The TV series (2021), directed by John Wells, focuses on psychological violence, empathy, and courage. Alexandra (Margaret Qualley), the main character of the series, runs away from her abusive partner, Sean, taking her three-year-old daughter Maddy with her. This escape triggers a series of events, and the audience is completely absorbed in this introspective story.
Alexandra is a victim of verbal and psychological abuse, a type of violence that does not leave any obvious traces, and, for this reason, she is often belittled. In this TV series, there are no well-defined victims and oppressors. In fact, every character has a sad and winding life path.
Typical traits of emotional violence:
● Humiliation and Criticism: through contemptuous language.
● Control and Isolation: in this TV series we see how Sean tries to marginalize Alex, denying her access to the bank account and car.
● The unpredictability of Behavior: Sean can deceive both Alex and the audience. In fact, he is kind and caring at first but then he falls back to the previous dynamics of violence.
● Denial: the victim is destabilized through the rejection of facts that have occurred.
What is the profile of the psychological abuser? He is rigid and intolerant, and there is no middle ground for him. He is overbearing and controlling. He also uses emotional blackmail to manipulate his victim. He makes false promises to change. He heavily criticizes the victim because he wants to subdue her. He has low self-esteem, and he tries to subjugate the other person because he seeks to feel strong and important.
In the series, we can see several traits of this type of abuser. In the beginning, Sean is a charming and romantic man, and he makes Alex believe in a possible fairytale. After that, his dark side emerges. Sean often tries to put Alex down, undermining her job or her goals for the future, such as going to college. Likewise, he insults her personally in very harsh ways.
Consequences of psychological violence:
● Loss of Self Esteem
● Loss of contact with oneself. In a symbolic scene, Alex sinks into the couch and ends up at the bottom of a well, as a metaphor for self-loss.
● Memory Loss
● Sense of Disorientation
● Suicidal thoughts
● Shame: the victim feels responsible for what she is suffering and that is why she does not ask other people for help.
At the end of the relationship with Sean, Alex is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a common clinical consequence for those who are victims of emotional violence. This disorder is a non-functional response to traumatic events and people who suffer from this disorder can also have recurring flashbacks to the traumatic event, with a combination of drowsiness and nightmares.
To get out of this painful situation, one must recognize that what you are experiencing is totally insane or irrational. Stop blaming yourself and realize that you cannot “heal” the other person. You can only change your response, not what is done. The first step to escape from this prison is to create a support system: talk to your closest friend, share your experience with a family member, or even with a therapist. Spending some quality time with the people you love can help you to admit the devastating truth and to get away from the people who hurt you.
Translation: Francesca Camilla Perra
Authors: Gaia Valeria Colombo & Alice Rita Badari