Finding the Roots

Opening credits to The Shrink Next Door

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I have been intrigued lately by the unfolding Ghislaine Maxwell case (the trial is happening here, in the Southern District of New York). You can find neat updates at @houseinhabit on Instagram. (She is in the courthouse, these days).

Something else that has captured my attention is the Apple TV + series called The Shrink Next Door, the true story of a controlling, gaslighting but charismatic shrink who ends up unethically enmeshing himself in the lives of his patients, Marty being the one patient showcased on the show. Dr. Isaac (“Dr. Ike”) isolates Marty (who was vulnerable from the start) from his family and starts to steal from him and control his finances. It’s a wild story. Even wilder still that this happened for years and he only just got ordered to surrender his license this year, in New York. (There is currently litigation around this, and it all came to light when a neighbor started digging deeper regarding the ownership of the house next door to his).

Dr. Ike (left) and Marty (right).

On The Shrink, one can often figure out the theme of the episode because the opening credits happen with a vine that starts wrapping itself (to the point of suffocation or covering) around something theme related for that particular episode. So, for example, in the episode that covers Dr. Ike’s family history and the death of his father, the opening credits have family pictures and a vine covering them on a wall.

Something I find interesting that Dr. Ike and Ms. Maxwell have in common is that they did unthinkable things. One was helping traffic minors (or at the very least was very aware of what was happening to them), and one was profiting off of his patients in unethical and self-agrandizing ways.

Spoiler alert: The episode about Dr. Ike’s father revealed that his father was a holocaust survivor who had a family prior to coming to the states. If I remember correctly, his wife and son were killed at the concentration camps, and then later, he remarries and becomes a father to Dr. Ike. It’s clear Dr. Ike resents his father and has some deep wounds of neglect. His father was unable to connect with him well due to the trauma and loss he had endured. Dr. Ike also resents their poverty.

As I have been researching Ghislaine Maxwell, I learned about her father Robert, who escaped the Nazis by joining the army. Robert then left Czechoslovakia and moved to the UK, where he changed his name and started new. He ends up earning and creating a lot of wealth through media, but then gets himself involved in ponzi schemes and fraud to maintain the wealth. He stole pensions, and things crumbled. Some say he was a spy. It was all like a house of cards waiting to implode (and it did). Sources say Ghislaine’s father was very controlling and would control her interactions, who she showed affection to and who she was photographed with, etc. She would accompany him to many events. Weirdly, her name means “pledge” or “hostage”. It’s still unclear how Robert Maxwell died, but Ghislaine told people she believed her father had been killed. Shortly after this dysfunctional figure left her life, she became entangled with Jeffrey Epstein.

Ghislaine and her father Robert.

Here’s the deal, I don’t explain these people’s backstories to justify their deeds. Never. People choose how they behave and there are consequences to that. Both need to reap what they have sown. I do find interesting that both figures did atrocious things and have a common link, family dysfunction that stemmed from parents who had endured and survived the Nazi period as Jews. This is a simple illustration of how, when we don’t heal from certain things and when we endure certain things, we can pass the harm down and help equip what may be future monster behavior. Our lives become chain reactions.

I just recently wrote about the long-term effect of values, and how we can feel the impact of people’s values even after they are gone. Trauma works the same way. Unhealed trauma is something that acts like that vine in the opening credits of The Shrink Next Door. It covers us in darkness and wraps its tentacles around us, sucking the life out of us.

I get that not everyone has something as dramatic as the holocaust in their family (though many do), but there are many past experiences (slavery, migration, communism, neglect, divorce, sexual abuse) that can affect how we behave and family dynamics. Every flawed human has holes that he or she yearns to fill with something, and this impacts how we choose our relationships, who we entagle ourselves with and who we choose to victimize, if anyone (hopefully not).

Trial sketch from Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial.

The one person who is responsible for healing and choosing well is you, my reading friend (and me, in regards to myself). We are responsible for our lives. We can live in a weird retaliation mode of anger, hurting others and dysfunction, but if these recent cases teach us anything, it’s that they end in our self-destruction and in the harming of others. Self-awareness can go a long way. Our own healing can mean the liberation of generations that come after us and safety for those around us. People like to say that people do the best they can. That may be true for some, but we also need to realize that what is “the best” for one person may not be good enough. Make sure your best is good enough. We need to stop pretending like certain people are monsters in isolation and realize that their lives, and our lives have baggage. The baggage justifies nothing but reveals everything.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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