. At the same time, Sinan’s father tells her father – who comes to plead to the family to take responsibility for their son’s and his daughter’s actions – that his son wants nothing to do with his family and they even question the paternity of the child.

Now the story begins. Timur, who had now fallen in love with Mine, a young vulnerable girl who he feels he can relate to, hears of her plight and wants to save her. We have already learned that he has saved the life of his housekeeper, another woman, but we don’t find out her story until much later. She had fallen in love with him but the minute he becomes consumed by Mine, Timur begins to reject his housekeeper and even his daughter. His housekeeper is sent to live elsewhere and return each day to tend to his household needs, whatever and whenever he demands. He marries Mine, after embarrassing the father and the family by asking for her hand – Mine’s father has a lot of pride and does not want his boss to have all this control over his family, the class issue and plus he realizes he is 20 years older. But the mother of Mine, delights in her daughter having this money which means stability so she is more practical and talks her husband into it. This of course causes him to eventually fall in love elsewhere; a different level of the control by men in this story. Mine rejects Timur’s love but is basically forced into the marriage because it will get her father to love her again. He had now considered her dead to him and refused to speak to her. Timur marries Mine, knowing that Sinan didn’t know anything about the pregnancy and is very much in love with her. Eventually the father begins to talk to daughter again and everything is written to look like a happy marriage.  The one thing that we can respect Mine for is that she is smart enough to realize that Timur wants her badly and so she makes demands which he actually respects. He will not sleep with her and for a couple of years she even locks her door to ensure this. This caused me to wonder if Timur has sexual problems. I doubt this will be brought into the picture (I am on episode 42 out of 79). I am pretty surprised to see a man who will give up sex in a marriage (and not have a lover on the side). This is how we see how his devotion and love for Mine is more of a religion. He has idolized her to be this saint and will do whatever it takes to have her by his side, even if it is a faux marriage as it is never consummated.

The conflict begins for Mine when Sinan returns from America and eventually he learns that she is pregnant with his son and they both find out that they were tricked. However, by this time, she is so emotionally manipulated by Timur, she cannot see his possession. She is now dressing nicely, like a rich wealthy woman (at first she rejected his money). She doesn’t have to work (at first she did anyway) and has now returned to college though there is no emphasis on this in the story so it is more like an idle past-time that Timur allows her. Mine and Sinan get together many times because she is still so in love with him and they have crying fests over her conflict and his undying love. We also see that Mine has grown up and is putting her child’s needs first (the martyr) and that Sinan is trapped in a fantasy of young love he is still chasing. He is unable to accept that she has grown as a woman and his jealousy has made him into a whiney little boy rather than growing and taking steps to turn this situation around. I keep wondering why he doesn’t hire an attorney to fight for paternity, visitation as well as put on a suit and become a responsible man that Mine will fall in love with all over again. If he fought for her and his son this way, she would be able to respect him. His character seems doomed though and when I accidentally read someone’s English comments I found out this is exactly what does happen in the final episode.

This emotional manipulation of Timur goes to great lengths that many women cannot see in their relationships (straight and even lesbian/gay). Timur stalks her first with a cell phone that she must answer whenever he calls. He locks her in the room himself and doesn’t let her leave (the fact that there is a sliding glass door on one side of her room is now hidden from camera and we the audience are supposed to forget it is there). He steals her phone so she cannot call anyone and even when her parents show up unannounced he talks them into believing this is just a lover’s quarrel. The first time she leaves him to go and clear her head at her aunt’s house – he follows her there and brings her back home. The second time she is already there and in front of all the women in her family tells him she needs time to think. This time he is too embarrassed to do something in front of these women and leaves. However, he is there every day and calls every day to check up on the son and her. Each time he arrives he  pesters her again about why she is doing this and how much he loves her and so on and so on.  How is she expected to actually think – I wonder? But he has no respect for his wife. He idolizes her and she can do no wrong but he doesn’t want her to think, he wants her to remain stupid and naïve so he can continue to possess her. We are still led to believe he is undaunted by the fact that they have not had sex and he has not had sex either for the past two-three years now.

