You Have a Bad Case of Stockholm Syndrome – Part 2
DIGGING DEEPER, UNDERSTANDING STOCKHOLM SYNDROME
It’s important to understand the components of Stockholm Syndrome as they relate to abusive and controlling relationships. Once the syndrome is understood, it’s easier to understand why victims support, love, and even defend their abusers and controllers.
Every syndrome has symptoms or behaviors. Stockholm Syndrome is no exception. A clear-cut list has not been established due to varying opinions by researchers, but these features will be present:
- Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser/controller
- Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends, or authorities trying to rescue/support them or win their release
- Support of the abuser’s reasons and behaviors; and overlooking the abuser’s abusive and intimidating acts or tendencies
- Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim
- Supportive behaviors by the victim, at times helping the abuser
- Inability to engage in behaviors that may assist in their release or detachment
These are the symptoms; but what is the cause?
Four conditions are present that serve as a foundation for the development of Stockholm Syndrome. These four conditions (or situations) can be found not only in the “hostage/hostage-taker” scenario; but also severe child and/or spousal abuse, and other abusive societal relationships:
- The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat
- The presence of a “perceived” small kindness from the abuser to the victim
- Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser
- The perceived inability to escape the situation
By considering each situation we can comprehend how Stockholm Syndrome develops in interpersonal and societal relationships as well as criminal/hostage situations.
Let’s look at each situation:
Condition A: The Perceived Threat (to one’s survival)
The perception of threat can be formed by direct methods, indirect methods, or witnessed methods. Direct methods are seen in criminal or antisocial people that directly threaten your life or the life of
friends and family. Their history of violence leads us to believe that the captor/controller will carry out the threat in a direct manner if we fail to comply with their demands. The abuser assures us that only our cooperation keeps our loved ones safe.
Indirectly, the abuser/controller offers threats that you will never leave them or have another partner, reminding you that people in the past have paid dearly for not following the abuser/controller’s wishes. Hints may be offered such as “I know people who can make others disappear”. Indirect threats also come from the stories told by the abuser or controller – how they obtained revenge on those who have crossed them in the past. Stories of revenge may be told to remind the victim that revenge is possible if they leave.
Witnessing abuse is also abusive to the witness, indirectly. A child viewing another child being beaten or abused) instills feelings of intimidation and fear in the mind of the viewer. Witnessing violence or aggression becomes a perceived threat. Witnessing a person’s violent temper directed at something like a television set, or other (unknown) people on the highway, or at some outside third party clearly sends
the message that “we” could be the next target for violence or rage. Witnessing the thoughts and attitudes of the abuser/controller is threatening and intimidating, knowing that “we” will be the target of those thoughts in the future.
This is the “micro-level” of the “perceived threat condition” of the Stockholm Syndrome. What is the “macro” or Geopolitical level? We could even ask the question: What are the “perceived threats” that you hearing about? However, there is a problem with applying the condition of “perceived threats” at the level of societal and Geopolitical threats because these threats are actually very real. But, the question to ask is “where” do the real threats come from.
From a geopolitical perspective, “societal threats” gain governments more power than anything else. People will give up all sorts of freedoms when these threats become real. And, they do become real. Today there are two primary perceived threats. One threat is “terrorism” and the other is “health”. Environmental damage is rampant around the world. In much of the world, even obtaining clean drinking water is a major concern. In addition, pandemics are being discussed and touted; and mandatory inoculation is the “perceived fix” to this very real threat.
We will go into more detail about “war/terrorism”, but for the moment, just consider some of the original meanings on this matter from older dictionaries.
Word: “Terrorism” Funk and Wagnall’s New Practical Standard Dictionary (1946)
Condition B: The “Small Kindness” Perspective
In threatening or survival conditions, people will look for evidences of hope – a small sign that the situation might improve. When an abuser/controller shows the victim some small kindness, the victim interprets the “kindness” as a positive trait of the captor, even though it is to the abusers benefit as well. The benefit to the abuser/controller is that it keeps the victim “locked” into the relationship and “the conditions” by attachment.
In criminal/war hostage situations, letting the victim live is often enough. Small behaviors, such as allowing a bathroom visit or providing food/water, are enough to strengthen Stockholm Syndrome in criminal hostage events.
