I watched the Season 3 finale of The Killing last night. This show is filled with twists and turns, misdirections and red herrings. I love it.
In one of the previous episodes, while Detective Sarah Linden is trying to prove that the man she helped convict for murder is innocent of that crime, her supervisor tells her, in a profound moment of deep connection, “I believe you.”
For those who have not seen any of The Killing, it is a police drama whose protagonist was a foster care kid. After becoming a police detective, she had been admitted for psychiatric care after becoming so deeply invested in a case that the obsession affected her health. That case turned out to be the one she is reinvestigating in Season 3.
As a former psychiatric patient, and as a product of the foster care system, Linden is not successful as a mother. She doesn’t have a nice group of friends that she hangs out with after work. She doesn’t belong to any book clubs or the PTA. She is, however, very successful as an investigator. Her past experiences, including her life in the system, developed in her a set of skills that aid her in seeing crimes, suspects, witnesses, and evidence from a unique point of view. But always, her instincts are questioned and second guessed by her police supervisors and even her fellow detectives because of her past.
In this moment when she is validated by her supervisor, I understand the emotions that Linden is feeling as she processes the new experience of being believed.
For women who have been abused, lived in controlling relationships, or been denied opportunities because of their gender, sexual orientation or lifestyle choices, the experience of another human being acknowledging a position, statement, observation, even a feeling, is profound in a way that is difficult to explain.
Imagine trying to tell someone, anyone, that something really bad is happening in your life and no one believes you, or they simply refuse to see what is going on. And then suddenly, one person stops what he or she is doing, really looks at you, and listens to what you have to say, and then says, “I believe you.”
Denying the experiences of others is a huge part of being human. We do this to preserve our sanity. That couldn’t really happen, right? A father would never really do that to his daughter, right? A husband would never treat his wife like that, right? All is well with the world and I can sleep at night in peace. We all do this to some degree.
For the individual who takes the time to really listen to another, to try to understand that other person’s experience, you are a special person.
It has been a big part of my own family dynamic (growing up and afterward) to deny the reality of some family members and impose a more comfortable reality, or accept the reality of one particular person (I call this person the pot-stirrer or nosy one). Most families have someone like this. He or she is the gossiper, the back biter, the self-righteous one, always trying to stir up trouble, and polarize the family. Never happy with just letting people live their lives, this person is always looking for ways to control others, have a hand in supposedly bettering the lives of those around them, but never in a nice way.
I was often at the receiving end of such attention. My brother was smart and moved 3,000 miles away. But me, nope. I stuck with it. I stayed. And I suffered the indignation of always being wrong. I guess you could say I was programmed to be wrong.
So when I was facing a very ugly marriage situation, when I needed to stand up for myself, I knew I would not have the backing of my family. I knew that no one would believe me. And I was correct.
These three little words hold so much meaning for someone like me: