Netflix’s “Unbelievable” Series and Self-Care

I just watched the Netflix series “Unbelievable.”

Warning: I might not be sharing the same “gotta see it” response everyone has been telling me about this film.

Have you seen Netflix’s original series titled “Unbelievable” starring Kaitlyn Dever, Danielle Macdonald, Toni Collette, and Merritt Wever? The shows is the investigation of a serial rapist. The series is soo powerful that talking about self-care when and if you choose to watch “Unbelievable” is very important.

If you are not aware of “Unbelievable,” the series is based on actual events of multiple sexual assaults. The series has been getting critically-acclaimed reviews since it was launched in September. And as far as the quality of every element of the production (writing, acting, film, etc…), it deserves the recognition for how powerfully done the series is. In fact, the series is so incredibly well done that I expect it to be nominated during awards season. 

And right there is my concern – how powerful this series is what concerns me most.

When it first came out in September, everyone was saying, “You gotta watch this Mike.” I started to watch the first episode and stopped midway through. It was too painful for me. That time of the year, I’m on the road daily – often flying from state to state. I am on stages sharing with audiences and working to reduce sexual violence.

After each of those programs, survivors often introduce themselves and talk with me. In those moments, I focus on being present for the survivor and on providing the survivor resources. I am fortunate that our programs are structured in such a way that the most common response from survivors we hear is “Thank you for sharing how strong I am” or “Thank you for reminding me how courageous I am.”

When hearing the pain and trauma sexual assault has inflicted on others’ lives, I have to be careful of my own energy levels and how I’m taking in any potential darkness from our world. One lesson I’ve learned of myself is that I feel the world around me. If toxic energy comes into my life, I can find myself being more negative. If positive energy is surrounding me, I can fly with that energy. And yes I’m well aware that I’m not alone in that experience.

And so back in September I walked away from watching “Unbelievable” until today when I watched the entire series. As I provide the following feedback, I can already hear some people thinking, “Well you shouldn’t watch it all at once. That is too much.” The reality is that MANY MANY people binge-watch Netflix series and so I was watching it the way many others will watch it.

My response: if you choose to watch “Unbelievable,” give yourself permission to walk away and never return or to walk away and come back when your energy feels right or to watch it however you want to or don’t want to. No one should feel pressure that they “Must Watch This” because of what others are saying – especially if you are a survivor or a professional that addresses sexual violence in your work. Sometimes professionals and educators can feel bad or guilty if they don’t watch every second of these kinds of shows. Release yourself of any burden of feeling what you “must do” when it comes to what you choose to watch or not watch.

I’ve seen a few professionals talk about this series as a must watch. I know some are using this series as an educational resource with students and groups. With the right facilitator and expert leading the conversation, I can see the power of doing so. Keywords being the right person leading the conversation. Without the right person, I could also see this film being misused in educational efforts.

Obviously every person has the right to recommend what they want to recommend. The last result I’d want from one of my posts is to takeaway others’ voices. What I’m asking is to be careful of how such a series could impact the others whom you are recommending to see it. Consider others may feel the world – including films and series – differently than you do.

A great example is the person who says, “Well you shouldn’t watch the whole series at once.” In that statement, you are acknowledging the potential harm by watching the totality of it. Some people could feel that same harm by watching one episode at a time spread out over several days or weeks or months.

The series is so well done and soo realistic that it could easily trigger individuals watching it. That is not a complaint – that is a potential reality for some. And the series takes several episodes before you start to see positive light coming in and even then, its small glimpses.

CHOOSE whether such a series is right for you. Make that choice for you based on what you know of you.

Love,
Mike

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ABOUT MIKE DOMITRZ

Mike Domitrz is the founder of The Center for Respect where he helps educational institutions, the US Military and businesses of all sizes create a culture of respect throughout their organizations. 

From addressing consent to helping corporations build a workplace free from fear (reducing fear in the workplace and helping employees thrive by treating them with respect every day), Domitrz engages audiences by sharing skill sets they can implement into their lives immediately. 

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