Friday, February 09, 2007

The Stockhome Syndrome

The Stockholm Syndrome: it's often refered to as part of the explanation of why the victims of narcissists take the abuse. Here is an explanation of the Stockholm Syndrome itself at the Digital Archive of Psychohistory:

Bonding to one's captor (abuser) is a survival strategy for victims that has been observed in a variety of hostage-taking situations. This strategy was labeled Stockholm Syndrome after a hostage situation in a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973. Three (3) women and one (1) man were held hostage for six days by two (2) men. During this period, the four hostages and their captors bonded bi-directionally. The hostages even came to see their captors as protecting them from the police! Following the release of the hostages, one of the women became engaged to one of the captors, another of the hostage started a 'defense fund'. All this was done in the face of the fact that the hostages were bound with dynamite and generally mistreated! Such bonding to one's captor / abuser no longer considered unusual by professionals who negotiate with hostage-takers.

Read the rest.
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At 8:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad to say that often a victim's view of their being no help is often true. Police can do nothing to prevent crime, they can only arrest after a crime has been committed. Often, even after arrest and conviction, the sentence is lite and there is no further protection for the one abused. The only real choice is to flee. I know because I've been there and as a child, flee was exactly what I did. However, I was fully prepped for the abuse of other narcissists and suffered even worse abuse. Finally, I was able to understand well enough the damage to my own person and what happened to me as a child to make changes in myself and no longer be open to abuse. I'm sorry that it took me so long but even victory delayed is sweet.

This article was almost too much for me. I think of my mom and how do you free someone who is so far gone that they can no longer even recognize love? I remember my mom's 'hypervigilent' mantra, "Be careful not to hurt your daddy's feelings." How terrified we all were at saying the wrong thing, that could be anything, that would 'hurt his feelings' and unleash a whirlwind of verbal, psychological, and sometimes, physical abuse. Living that way ends in psychological suicide, the giving up of all normal needs of another for the sake of peace and survival.


At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pam- i'm really sorry that your household was like that growing up. as a parent i feel like i'm trying to play catch up on this learning curve because i've become aware of this kind of thing going on in our house. it's hard to reverse cuz it snuck up on me. my plea has been 'help me fix what i have done wrong.' unfortunately my older ones are going off in their different directions not sure what to make of what they are trying to leave behind. and i'm trying to change what's left for the younger ones,but my perspective is somewhat different now yet i don't know how i'm presenting to them. probably like i just plain old don't like their dad, which is pretty bad too. i wish it wouldn't have taken me so long to really wake up. jt

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jt--Don't feel bad at least, you are waking up. It has taken me almost my whole life to figure out my dad and what he did to all of us. I also passed it to my kids not because I abused them but because I was so trained to serve narcissists that I raised's all too confusing and hopeless sometimes. All either of us can do is set boundaries and try to make the rest of our lives as healthy as possible. You know, I wouldn't blame my mom at all if she left my dad and if she were to be really honest with me about my childhood, I don't think there is anything that could help me to heal anymore than that. She won't though. With my children however, that is what we've done. We've been honest with them about the things we did wrong and asked for their forgiveness and we're always there to help them face whatever needs to be faced. It doesn't fix all of the damage but we are a close family and not anything like the family I was raised in. Honesty in the form of plain truth is a great releif in comparison to the smoke and mirrors and drama of life with a narcissist. I think you are on the right track and things will improve for you.


At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pam- sometimes i've had to pretend to be tough. i don't even cry anymore. for a long time. sometimes i come close. it feels like i'm dying in a certain way that way. i know i'm asking to be called back into living, into feeling again. it is hard for me to trust! lately, and i know that is a dangerous place for me to drift away to. thankyou for calling me back. i got tears, made the face of someone starting to cry- and dang it got robbed again of the relief because i got all tough again. is this what happens? is this what happens to them? i don't want to be like this! i don't want to be like him!!! jt

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous gh said...

jt -- I think the difference between what you are describing and what I understand of Narcissists' lack of feeling is that you are shutting yourself off from your own feelings, but continue to experience empathy for the feelign of others. Believe me, that has been clear enough from your comments.

The loss of ability to trust is, I think, not uncommon -- I, at least, can relate! The trick is in allowing yourself to trust but in being cautious about who you trust. Right now you are hypervigilant because your trust has been betrayed, you've been hurt, and you quite reasonably do not want to let that happen again. It's probably good to educate yourself a bit about the abuse you've suffered, get smart about the red flags, and then slowly work on developing trust with people who are worthy of your trust. Take it slow. Find one person you are certain you truly can trust and work bit by bit there until you feel stronger.

You'll get through this -- we all will!

