Author Archives: Carol W Berman

Parking Lot 63

I have a new play, Parking Lot 63, at the Hudson Guild Theater in August 2015.

It’s 1963. Sara, 13, is growing up in an atmosphere of huge changes in the world. Immediately, Sara has to deal with a pervert father, an abandoning big brother, and an abusive mother. Sara learns how to save herself during this turmoil and she even rescues a sexual slave from her father’s parking lot.

Performances are:
• Thursday, August 13 @ 9pm
• Saturday, August 15 @ 1pm
• Sunday, August 16 @ 6pm

All Shows at the Hudson Guild Theater

To purchase tickets brownpapertickets.com

6 Ways to Identify a Narcissistic
Personality Disorder

When you’re with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) person, it feels like you don’t exist.

That individual is usually so grandiose and expansive that others around him fade into the background. One day I walked across town with a colleague whom I soon suspected had NPD. He was a tall, handsome doctor in a grey suit. He spent the twenty minutes that it took to get from the Eastside to the Westside of Manhattan telling me all about himself. I tried to get a few words in on another topic, but even though I spoke loudly and insistently, I could tell he didn’t hear me. When we finally parted, I was relieved.

You may be dealing with a NPD, if the person you know or have interacted with displays the following behavior:

1) He or she insists on bragging and exaggerating his or her achievements. An actor patient of mine “knew” that he could be the next Brad Pitt. He constantly fantasized about being discovered, yet he failed to go to auditions or work in any way to improve his skills. When I encouraged him to go and try out for parts, he assured me that for him, it was unnecessary. He would be found by the right people just walking the streets or nightclubbing at the most popular spots. Any reality testing that I tried with him was brushed aside.

2) A person with NPD believes that she is “special” and no one can understand her except other “special” people. Another patient told me that I, her ob-gyn M.D., and her trainer were all “special” and top-notch like herself. When I asked her what “special” meant, she looked at me with scorn and warned that if I didn’t already know what that meant, I could tumble out of my special status. I might fall into the category of ordinary and that was way below her. She did not associate with such people.

3) The individual needs excessive admiration. One woman I treated showed me sweaters and scarves that she knitted. They were exquisitely made and I told her so. One evening I was tired and my tone must not have been as enthusiastic as usual when I praised her work. She was angry after that. When I tried to address the issue, she cried and refused to consider that she had any problem about this. Everyone that she knew had to tell her what wonderful knitting she produced. Most people did admire her work, but she never felt satisfied no matter how much praise she received.

4) The indvidual feels entitled to everything. Whenever I see someone cut into a line at the supermarket, I think NPD. These are the people who never pay their bills even though they have enough money to do so. They are entitled to free treatment in their minds.

5) The person lacks empathy and can’t identify or recognize the needs of others. One patient who was a partner in a big law firm worked his associates, clerks, and secretaries relentlessly without proper pay and little regard for their welfare. One of his paralegals was mugged on his way home to the Bronx after midnight. My patient callously declared that it was the man’s own fault and refused to take any blame for overworking his employee and keeping him late in the office. I tried to explain the worker’s point-of-view to him to no avail.

6) They are usually seen as arrogant and haughty by others and usually disliked.

As in any personality disorder the NPD person is stuck in a certain way of thinking, feeling, and behavior. Those with personality disorders do not think that they have problems, so they are unmotivated to change. They will consult psychiatrists or other therapists when they are struggling with depression, anxiety, or even psychosis.

The cause of NPD is usually based on pathological family interactions when the individual is very young and first forming his mental patterns. Often there are cold, unsympathetic parents who cannot relate to the child’s needs. Otto Kernberg believes that if an infant’s healthy narcissism continues into adulthood then NPD develops. Kernberg and Heinz Kohut have written many books and articles about NPD. They attempted psychotherapy and, in some cases, psychoanalysis with NPD patients. Recently, medical professionals have found genetic evidence that personality disorders may be inherited, especially schizotypal or borderline personality disorders.

