I am probably part of the minority group that has not watched Netflix’s biggest show Squid Game, but I want to share some reflections regarding the Netflix show Maid, which is becoming Netflix’s biggest limited series. It is inspired by the real life story of Stephanie Land and her memoir “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive”. The show follows the story of a young mother – Alex- finding her way through the obstacles of domestic abuse, poverty, intergenerational trauma, and mental health issues. Hopefully, without spoiling the show for those who have not watched it, here are some reflections on certain observations that might be relatable and relevant to some of us:
1. Emotional abuse IS abuse Maid shows that the impact of emotional and psychological abuse is as damaging as physical abuse.
Alex was not shown to have been physically abused or hurt by her partner, but manipulation, gaslighting, intimidation were enough to threaten her and her daughter’s safety and send her on a fight-or-flight response. Her decision to flee from the situation was a great response and representation of the choice that we can have, but don’t always see or choose in our lives when dealing with any form of abuse.
2. Trust ourselves, listen to our bodies
The show also depicts the complexities of intergenerational trauma. Alex’s relationship with her father is portrayed as distant, strained, and her reactions towards him were even rather hostile. However, she did not seem to have good explanations or have understood the reasons for her rejection, even when her father’s new family was trying to help.
By chance, during a cleaning job, she discovered and explored a small hidden space at the client’s house and accidentally got locked in, resulting in a panic attack. Her shelter manager then counselled her and said “the body remembers…”
This started a journey of remembering, exploring, and making sense of where her reactions came from, rooted in the trauma she suffered as a child witnessing her father’s abuse towards her mother. The panic attack was like a helpful smoke alarm and warning sign for her to prioritise her safety.
I am pleased that the show represents the relationship that we have (or could have) with our physical bodies, as they are the vessels that store our past experiences and can be engaged to build better awareness, process our experiences, and gain necessary clarity.
3. Self-compassion is part of resilience
The show also realistically represents the struggle of leaving a familiar situation, no matter how unhealthy it is for us. After leaving and struggling for some time, Alex found herself back in her partner’s home, drawn by his seemingly promising change and probably the feelings that she still had for him.
In real life, it is unlikely that someone is 100% bad or 100% good, and it is normal and understandable that we need time to gain clarity, courage, and conviction to decide what’s best for ourselves and address the situation. And to find ourselves back in the same situation, even after leaving. The domestic violence shelter manager even said “it takes 7 tries before someone really leaves”.
Self-compassion is key when we find ourselves at this juncture. It would be easy to judge, become frustrated and angry at ourselves, but not helpful. Accepting setbacks as part of life, not magnifying / exaggerating them and knowing that this is a common struggle, are part of the self-compassion strategies that can be helpful for us to stay resilient and move forward.
4. Focus on meaning & purpose
Alex’s journey is by no means easy or linear, which is again an accurate depiction of life in general. Throughout the show, I kept asking myself – how much can she take?
Two main drivers that kept her focused and motivated were her daughter Maddie, and her passion for learning / writing that pushed her to work hard to get into college.
When life gets tough, we might find ourselves focusing just on the pain and struggles of the day to day life and forgetting to zoom out to see the bigger picture. Making time and space, no matter how little/ small, to find meaning in our lives, and pursue a purpose could be the very thing we need to not just stay afloat, but also thrive.
To be honest, the show could be difficult to watch, and even triggering to some who might have had similar experiences. However I find that it is a must-watch (even with some ear-covering and eyes-closing moments for me) as it sends a necessary reminder that we are strong and resilient beings. Life is full of struggles, but is also giving and kind.