What is saddest of all is Timur’s daughter, Merve (pronounced Mare-vey) who is so caught up in her love for her father that it would seem incestuous driven though this is normal for a child psychologically, i.e., the Oedipus complex. She has lost her mother (story is vague) and dad has been there for her until Mine, to the point of it seeming a little too close, on his part. Because she is bright enough to see her father’s obsession for Mine, she tries all types of tricks to get her father to notice her including attempting to kill herself (accidentally as this wasn’t her intent) and controlling Mine while she was pregnant (though Mine didn’t care because she didn’t want to be there anyway at the onset). When her father continues to reject her, even after a temporary “I am sorry, I still love you” moment between father and daughter, Merve goes in another direction. She is the one to tell Sinan about his son and was the one who brought Mine and Sinan together initially when he returns from America. She finally gives up and decides the only way to get her dad’s love is to love his “son” and be nice to Mine. You can see though how she is falling apart emotionally and I can only imagine, as a psychotherapist and if they write the story correctly, that she will eventually fall into the hands of a male that she will either control or be controlled by dependent on how vulnerable the character is shown over the years. It will depend on whether she is a survivor with one more trick up her sleeve or completely collapses altogether because some cocky guy makes her feel loved once again. Either way, it won’t end good for this young child because her father continues to ignore her over and over again as if she is nothing more than the housekeeper.

Now, if you were to be Turkish and could read all the comments on Turkish websites about this show, you might see a lot of favoritism toward Timur. This show is trying desperately to go in his direction and give you the idea that he is the one for Mine. At the same time, they are not allowing the Sinan/Mine relationship to end – it keeps the show rolling but they continue to show it as pitiful and hopeless and leave us to believe that Mine will end up consummating her relationship with Timur. Perhaps there are sides – women choosing Sinan and those opting for Timur. I hope she ends up leaving Timur and coming to her senses that she is a grown woman and doesn’t need a man. Both men are equally possessive but Timur is so emotionally abusive and if he ends up owning her 100%, which he is close to now, this won’t be a happy marriage. He lives for conflict because he is a passionate man and will soon need another woman to protect and shelter. How did he get to this place that he felt he was this God of poor lost women? This is what I question as a psychotherapist. What is his backstory? I hope we will find out in the end as I want some closure on this.

In real life though, a middle class woman marrying a rich man is something “dreams” are made of for many young girls. It is a fairytale that we see in cartoons and musicals and classics. So many women have entered into this story and at times it has a happy ending. Other times though it ends with emotional abuse but the woman fights not giving up all her money and prestige. It is a tough call. When you have become enslaved by money, power, prestige, and realize that if you leave this person you will have nothing, may end up being shunned, will fight him in court, and so on, it can cause a woman to remain and this will cause the man to feel he has even more power over her. This of course means more domination and control. Emotional abuse is domestic violence. This needs to be recognized and understood more. It is difficult when the art world romanticizes this and ignores the fact that it exists.

Running from Crazy – For Families with Mental Illness

This is a trailer for the film “Running from Crazy.” A documentary about Mental Illness as told by Mariel Hemingway. After watching the trailer, you can download it from Netflix. It is worth watching if you have someone or several someones in your family who are mentally ill or an addict. If someone in your family is an addict, they are merely covering up what lurks deep beneath in the cesspools of their mind. Mental Illness, whether it is wrapped up in street pharmaceuticals, alcohol or prescriptions, is still mental illness.

Don’t be afraid to discuss your families problems. Out loud. Take the shame out of these words, stop the denial and help turn the family legacy around to a positive. With treatment, love, support and communication, this goes from being a stigma to a managed solution.

**Muriel will be here in Ohio with this movie shown at the McCoy Center on October 8th (2015) at 7pm for free. She will also be speaking that coming Tuesday, October 13th (2015) but you have to buy tickets on the website or through Capa Tickets.

