What Does It Mean When “The Shrink Next Door” Feels A Bit Familiar

Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash

I’ve been watching The Shrink Next Door on Apple TV. It’s based on a true story about a New York psychiatrist who manipulates and then steals from his patients. What makes the telling of this story even more bizarre is that the horrible shrink is portrayed by Paul Rudd and the pushover he manipulates is portrayed by Will Ferrell. It’s a testament to Paul Rudd’s acting skills that he manages to lose all his charisma as People Magazine‘s Sexiest Man Alive to play a first class, narcissistic, social climbing asshole. And Will Ferrell shrivels his 6’3″ frame to become a meek and mousy shell of a man who is easy prey for his gold-digging shrink. Don’t expect any of the usual upbeat and hysterical nonsense from Rudd or Ferrell in this show. It’s serious as a heart attack.

When I started watching, I was drawn in by the train wreck, watching a poor schmuck fall deeper and deeper into the traps the “doctor” set for him. He loses everything as the doctor gaslights him into ditching family members, breaking up with girlfriends, renovating his family home, cutting down a cherished tree, and even creating a foundation that the doctor steals from. As I continued watching I became fascinated by the pathos of it all. For some people, the show might feel like schadenfreude. But I related to Marty, so his misfortune and missteps felt personal. I spent years of my life letting other people tell me what was best for me, going against my own wishes and intuition to make choices others presented as the right ones for me. So I have empathy for Marty. I don’t see him as a loser who was too stupid to see what was happening to him. I see him as a sweet (if naive) person who needed some confidence and help and was bamboozled by the person he trusted.

In the end, Marty does break free from Dr. Ike. Eventually he even manages to have Ike stripped of his license. We learn in the last episode of the show that Marty paid the doctor 3.2 million dollars for his services over their nearly 30 year relationship. It’s mind blowing. But at the end of it all, though, what I wanted more for Marty than punishment for the jerk who bilked him was peace. I just wanted Marty to figure it out and take his life back, and he did. I think that is the best ending any of us can ask for in this life. That one day we are able to see ourselves for who we are, treasure our best, and be willing to work on our worst so we can leave this world knowing we were awake. And that is why I am still in weekly therapy.

It’s okay, though. My therapist is way more professional and ethical than Dr. Ike.

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