At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thankyou. i am getting to a point where something has to change. our life here in this house has become so pathetic. i feel so bad(for lack of better definition) for our kids. the older ones are lucky they can get away. we are heading for trouble w our younger ones. the second to youngest is starting to act a little obnoxious and i'm sure this weird silent treatment me and NH are doing is just weird and unbearable for them. i kept thinking if i could just make it thru til none of us are dependent on H for house and income... god, i feel so trapped. jt

At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jt---the numbness is self survival. When all the normal feelings you direct towards someone are twisted and made into weapons against you, there is no way to survive but to not feel.

I was twelve and my dad was in the middle of one of his dramas. My mother was hurt and crying and she ran out of the door, just running and running. My dad put all of us in the car and began to chase my mother as if to run her down with the car. My brother and sister were crying hysterically and I was just mad. He ran the car into a ditch and the engine struts broke and the engine fell out and my mom was safe. My brother and sister continued to cry and I just laughed. I reached the point of not being able to cry any more. That is the first time that I remember not being able to feel and it was when I stopped loving my dad. I hated him for years but with a lot of work I am free from the hatred but I still feel numb toward him. He has never truly loved me and I can't ever truly love him. It is nothing to feel guilty about it is just reality.

Don't let your N rob you of all ability to feel. Your ability to feel is your strength and not your weakness, even though that is what they abuse you by. He deserves no good feelings toward him from you but you still deserve to have your feelings.

If you have to, take your children and run. I used to wish my parents would divorce when I was a child. If my mom left him now, I would respect her for it and be overjoyed if she would care about herself enough to save herself. They have been married 50 years,she was only 18 and he 28 when they married. He moved her out on a ranch, fifty miles from town, and took her glasses and driver's license from her. Much of the abuse she endured, I didn't understand as a child and my dad made sure that we had no respect or pity for her. Whenever we did something wrong or something that didn't please him, he would tell us that we were just like our mother. Now she has no life other than to care for him and the way she waits on him as he sits like some sort of despotic king is thoroughly disgusting but she is so far gone that she wants nothing else. He has always called her his mommy doll and now he has his mommy all to himself.

Do whatever is in your power not to let this happen to you and remember that whatever you do that respects yourself and protects yourself also protects your children and their own self respect.

I'll pray for you, jt.


At 1:31 PM, Anonymous dandelion said...

Good posts, gh, jt, and Pam.

When I allowed myself to feel again (in my 30's), I was angry. The anger was mostly directed against N-mom, but I was also starting to become aware that the thing I was mad about (disregard for me as a person) was going on in N-husband as well.

The anger was a bit scary, because it was so intense. This is especially so when you're living with the person, when you're reminded of past hurts and the potential for new ones every day. But the anger was important for me to go through, so I could emotionally separate from him. Allow yourself to feel it, but only at a rate that you can handle. It is a process.

When the anger subsided, I felt indifference to some degree, as in no longer caring much about his personal well-being, except in a general sense (as in caring about any random stranger you read about in the paper).

But there is another feeling that has been rearing its head that's pretty interesting: disgust. My history with disgust goes back to being repulsed at hugging N-mom when I was growing up--I even refused to do it for a long time. When I became aware of the disgust again with N-husband, I tried to figure out where it came from. With N-mom, the feeling came up when she was acting most loving, because that seemed to me the height of the pretense. With N-husband, it's more when he does something that exposes his lack of awareness of what's going on around him.

So, I did a search on disgust. There is some interesting writing by Jonathan Haidt that suggests moral disgust is an evolutionary adaptation that signals us not to trust the other person (just like physical disgust signals us not to eat spoiled food).

I had been a bit frustrated with myself for not feeling complete detachment toward the N's in my life, like the disgust I was feeling was a petty remnant of something I hadn't gotten over. But it actually serves a purpose: it's a reminder to not be drawn in to trust them again. So I try to let myself feel it, to recognize it as the warning it is, but I don't need to actually express it.

I think disgust as a signal of lack of trust also goes the other way. I've often felt that my N's were disgusted with me when they were angry, and was not only deeply hurt but dumbfounded by it. So, in light of the above interpretation, they became disgusted with me when they couldn't trust me to act according to their expectations. But, in their case it comes from the distorted thinking that I need to conform to their expectations. In my case, the disgust comes from the emotional abuse.

Any thoughts on this, Kathy (or anyone)?

At 10:29 PM, Anonymous gh said...

dandelion -- Your theory/insight is intriguing. I have the same disgust for N-husband and N-boss, also arising from the emotional abuse. Your explanation makes perfect sense.

At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes it truly does. thankyou. thankyou everyone for all the sharing. it helps :)jt


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