A Personal Q and A with Cristina

A friend asked me to be on her podcast and as I was writing up my answers to the questions she sent, I thought this might be an interesting entry for a blog. Although many of my blog entries or at least the ones I've written so far and the ones I intend to write are personal in that I am relaying how a particular movie has touched me in a way this entry is perhaps a little more personal and gives you a chance to get to know me a little bit better. So the following are the questions that my friend sent me and my responses.

Question : Where are you from?

I am from New York born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx.

Question: Why did you decide to become a therapist?

To put it quite simply I became a therapist because I have always had a strong desire to help people and make a difference in the world and I find the human mind and why we do what we do endlessly fascinating. I was  taking a continuing Ed class once and the instructor made the statement that all of us in that class had a superpower because in one way or another  all of us had somehow always had the ability to connect with people. I thought about what he said and I suppose that's true in that even from the time I was a little girl I remember people coming up to me and just talking to me about their stuff. I used to joke with friends that if you ever wondered at a gathering or party who there was going through something look at whoever was talking to me. Subways, airports, you name it people who somehow needed to talk would gravitate towards me. And I admit I always enjoyed being the listening ear and I felt good whenever somebody walked away from a conversation with me feeling better about a situation.

Question: What is movie therapy?

Movie therapy is the idea that movies in addition to being entertaining can be used in an illustrative way to show people different paths in life and different ways of handling things.

Question: How did you come up with this concept?

I came up with this concept quite simply because I am somebody that loves movies I've always loved movies as far back as I can remember I was always captivated by a really good movie by a really good story and I recognized the innate power of movies to take us out of ourselves to help us see a situation objectively to help us understand things in a way that maybe we couldn’t before because we were looking at a situation too closely. I had spoken before about how the late film critic Roger Ebert had called movies an empathy machine and that they had the ability to help us be in the shoes of another person or be in a situation that we really couldn't necessarily be in ourselves but to help us understand things from a very visceral perspective. And movies do that, they absolutely do that. I know we are in the age of the blockbuster and people are making movies to just make money but really well done movies,  with amazing writing and direction and just the care being put in can really transport us to someplace that we could never  experience in our own lives but they could give us an understanding for another. So movie therapy is a part of that it's the way to give clients a visual image a visual understanding of something that they're going through.

Question: There’s a video on your website where you speak of watching a lot of TV as a kid, and learning life lessons from “the special episode”, can you explain what this is and is there any particular episode that still resonates with you?

I'm going to show my age a little bit here I am a child of the '80s. So the '80s and '90s were the heyday of the very special episode which essentially was when a TV show, usually a sitcom did a more dramatic episode that highlighted an important social issue, such as alcoholism, drunk driving, drug addiction, homelessness, the Aids crisis. I  admit now I do a lot of streaming and I've cut the cable cord so I can't necessarily speak to what's being shown on broadcast TV today but I don't know if they do them the way they used to. Some of those episodes people might say could be cheesy or heavy handed in their approach but more often than not they were  a way that helped  many of us or at least helped  young me to understand a little bit more about what was going on in the world that wouldn't have been a part of my life otherwise. 
There were so many good ones. It’s hard to pick just one but I'm thinking of an episode of the TV series Growing Pains with the late actor Matthew Perry. I feel so saddened by his loss I kind of grew up with him.  Way before he did friends I'd seen him in different movies and in guest starring roles on various TV series throughout the '80s and early 90s  and what was really special about his guest starring role on Growing Pains was that this was a character who they'd introduced a few episodes  before. He was Carol's boyfriend and he was a really likeable guy. Their relationship started out as  the typical meet cute that was a misunderstanding but they wound up dating and in the episode he and Carol had gone to a party and he'd had a couple of drinks nothing major but when he left Carol he'd crashed his car and then they showed him in the hospital and you got the sense that he would be okay but then the show does a flip on you and Carol gets the call that he died from internal injuries. The episode was really good in that it showed that a drunk driving accident or any accident doesn't necessarily have to happen when you're falling down drunk it could just be when you've maybe had a couple too many and your reflexes are off just enough that you can't control that car. That episode is probably from I want to say late '80s early '90s and especially given what we've learned since about Matthew Perry's own struggles with addiction and his tragic death it hits me differently now than it did before because back then watching that episode I knew the actor was fine in real life that this was just a story.   I now know, however in real life he wasn't fine and that he really went through this terrible battle with addiction and just as he was coming out the other side of it and he'd written the book and talked so honestly and openly about it he suddenly passes it's eerie because in that episode the character he played realized how foolish it was to have those few drinks and get into that car and basically he just decides not to do that do that anymore and yet he dies and he doesn’t  get the chance for the do over. 

