Let’s explore the psychology of JTBC’s “My Liberation Notes” characters. Maybe we will be able to see our minds and understand our hearts better.
JTBC’s drama “My Liberation Notes” is a very quiet drama. Born and raised in Sanpo, Gyeonggi-do, three siblings, Ki-jung, (Lee El), Chang-hee (Lee Min-ki) and Mi-jung (Kim Ji-won), live a stable daily life. Although they spend more than 3 hours every day going to and from Seoul to work, the three live their lives faithfully and quietly and help their parents work in the fields on weekends. However, they are actually tired of such repeated days where nothing happens.
Then, at some point between summer and autumn, the three siblings succeed in liberating themselves from this boring daily life. But even the way they liberate themselves is also quiet. They don’t change their jobs nor declare independence from their family, but they are gradually gaining vitality and energy.
How could the three free themselves from the boring days without changing the environment surrounding them? Let’s look at the psychological liberation method they chose.
Mi-jung – Asking someone to worship her
“So worship me. Love isn’t enough. Worship me” (Episode 2, Mi-jung)
The method chosen by Mi-jung, the youngest of the three siblings as well as the most sincere and reserved, is “worship”. Looking up in Naver Korean dictionary, “worship” is “to look up to in high regard”. It is different from love. If love holds all kinds of expectations and wishes, worship means “You cheer someone. You tell them they can do anything and that everything is possible.. You cheer them on.” In other words, it is a love in which you look up to and respect the other positively without conditions. This can be referred to as “unconditional and positive respect” suggested by psychologist Carl Rogers as one of the most important attitudes to help push psychological growth.
Mi-jung chose “worship”, the kind of unconditional and positive respect, as she reflected on her past relationship. In the 6th episode, Mi-jung said, “I was looking for someone who would make me look like a better person. Even with all my picking and choosing, I never fully supported him. I wanted him to be more successful than I was but not too much. I’ve never given my everything to someone or vice versa.” In particular, the relationship in which she had to watch and be careful with the eyes of others only led to disappointments.
Maybe that’s why Mi-jung wanted Mr. Goo (Son Seok-gu), whose name she doesn’t even know, as her partner. He doesn’t ask her about her past, doesn’t nag her to quit drinking but respects her as she is and supports her. Meanwhile, Mi-jung asks herself to do the same for him. Mi-jung, who may have also started to worship the other, finally confesses that she feels the freedom in a relationship.
“I’m happy that I don’t have to measure your affection.” (Episode 6)
Mi-jung and Mr.Goo respect and cheer for each other unconditionally then gradually find energy in their daily lives. At the same time, Mi-jung is engaged in a Liberation Club that helps her to accept herself and “to not pretend to be either happy or unhappy, look into herself honestly and not give advice or comfort”. In the end, Mi-jung does not stop worshipping Mr.Goo even when he left in episode 12.
“I wanted all the men who left me to be unhappy. I wanted people who considered me as nobody to die as if they should all disappear from the earth. I’ll hope you don’t catch a cold. I hope you don’t have a day when you suffer from a hangover.”
This scene proves that Mi-jung has realized that she was “not insignificant” even if the person she loves left and that she has grown up firmly.
Chang-hee – Reclaim his spirit and acknowledge his desire
The second sibling Chang-hee, who appeared after breaking up with her lover, is a person who was worried that he will get caught in his rusticness. He blamed the reason for the breakup on his lover. Then, he confessed his innermost thoughts to Ki-jung, who scolded him.
“That’s when the reason we broke up becomes that I watched a movie alone or that she texted some guy late at night. And it can never be because she found out that pathetic loser I am” (Episode 3).
What makes him even more frustrated is senior Jung, who sits next to him at the company. Although she is rich, she takes care of her own things too carefully and constantly poured out words about her desires. Other colleagues generally do not like Jung, but Chang-hee particularly hates her. Then one day, a colleague advised Chang-hee, who only curses at senior Jung even at a drinking party, as follows.
“Would you hate Jung Ah-reum that much if she wasn’t rich? If she were a normal woman in a normal family, would you hate her that much? Be honest. You’re greedy like Jung Ah-reum, but you might be pretending you don’t. (…) Don’t deny your greed and just open it up.” (Episode 9)
This was a good explanation of the psychological pattern of Chang-hee who finds himself in others and hates others. It was hard for him to admit not only his rusticness but also the desire in his heart.
On this day, Chang-hee suddenly felt relieved after seeing something to do in the bathroom of Mr.Goo’s house late at night. This is what he said
“I felt like I was stuck everywhere, but after pouring it out, I think it left a hole in me right now”.
This was the moment when Chang-hee coolly acknowledged his rusticness and desire. Chang-hee, who must have taken his colleague’s words into his mind, finds a high-end foreign car key in Mr.Goo’s bathroom and coolly acknowledges his desire to drive it. Then, he honestly told Mr. Goo about it and finally got his hands on the car.
After that, Chang-hee becomes more gentle to senior Jung and finds vitality in his daily life. Besides, he does not brag anymore. While driving around, he emphasizes that it is not his car but the car of an acquaintance, and acknowledges the shame he feels when he gets in and out of the car. These were scenes that showed that he accepted his desires as they were without evaluating them. If he had tried to look good, he would have tried to show off himself driving a foreign car.
But desire comes with a price. In episode 12, Chang-hee has a headache again due to a car accident. After contemplating, he tells Mr. Goo honestly about this and runs towards somewhere. Perhaps Chang-hee will be able to grow further by accepting even the anguish that follows his desires.
Ki-jung – Pluck up the courage to face the past
The eldest daughter, Ki-jung, tries to escape from her boring daily life by falling in love with someone. She then senses that her heart is heading to Tae-hoon (Lee Ki-woo) whom she met by chance. But she cannot muster the courage to confess and is afraid of being hurt. Ki-jung recalls the things that hurt the people she confessed to in the past, and realizes that she is afraid that the same thing will happen to her. Ki-jung takes time to face and reflect on her past.
She finally takes courage and conveys her heart to Tae-hoon. This would have been the comfort that came from facing her past. However, Ki-jung gets rejected, and she says like this after a bout of grief.
“It’s comfortable. I should’ve gotten dumped earlier.” (Episode 8)
This would have been the comfort that came from the creation of “the courage to face one by one without avoiding” (Episode 10) as Ki-jung herself said, “I’ve crossed a certain mountain.”
Was that the reason? Ki-jung finds vitality and relaxation after being dumped. She declares that she will love “fulfillingly” rather than “in a hard-to-get way” (Episode 11). After that, Ki-jung reveals more candid aspects in her meeting with Tae-hoon. This time, Tae-hoon approaches and the two finally begin their love.
In this way, the three siblings in “My Liberation Notes” succeeded in liberation with the courage to practice unconditional positive respect (Mi-jung), accept the desires that he did not want to admit (Chang-hee) and face her shameful self (Ki-jung).
In the end, it can be said that their liberation originated from seeing and accepting themselves as they are. Even after achieving liberation, daily life suddenly becomes boring, and the moment when you have to deal with the people you do not like will come again. However, if you can see yourself “as you are” like the characters in “My Liberation Notes”, you will be able to live without being buried in this reality.
If life is frustrating and boring right now, let’s remember the code of “Liberation Club”. If we can put it into practice, wouldn’t we be able to make an undecided confession that “I’m lovely” (Episode 9)? In that case, vitality will be added to the boring daily life.
“I won’t pretend to be happy, I won’t pretend to be unhappy, I’ll be honest.” (Episode 12, Liberation Club Code)