In Reply to: Elizabeth Smart was brainwashed posted by Acheick on March 13, 2003 at 13:01:15:
I posted about it on the Academic Board.
Notorious in the United States is the case of Patty Hearst, who after being kidnapped and tortured by the Symbionese Liberation Army, took
up arms and joined their cause, taking on the nom de guerre of "Tania" and helping the SLA rob banks.
The term, Stockholm Syndrome, was coined in the early 70's to describe the puzzling reactions of four bank employees to their captor. On
August 23, 1973, three women and one man were taken hostage in one of the largest banks in Stockholm. They were held for six days by two
ex-convicts who threatened their lives but also showed them kindness. To the world's surprise, all of the hostages strongly resisted the
government's efforts to rescue them and were quite eager to defend their captors. Indeed, several months after the hostages were saved by the
police, they still had warm feelings for the men who threatened their lives.
The Stockholm incident compelled journalists and social scientists to research whether the emotional bonding between captors and captives
was a "freak" incident or a common occurrence in oppressive situations. They discovered that it's such a common phenomenon that it deserves
a name. Thus the label, Stockholm Syndrome, was born.
It has happened to concentration camp prisoners, cult members, civilians in Chinese Communist prisons, pimp-procured prostitutes, incest
victims, physically and/or emotionally abused children, battered women, prisoners of war, victims of hijackings, and of course, hostages.
Virtually anyone can get Stockholm Syndrome it the following conditions are met:
- Perceived threat to survival and the belief that one's captor is willing to act on that threat
- The captive's perception of small kindnesses from the captor within a context of terror
- Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor
- Perceived inability to escape.
Stockholm Syndrome is a survival mechanism. The men and women who get it are not lunatics. They are fighting for their lives. They deserve
compassion, not ridicule.
Long-term psychological study of this and similar hostage situations has defined a fairly clear and characteristic set of symptoms for the
As a strategy of survival captives begin to identify with their captors. At least at first this is a defensive mechanism, based on the (often
unconscious) idea that the captor will not hurt the captive if he is cooperative and even positively supportive. By identifiying with the likes and
dislikes of the captor, captives warp their own psyche around the captors to the point of sympathizing with them. The captive seeks to win the
favor of the captor in an almost childlike way. The captive realizes that action taken by would-be rescuers is very likely to hurt him/her.
The syndrome explains what happens in hostage-taking situations, but can also be used to understand the behavior of battered spouses,
members of religious CULTS, Holocaust victims, and even household pets.
Psychologist Dee Graham has theorized that Stockholm Syndrome occurs on a societal level. Since our culture is patriarchal, she believes that
all women suffer from it--to widely varying degrees, of course. She has expanded on her theories in "Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men's
Violence, and Women's Lives," which is well worth reading. While Graham's book can get quite harsh, it does end on a hopeful note: The
most reliable way to deal with Socketal Stockholm Syndrome is to develop strong friendships and political alliances with feminist women.
Graham's theory is controversial and it tends to put many women on the defensive. Still, it is a much more convincing explanation of women's
"self-destructive" behavior than such theories as "masochism" and "codependency".