Saturday, August 31, 2013

The “Stockholm Syndrome” and the Abused!

I was just recently re-introduced to the “Coined” term The Stockholm Syndrome, for the undying loyalty and even compassion; I had toward my abuser, My Father. I had heard that term passed around quite often in the past and never really thought it applied to my life because I always associated it with the Concentration Camp Prisoners or Prisoners of war. I never really realized it is a Syndrome acquired by also being abused as a child; battered; an incest victim; in a cult or in a controlling or intimidating relationship. But after a conversation with a friend and a recent situation I was involved with, I have come to recognize that it is one of the main reasons I never talked about my abuse to friends or others in a position to help. I had this sick, undying loyalty to my father! I always classified it as the “Survivors Guilt” syndrome in my own mind.

The term, Stockholm Syndrome, was coined to describe the puzzling reactions and emotional interactions of four bank employees who were held captive by two criminals brandishing machine guns. On August 23, 1973, three women and one man were taken hostage in one of the largest banks in Stockholm, Sweden. They were held for six days (131 hours), by two ex-convicts who threatened their lives by strapping them with dynamite and placing them in a vault until they were finally rescued on August 28th!

After their rescue the hostages exhibited a shocking attitude considering what they had just gone through by being threatened, abused and fearing for their own lives. They supported and had compassion on their captors. One woman even later formed a legal defense fund to aid in the criminal defense! Two of the women eventually got engaged to the captors. Those hostages became “Bonded” in a sick emotional sense!

After the Stockholm incident, many journalists, physiologist and social scientists formed research as to whether the emotional bonding between a captor and captives was a "freak" incident or if it was a common occurrence in various oppressive situations. They discovered that it was such a common phenomenon that it deserved a name. Thus, the label, Stockholm Syndrome. In actuality, anyone can acquire the Syndrome if they are involved in situations similar to these:

Concentration Camp Prisoners; Cult Members; Civilians in Chinese Communist Prisons; The Pimp/Prostitute Relationship; Incest Victims; Physically and/or Emotionally Abused Children; Battered Women; Prisoners of War; Victims of Hijackings, and of course, Hostages. The following perceptions of those directly involved as the “Victim” in horrifying situations is a guideline for how the syndrome actually occurs:

• A Perceived threat to survival and the belief that the captor/perpetrator is willing
to act on that threat
• The captive's perception of a small act of kindnesses displayed from the captor
within the context of terror/fear
• Isolation from other perspectives than those of the captor (Influenced by Captor)
• Perceived inability to escape and hopelessness

The “Stockholm Syndrome” is a survival mechanism; those that have acquired it are not raving lunatics! We are people who were placed in life threatening situations where we had to fight for our lives! We had no idea that we were forming this sick bond between the abuser while it was happening! Every syndrome has a list of symptoms or behaviors and the “Stockholm Syndrome” is no exception. The most commonly accepted symptoms are:

• Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser/controller
• Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends or authorities trying to
help/rescue them from situation
• Support of the abuser’s reasoning and actions for the situation
• Positive feelings displayed by the abuser toward the victim
• Supportive behaviors by the victim and at times aiding/helping the abuser to escape
• Inability to engage in behaviors that may assist in their release or rescue

I think one of the reason I never classified my loyalty toward my father as the
“Stockholm Syndrome” was because I never thought I was held captive against my will or a prisoner in a terrifying situation. It was my father and I was his daughter in a family nucleus where He was supposed to be my protector; my refuge and source of safety and security. But I believe the most direct reason was that, I never associated the syndrome with my own life. It wasn’t until years later, that I learned I had this “Sick Sense of Loyalty” toward him and that I was held a prisoner against my will in the abuse that I endured!! I really hated him as a child and young teen, I wanted him caught, and I wanted the abuse to stop. I wished him dead so often in my youth! I didn’t know I was subconsciously protecting him. I guess I never fully realized how truly horrible my abuse was because it was at the hands of a true, biological parent until after writing “Shards of Glass”, and hearing all the comments. What others have said is that what makes my story so horrible and gut wrenching is that it was at the hands of a parent. The ONE who was supposed to show unconditional love, provide comfort, offer a safe environment and a person to trust!

I have since forgiven my father of all his crimes. I now sometimes wonder if the
“Stockholm Syndrome” is the direct reason and not the compassion I formed after understanding his own abuse as a child, which has allowed me to forgive him. I wonder now, if my hiding the publishing of my book under a pen name and not sharing my true identity with others is to protect my family or HIM? My mom has co-dependency issues and feels that telling my father I wrote this book would on cause him to “Go Off the deep end”, that it would ruin the only thing he has left, his reputation. Is revealing that I wrote the book going to change the past? I do fear that if he ever gets wind or anyone from my childhood past ever finds out and tells him, that he will try to harm himself. I don’t want that on my hands or conscious. I have been perplexed with this entire situation ever since I started writing the memoir. The only reason I have written under a pen name is to protect HIM! But if I reveal my identity now, will I push my mom away? Am I protecting him in a sick way by hiding behind protecting my family? These are hard questions to answer!

In any case, these issues I believe are all things that every adult survivor of abuse is faced with. We love to protect our abuser! We protect the very person who ultimately destroyed our childhood, who directly contributed to the struggles and hurdles we have had to overcome as adults. The effects of childhood abuse are far reaching and come with many complex issues, emotions and thoughts being carried into the Adult portion of our lives! But in the wise words of one of my favorite philologist and philosophers:

“That which does not kill us, Makes us STONGER!” – Friedrich Nietzsche

"Shards of Glass" By CW Seymore

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