Question: Do you think there’s a difference between the TV and movies we watched growing up that taught and shaped us to be who we are today is all that different from the way social media is teaching and shaping kids today?

I think there is a huge difference between the movies and TV shows we watched back then and social media. The TV shows and movies especially the ones that were really good and that were trying to teach us were written by writers with a conscious attempt at delivering a needed message or in helping to educate or in bringing awareness to an important social issue whereas social media, while there are definitely some influencers who can have a very positive impact and can bring awareness, Social media is very much about showcasing somebody, about people attempting to find something compelling about their life to share with the world for clicks. I'm not saying TV shows and movies weren't about money and ratings but it's different when a writer is writing something to bring awareness and somebody is showcasing something to bring fame. It can be a fine line and again I'm not trying to rag on social media but one thing I have seen especially with some of my clients is the dangers of social media. You know movies and TV shows were separate enough that we could have the empathy for the character that we could understand the social issue and we could be inspired by their lifestyle or experiences but there wasn't necessarily the same level of comparison and by extension the ability to feel bad because I'm not living a certain kind of desired life. I have worked with many clients who have admitted to getting depressed when they see some social media because they're saying what's wrong with me that I can't have that life that this person has, what's wrong with me that I'm struggling so much and they're not but I try to remind my clients that what you're watching on social media even though it's purported to be real life it's still a curated image. You're still seeing people at the moment that they wanted to film so you're not seeing their whole life. You're not seeing what they're actually feeling. The movie, The Truman show starring  Jim Carrey was so ahead of its time because at the time it came out you didn't have the reality TV the way you do now.  I think you had Big Brother perhaps I want to say Survivor might have just been starting on the air so you did not have  all the reality TV that you have now but it showed people's hunger for it and the dangers of life in front of the camera. Probably my favorite line in that movie when Jim Carrey's character, spoiler warning, realizes that everything he's experienced in his life has been a lie that has been manufactured by this ego maniacal director who has basically been showing his life to the world and Truman wants to leave and the director is telling him to stay because he couldn't have a better world than the one he created for him and he's basically trying to tell him “I know you, I've known you from the time you were a baby I've known you since you got your first tooth” and Jim Carrey, Truman  says “You never had a camera in my head.” And I think that is just an amazing line and I think that is the perfect example of why reality TV and social media can't be true reality because you don't have a camera in their head and nor should we ever, please if they ever have that technology we shouldn't do it,p so despite what someone will show you in that clip or talk to you about on social media You do not have a camera in their head You do not know their full life and the dangers of comparison are great.

Question: Is there a particular movie that has had the most influence in your life?

Oh this is a hard one because so many movies have influenced me in different ways that to pick just one is nearly impossible. For the purpose of this conversation I think I'm going to pick the original Walt Disney movie Escape to Witch Mountain. We had that movie on video and I must have watched it a million times as a kid. It was really funny and exciting. It was about these two kids with psychic powers who have to simultaneously find out where they're really from while escaping the clutches of an evil wealthy man who wants to use their powers to enhance his wealth. I suppose how it influenced little me was that it deals with the idea of being true to who you are and that being different is ok. It is when we truly embrace who we are that we are finally at home and at peace with ourselves and the world.

Question: What’s your favorite genre of movies?

This is a tough one. I adore practically all genres of movies. I love old movie musicals, I love romantic comedies, I love mystery, suspense, slapstick comedy. The only genre that I don’t particularly like is  gory horror I just don't, that just doesn't appeal to me. So if I have to think what is my go-to genre it's probably a toss-up between romantic comedies and a good musical.

Question: Do you have a favorite decade of movies?

 Oh another hard one there were some great romantic comedy movies I want to say in the mid to late '80s early '90s.  I mean if you look at my site a lot of times the movies I'm picking are from that time. Because there were just such gems there. That being said I also have a fondness for old movies so there are some great movies from the 1940s that I really like a lot so it's weird I think if I have to cherry pick probably two of my favorite decades is old movies from the 1940s and then other older movies like from the late '80s early '90s and to the mid '90s early 2000s.

Question: What’s your favorite movie?

 Again tough question I have to split this by genre. So favorite movie musical:  The Sound of Music, a total classic. Favorite romantic comedy While You  Were Sleeping.  Favorite Mystery, comedy romantic suspense movie: Foul Play. Favorite slapstick comedy: Airplane, Favorite Scary Suspense Movie: The Sixth Sense. Favorite Film Noir: Laura. Favorite Christmas movie: The original Miracle on 34th Street.

Question: Do you have a favorite movie quote?

 My favorite quote is probably from the original Miracle on 34th Street. “Faith is believing in something when Common Sense tells you not to.”

(Image by Zane Lee Via Unsplash)

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