One way to treat NPD would be to try to focus the person outside of him/herself. As in the case of my attorney patient who couldn’t understand his employee’s point-of-view, I take the patient through an examination of how another person may feel about something the NPD did or said. This is difficult work, but sometimes the NPD is able to gain some understanding of how humiliated or injured another person might be by the NPD’s statements or behavior. There is a concept of “healthy narcissism,” in which a person takes good care of him/herself but is still able to understand the needs of others. We all should strive for this state.

Act 1

What better place to view Los Angeles than from a parking lot attendant’s p-o-v? My new play, PARKING LOT 63, takes us back to my childhood in L.A. in the early ‘60’s. After all these years, I’m finally figuring out what motivated my father, mother, brother, and me. You would think a psychiatrist, like myself, would have easy access to understanding her own family dynamics, but it doesn’t work that way. All that early stuff is obscured by distorted memories and fantasies. We’ll have a reading of ten minutes of this new play on Sunday, April 27th, at the Shelter Studios

Act 1, Scene 1 & Assorted
Ten Minute Teasers

Characters, Ink. invites you to a free afternoon of readings from our plays in progress.

Featuring the work of:

M. Jane Balanoff
Carol W. Berman
Anna Ewing Bull
Lois Dilivio
Betty Forhman
Suzanne Mernyk
Harriet Rafe
Diane Simpson
Abby Walker

When:
Sunday, April 27th, 3 – 5pm

Where:
Shetler Studios
244 West 54th Street (btw. Broadway & 8th Ave), NYC
Studio 1, 12th Floor

Reserve:
Seating is limited! Please send requests to: smernyk@yahoo.com

Don’t rush off! Please stay to share and schmooze with us over wine, cheese and other snacks.

Update on In the Kingdom of Sam

We sold out in our world premier on Sunday Oct. 20, 2013! I watched as the audience laughed and cried in all the right places. How exhilarating! They really got it. We’d been rehearsing since September. All that hard work finally paid off. My own words had been reverberating in my head for months as I heard my actors practicing them week after week. How wonderful to hear the beautiful interpretation on stage at last.

After this first show, I went out to dinner with two dear friends who knew my husband, Marty, very well. They recognized that my main character, Sam, wasn’t exactly Marty, but they could see similarities to him. “Marty never fought with his brother that much, did he?” Or “Was Marty’s mother really that nice?” they asked. I smiled and assured them that their knowledge of Marty was correct, but plays and fiction must distort reality for the dramatic effect.

We have three shows left (10/24, 10/26, and 10/27) and I can’t wait to see every one of them. The Manhattan Repertory Theater, which is a great venue for new plays, gave us another night of performance, because we sold out last Sunday. Our only problem has been trying to get a review of the show. I contacted everyone I know, but unless you have a good P.R. person, early in production, it’s practically impossible. A review and publicity can lead to more shows and connections for everyone involved.

This production has been inspiring me and other playwrights in my group, Characters, Ink. My next play, Parking Lot 63, will address the sixties, my childhood, sexual abuse and liberation.

Thanks to my amazing cast, Andreas Damm, Charles Montgomery, Eileen F. Dougherty, Bill McAndrews, Lisa Bruno, and Dina Paisner, my brilliant director, Spider Duncan Christopher, and my super-competent stage manager, Beverlix Jean-Baptiste.

In the Kingdom of Sam Comes to the
Manhattan Repertory Theater

I’m happy to report that my play, In the Kingdom of Sam, will be onstage at the Manhattan Repertory Theater in October 2013.  This play takes the audience into the world of Sandra, an artist, whose husband, Sam, has had a stroke.  Sam feels so diminished that he imagines himself a king, accompanied by a jester, Manny.  Manny is invisible to everyone on stage, except for Sam and his niece, Dana, after she smokes marijuana.  Sam’s brother, Saul (Dana’s father), has been in competition with Sam his whole life and now has the opportunity to regain his inheritance and win Sandra over.  Sam fights for his survival against these odds.

