Every job in town, from studio exec to screenwriter, actor to agent, has a dominant dysfunction - and diagnosis. For THR's annual Doctor's Issue Hollywood's top mental caregivers share insights straight out of their session notes.
The pressures are different for male and female executives. The guys I've worked with recently have father issues, which means they had very powerful fathers, so there's an aspect of living under the father's shadow. In one week, I had three guys come in and say, "My father's the most powerful man in Hollywood." In certain cases, they had really Great Santini abusive fathers. They've got this inner dialogue that's really their father's voice saying, "You're not good enough."
The women who have made it to the top still have to be in a room full of the good ol' boys when decisions are made. Think Donald Trump. You put a woman in there and they make really, really sexist jokes, and they don't respect her. The women work harder, I think, and there's less appreciation.
There isn't one consistent factor in the women's upbringings except they had unique childhoods. They grew up in the '60s, so think of everything from communes to tons of LSD. There wasn't a traditional consistency in their upbringings.
A certain kind of personality enjoys the chaos of the entertainment industry. One guy told me about an early memory in which he remembers hanging onto his crib and seeing his executive father run in and out of the house, constantly running here and there. So they find something that's familiar, but they can feel physiologically that it's wrecking their system. This one guy was telling me, he was in Nepal and he had his cellphone with an international signal, and he said he literally was hanging off a mountain trying to make sure a deal went through.
Everyone I've worked with, they all want to get out of the business. They're at the top of their game and they're miserable. One guy called it the golden handcuff. Another guy I worked with said when he was in Cannes, he was looking down on the Croisette and thinking, "I just feel so alone. Why am I here and why am I doing this? This has no meaning." He left his hotel room, skipped some parties, walked to the top of a hill and looked out over the ocean. Then an old farmer came by with an apple, looked at him and cut off a piece of apple for him. He just went, "That's what life is about, being able to be at peace, and all you need is an apple." - As told to Austin Siegemund-Broka
Larry Shaw, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist who has practiced for 35 years with offices in Beverly Hills and Topanga Canyon. He specializes in treating trauma.