In relationships with abusers, a birthday card, a gift (usually provided after a period of abuse), or a special treat are interpreted as not only positive but evidence that the abuser is not “all bad”. You will hear comments about the abuser from the victims of this type of relationship like; “well they are not all that bad” or “I can handle the way they are” or “the way they are doesn’t really bother me that much”. The hope is that the abuser/controller may at some time correct his or her behavior.
Abusers and controllers are often given positive credit for not abusing their partner when the partner would have “normally” been subjected to verbal or physical abuse in a certain situation. An aggressive and jealous partner may normally become intimidating or abusive in certain social situations, as when an opposite-sex coworker waves in a crowd. After seeing the wave, the victim expects to be verbally battered and when it doesn’t happen, that “small kindness” is interpreted as a positive sign.
Similar to the “small kindness perspective” is the perception of a “softer side” to the abuser. During the relationship, the abuser/controller may share information about their past – how they were mistreated, abused, neglected, or wronged. The victim begins to feel that the abuser/controller may be capable of fixing their behavior or worse yet, that they (abuser) may also be a “victim”. Sympathy may develop toward the abuser and we often hear the victim of Stockholm Syndrome defending their abuser with “I know he fractured my jaw and ribs…but he’s troubled. He had a rough childhood!”
Abusers may even admit they need help or acknowledge that they are mentally disturbed, however, it’s almost always after they have already abused or intimidated the victim. The admission is a way of denying responsibility for the verbal or physical abuse inflicted by the abuser on the victim. This is another way that abusers keep their victims “locked” into the cycle of becoming “accustomed” to the behaviors of the abuser. The societal paradigm is totally ingrained into many cultures to give the abuser “the benefit of the doubt”.
In truth, personality disorders and criminals have learned over the years that personal responsibility for their violent/abusive behaviors can be minimized (and even denied) by blaming their bad upbringing, abuse as a child. In more modern times, such abusers/controller blame video games or bad eating habits. The bottom line is to use any manipulation possible to “keep the victim locked into the abuser” by excusing the verbal or physical abuse. No victim of abuse or a crime has ever heard their abuser say “I’m beating (robbing, mugging, etc.) you because my Mom hated me!” during the event.
While most of the time it is true that the abuser/controller had a difficult upbringing from which they “learned” certain behavioral patterns – showing sympathy for his/her history produces no change in their behavior. In fact, most of the time showing sympathy only prolongs the length of time you will be abused.
While “sad stories” are always included in their apologies – after some abusive or controlling event – their behavior never changes! Keep in mind; once you become hardened to the abuser’s “sad stories”, they will simply try another manipulative approach to “suck the victim back into” and keep the victim “locked’ into the abuser.
This is the “micro-level” of the “small kindness condition” of the Stockholm Syndrome. What is the “macro” or Geopolitical level? What “small kindnesses” are you hearing about?
How about the constant promise made by politicians (in America and other “nations”) about “change” and the promise that “things are going to get better”? (Think about this “kindness”…Why should “things” have to get better? And, who’s making “things” worse?). How about the “promised kindness” of lowering your taxes? It “feels” good doesn’t it? This type of “promised kindness” brings about (alleged) “evidences of hope” and instills a sense of promise and survival of the victims of the Geopolitical construct, even when the Geopolitical system is bringing “its people” to their knees.
You want more “promised kindnesses”…how about “we” will increase your benefits, your retirement, and social “security”? How about “free” health care benefits? This is the mantra of the political machine in almost every nation on the planet. The “promise” of betterment….better days ahead…a “new deal”…a contract “with America”…a new governmental structure…out with the old administration and in with the new…building a consensus or a coalition…creation of new jobs…provide education and no child left behind…security for the homeland…protect your borders…beefing up the infrastructure…monitor terrorism…provide inoculation for a possible pandemic…bailout the banks and factories…new growth…regain our moral compass…retrain “our” young people…the children are “our” future…and “our” best days are yet to come.
Then, when none of this happens and as “YOUR CONDITION” gets worse…it is because “they didn’t understand the problems”…”they didn’t foresee some issue”…”they overspent in this area” because didn’t “understand the “needs of the people”…; SO…it’s time to “chart a new course”…”change direction again”…and “recapture what was lost”. It’s time for a “new administration”….RIGHT?
Does any of this sound familiar?
Stay tuned for Part Three…