Entries in psychiatrist (2)


Fun and Moving to Screen Cassandra Casually for Cast/Crew/Family

Look forward to our premiere.

#scarymovies #thrillermovies #memoryrecovery #psychiatry 






Growing Up in Front of the Locked Doors of My Psychoanalyst Father’s Home Office

I very much resonated to Jessica Lamb-Shapiro’s May 2, 2015 piece in the New York TimesI was Raised by Psychoanalysts. I too grew up with a psychoanalyst father, the Yale Professor of Psychiatry, Marshall Edelson, M.D who saw patients at home. Ironically, as a strict Freudian, he believed that his home life must be a blank slate upon which his patients could write whatever they desired. Therefore, he insisted that my mother, my brother, my sister, and I never see his patients and he warned they could never see us, hear us or have any indication of our existence.

This warning was made more anxiety producing by the fact that his home office was located right next to our front door, again similar to Lamb-Shapiro's situation. In fact, my father’s home office was supposed to be our living room, but when we moved into the house he commandeered it and had two thick perpetually locked double doors installed over what was supposed to be an airy, open archway. We had to arrange very precisely when we arrived or left (before or after 10 to the hour), we could only whisper to one another no matter where we were in the house, and we literally had to tiptoe past his office door when he was with a patient if we had to move from one part of the house to the next, which was definitely discouraged and only to be attempted if absolutely necessary.

But like Lamb-Shapiro, I too benefitted from my psychoanalytic upbringing. Not only did I learn, as she did, how to be quiet, but those mysterious locked double doors, the murmurings behind them from strange unseen visitors, and the fact our lives were organized by this clock of mental illness supplied me with ample material for my screenplays and plays (as I described to Penelope Green for her 2008 New York Times piece, What's in a Chair?). In an early script of mine, Reflections on a Teenage Antichrist, a teenager thinks his psychiatrist father may be transforming into some kind of demon, based on what he hears coming from within his father’s locked office. More recently, I wrote and co-produced the forthcoming film, The Coming of Age (directed by David Bradburn for Fork the Man Productions):  A woman who moves into a retirement home is both attracted to and repelled by a pair of centrally located locked doors, based on the look of fear from another resident at the mention of them, the warning from the nurse to stay away from them, and the strange sounds emanating from beyond them. 

Significantly, even when my father wasn’t seeing patients, his home office doors were kept locked. He said it was because there were patient records in that room, but even after he stopped seeing patients permanently, he still kept those doors locked. As a professor of screenwriting at Northwestern University, I now find myself teaching my students that many movies involve characters opening doors that should not be opened. I tell them you as the writer should also be trying to pry open doors that resist being opened, it is beyond these doors where the answer to your story lies. In terms of your career, you should be opening unexpected doors that lead to unexpected opportunities. And yes, one door closes but another door opens as long as you can recognize it as a door as sometimes doors don’t look like doors.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), I’ve met or heard about more than one child of a Yale Department of Psychiatry professor whose career similarly revolves around movies. Did our psychiatrist fathers' profession encourage a love of movies as unlocking the story of a patient's psyche is not so different from unlocking a cinematic story? Or did our experiences with our psychiatrist fathers encourage a need to work through our bizarre upbringing(s) via the stories we tell in movies? In my case, my psychiatrist father’s ever-present locked doors were a creative blessing, perhaps determining my career path and the content of some of my stories. And doors or no doors, for good and for bad, we children of psychoanalysts are forever members of the same club.  

David E. Tolchinsky


PS For more about my experiences with my father, including his unusual obsession with locking everything in the house, read my essay, Where’s the Rest of Me?, in Paraphilia Magazine, or my play by the same name, recently performed at the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York City.