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Stockholm Syndrome: Captivated by Captivity

How would you view a situation wherein victims align their opinions and feelings with their captors; wherein they tend to protect their perpetrators against testimonials; wherein they eventually identify and furthermore, work with their offenders? The human psyche is a vulnerable phenomenon, exposed to atrocious actions in society. When struck by one, the affected person reacts in a way that is unpredictable and may be implausible to stable minds. One such known, yet mystifying behavior is scientifically defined as the “Stockholm syndrome”.

When we hear the term, “Stockholm Syndrome” we frequently associate it with brainwashing hostages or kidnapping situations. When the hostages in a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, defended their perpetrators, the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined. Furthermore, the victims in the Sweden case were reluctant to give evidence against the robbers. This syndrome describes the conduct of the hostages as having favorable thoughts for the captor, supporting them, and adopting their values.

A person would never admit that they are facing Stockholm Syndrome as the unconscious mind plays in such a way that everything seems logical. The coping technique of the unconscious mind is the defense mechanism. Defense Mechanisms are psychological tactics used by an unconscious mind to control, ignore, or distort reality to combat anxiety-inducing emotions and irrational impulses and preserve one’s ability to think for oneself. The mind operates in mysterious ways and will stop at nothing to ensure that the body survives. The logic seems illogical at that point in time and the only future seen in captivity is with the perpetrator.

For instance, people who are kidnapped or taken hostage frequently perceive their captor as a threat, but they also depend heavily on them for survival needs like food, shelter, and company. If the kidnapper or abuser offers them some kindness, even as little as a concerned look, they might start to experience favorable emotions toward their captor for this alleged “compassion”.

Caption: Patty Hearst

The victim forms a psychological bond with the abuser in this protective mechanism, wherein they identify with the powerful opponent, which is sometimes referred to as identification with the aggressor. Patty Hearst, who was taken prisoner by the Symbionese Liberation Army, (SLA) is a well-known case. Two men and a woman broke into Patricia Hearst and her fiancé’s Benvenue Avenue apartment on February 4, 1974. Members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA, kidnapped Hearst. Their objectives were to overthrow the “capitalist state” and “incite a war against the U.S. government.” Then, her kidnapper raped and assaulted her. Hearst was shown by security cameras inside the San Francisco Hibernia Bank on April 15, 1974, aiming a firearm at a bank employee while aiding SLA members in robbing the bank. She started working as “Tania,”. Two months after being abducted, she declared her dedication to the SLA and its principles. She criticized her birth family in a tape that was played on a radio station. Hearst was held captive by the SLA for the first 57 days while being bound and blindfolded in a closet. As part of a brainwashing campaign, SLA members, including its leader Donald DeFreeze, gave Hearst lectures on the group’s viewpoints on revolutionary action, left-wing conflicts, and feminism. DeFreeze also used intimidation tactics, warning Patty that she would die if she tried to run away and that she would be beaten or hanged if she made any noise. Patricia and DeFreeze demanded the Hearst family start a food organization, called “People in Need” to feed America’s underprivileged. The demand was aired through a videotape that served as a ransom. The public and Hearst’s family were by this point aware that she had joined the same group that had kidnapped her. However, Hearst was forced into submission. She then recalled how DeFreeze had assaulted her sexually, and she put the responsibility on herself for having voiced her worries to one of her guards. Self-blame is a characteristic shared by victims who have a strong bond with their captors; hostages frequently blame themselves for the suffering they endure at the hands of their captors. This argument over Hearst’s reasons for complying with the SLA points towards unsolved uncertainty and a lack of public knowledge regarding the potential psychological effects and traumas associated with being held captive.

Stockholm Syndrome is viewed by many psychologists and medical professionals as a coping mechanism or as a means to aid victims in overcoming the stress of a horrific scenario. About 8% of hostage victims have the disease, according to FBI research. Despite being well known, the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not identify Stockholm Syndrome since this paradox does not happen with every hostage or victim and it is not known why it does when it does.

Abia Fazeelat Fakhri is a student pursuing Bachelors in Commerce from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Maryam Hassan

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Written by Abia

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