My play will be part of a Stagecraft Play Festival run by The Manhattan Repertory Theater at 303 W. 42nd St. in Manhattan.

Performances are:

• Sunday, October 20th @ 3:00 PM

• Thursday, October 24th @ 6:30 PM

• Saturday, October 26th @ 6:30 PM

In this play Sam has a stroke, rather than dementia, because I believe the audience can better understand a character with a stroke.  Sam is based on my late husband, Marty.  While caring for him with his dementia, I imagined his soul externalized and speaking for him the way Manny does for Sam in my play.  Sandra represents me and the rest of the material is fictionalized. I’ve been writing this play since 2009 when my husband started to degenerate from his Lewy Body dementia.  The performances will be dedicated to Marty.

Keep checking back—tickets on sale soon!

The Man Who Wasn’t Really There

The following is adapted from the prologue of my forthcoming book, THE MAN WHO WASN’T REALLY THERE, a part-memoir, part-prescriptive nonfiction work that chronicles my experience with my husband’s illness and provides readers with strategies for dealing with the loss of a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia.

They were forty wonderful years. After you’ve been living with a man for that length of time, it’s hard to give him up. He becomes part of you. Marty and I were inseparable. We shared everything in our apartment. We shared an office. We went everywhere together. We held most of our beliefs in common. Therapists might say such closeness and “boundary blurring” was unhealthy, but it worked for us.

Marty was a fun-loving, energetic, handsome man with a unique sense of humor. As an international patent attorney, he helped hundreds of clients file their inventions in the United States. Because of him, we drove better cars, had more user-friendly computers, used escalators and elevators with better ease. I am a psychiatrist, writer, and artist. People said we were the perfect couple. We had the legal, medical, and artistic areas covered.

His sickness, Lewy Body dementia, tore us apart. First of all he couldn’t live with me, which was heartbreaking. I tried to keep him at home with nurse’s aides for as long as I could. When he couldn’t move his legs or arms and had lost bladder and bowel control, we needed three people to put him in the wheelchair. At that point, he had to enter a nursing home.

Cuddling together before we slept, waking up and seeing each other’s faces first thing in the morning, holding hands while walking the streets, facing each other over our meals; these were all the joys taken from me.

I had to get used to living alone again. My apartment was empty without Marty wandering around or calling me. I still had his clothes, his shoes, his paintings, his guitar. I held on to these mementos.

With each loss, I adapted the best I could. Marty went from the “man who was always there” to the “man who wasn’t really there.” I hung on and became the “woman who was always there,” without knowing whether or not he knew it. I would visit the nursing home every day and try to communicate with him. At first he was able to answer in monosyllables and then he became silent as his speech centers shut down.

The darkness was greatest just before he died. Looking at his almost lifeless body, emaciated and pale, was painful. He was unable to swallow food and just lying in bed waiting to die. He accepted a little water which kept his mouth moist. Marty could hold my hand and open and close his eyes. My nurse’s aides sat with him most of the day, reading aloud or playing music for him. I came to visit each day, in between working and trying to live.

I cried constantly, couldn’t sleep, felt guilty and miserable until it dawned on me that I was also receiving a gift. The final opportunity to make a clean separation from the person I loved most in the world would not usually be seen as a gift. It had been five years of suffering. But if I stepped back from myself and looked at everything objectively, I realized I had done everything I could to help him through his illness and ease his passage. We’d been so lucky all those years to have each other. I had learned many important lessons. I knew most people were not as fortunate to find their life partner at an early age and keep him for so long. Perhaps it was greed that made me hang onto him even at this stage. I often wondered if it was my love that kept him going when he would have been more comfortable passing. I felt myself pulling my boundaries back into myself, the way a cat curls into a ball.