Angry Daughter, Narcissistic Mother

 

“In my day families stayed together,” so sayeth the character Violet, played by Meryl Streep. Violet is in denial yet at other times she is very ruthless about how horrible her mother was to her growing up. As a result of this, Violet has grown up without being nurtured by her parent, without love and an ability to trust someone. Thus we see the makings of a Narcissistic mother. In order for a child, who has grown up like Violet has, to soothe herself, she must externalize the pain and give it somewhere to go so that she can feel safe as a little girl. Then she grows up to have a family and all hell breaks loose.

In comes Barbara, her eldest daughter played by Julia Roberts. Barbara has lived a life with a woman who has never said she was sorry for anything. Barbara grew up being told she could never do anything right and thus she continued to try to do the right thing over and over again, only to fail in her mother’s eyes. Her father washed himself daily with alcohol, in an attempt to drown in his sorrows. A man can never be “the man,” in a marriage to a Narcissist. He had to defend his wife to the children he loved. A man should not be disrespectful to his wife, even if she is to him. While Barbara desperately needed her father to be there for her, he couldn’t even though he wanted to. She knew this but learned to accept that he could never be the father she craved. Her husband couldn’t play that role either. When women leave the home searching for a partner, without first finding themselves, the man they are led to is their father and those same unmet needs.

Barbara escapes to this new world with a husband. Running away can provide distance and hope. She could make herself believe anything in a world she creates all her own. The truth is there and she wants to believe it is not but over time, not having a father or mother to turn to, in times of need, the pain slowly crawls up inside her. She can’t turn to her husband either, because he doesn’t know what to say to her or how to give her the love and nurturance she so desperately craves. He continues to disappoint her and eventually she tells him, until he is so sick of hearing it that the marriage becomes a wash and the fantasy of her story continues to be passed down to her daughter. A daughter who has no empathy because she just can’t understand the years, the generations of what went wrong in her gene pool.

Barbara has come to realize finally that she is all alone, the bitterness has swelled up inside of her womb, her breath wreaking of the bile that lingers in her throat, she becomes more and more cynical over time, as reality will just not go away.

When her father takes his own life, she is forced to see herself in the mirror for the first time. She wants to believe that she is now in charge yet once again she is reminded that as long as Violet has a breath to breathe, she has no power at all. Her world crashes around her but then she drives off in the end, left to deal with the pain. The result will be that she will go off into her new world, alone with her anger and tears and the madness of living on a daily basis; knowing that she created this mess herself.

“Thank God we can’t tell the future. We’d never get out of bed.” Barbara, the angry daughter who has begun to see that her world will never change.

Unless of course, she enters into psychotherapy. Preferably with a therapist, who empathizes, too much, with the angry daughter.

***7/31/16 A good start to healing for Barbara would be a therapist and now this wonderful new CD The Child of the Narcissist: Guided Meditations for Healing.

CD Cover

 

 

The Aging Beauty

I would recommend this film to mature, beautiful, single women who are over 40. There is so much you could relate to on an emotional level. The movie stars the great Catherine Deneuve and to top the list her own daughter Chiara Mastroianni, is cleverly staged as her supporting actress. The trailer disguises what the movie is about because it only gives you a hint and the hint is rather shallow. This is a very long story, running time 2 hours + a few minutes. While you are watching the film you might feel restless and this would be because it is hitting a nerve. The movie plays with sexuality and opens the doors to psychological conflict. It is rare that good films are made about beautiful women who are growing older. Catherine has done her part to make sure we have someone we can relate to. Once touted as the most beautiful woman in the world, she continues to enchant us. She is cosmopolitan yet at the same time a woman who would feel at home in the countryside. Her daughter is equally beautiful and the film is clear with the timelines and changes in society how sexuality moves forward. Surprisingly within you are treated to a unique selection of songs, sung by the actors, that tell the tales of their woes. The music is sung in a very melodramatic style that reaches the tone of the story. This isn’t a musical, it is very fitting that it should happen though. If you like foreign films then this is one you don’t want to miss. (Netflix – The Beloved 2011, en française Les Bien-aimés)

The credits pay tribute to another great beauty Marie-France Pisier who died in 2011 one month before this was released in Cannes.