Today, we’re talking about Stockholm Syndrom What is it, and how does it apply in therapy? *Music* This is one of the most fascinating topics I’ve gotten to research thus far so thank you to all of you who’ve requested it. And in all honesty I knew what Stockholm Syndrome was, but I didn’t really know the applications or ramifications of it within my clinical therapy practice, so this was so interesting. Stockholm Syndrome is named after a bank robbery that happened in 1973 in Stockholm, Sweden. There were bank employees that were kept for six days. They were first wrapped in dynamite and thrown into the bank vault. And the thing that happened that shocked everybody, is that throughout those six days, those captive people wrapped in dynamite, for some reason, became eerily attached to their captors. They felt bad for them. They even turned away police and assistance to get them out of there. They were not helpful at all and even once released, some of them still kept in touch with their captors and wouldn’t testify against them in court. So everybody thought, “What the hell is going on?” “Why won’t they tell us anything?” “Why are they acting like they were caring and nice and they cared about what happened to them?” “What gives?” What they learned is that, psychologically, in order to get through terrifying situations, we often attach to our captors as a way to almost survive it. Thinking ‘Well, I care about them” “I understand what’s going on with them” “See, they’re keeping me alive” “They’re really nice”. And in a way, by being nice to our captors we’re increasing the chances that we will live through it. So, oddly enough, it’s like our brain’s way of helping us get through an abusive or scary and traumatic situation. This applies in a clinical therapy practice, more along the lines of people who are in controlling or abusive relationships. For example, we find a lot of battered men or women will refuse to press charges against their spouse or loved one who abused them. Many even bail them out of jail after the police have taken them in because they’ve abused them. Now let’s get into the fascinating part, and the reason Stockholm Syndrome takes hold. There are four factors that need to be in place, and need to happen, so let’s talk about them. The first, and the kind of obvious one, is that we must feel threatened- either physically or psychologically, and we have to believe that the abuser or captor will actually act out on that threat. The way that we find this happens most commonly, is indirectly. Maybe it’s breaking things, throwing things around, they may even indirectly talk about harming someone or something that you really care about- like threatening to get rid of a prized possession, or to harm an animal that you love and care for. The abuser’s goal is actually to get you to believe that the harm that they could do is possible, and may be imminent. The second condition- and this is where it starts to, you can see how it can psychologically shift for the person being abused, is if the abuser will then show some small kindness. In the instance in Stockholm, Sweden, in that actual event, the captors said “Well, they fed us and gave us water, and they talked about how hard their life had been as a child”. They will do something to show you a little kindness to take care of you a little bit, so that you believe that they’re not all bad. What this does, is it gives the abused person hope that the situation could change. This could be a small token like a birthday card, or remembering to bring dinner home- any small thing. A lot of abused spouses will say “Well, they didn’t abuse me when they normally would.” So even the absence of abuse with no positive thing added in can feel like a small token of kindness. And you know how I talked about that event in Stockholm, Sweden, how they shared some events about themselves, that’s another part of it- and that goes into this number two, that they’ll share some hard times they’ve been through, or times they’ve been abused, by a mother, or father or caretaker. And so that gives them, kind of, it humanizes them a little bit, and makes us feel kind of bad for them. The third condition that needs to take place is being isolated from other perspectives. The way that this can play out in abusive relationships, there are a lot of examples that were given, one of which is “I don’t like your friends because they talk bad about me. I don’t want you hanging out with them anymore.” And if we do, we get abused when we get home, and so in a way, we’re slowly being conditioned against seeing our friends. There was an example of a woman who was speaking in one of the forums I was reading- where her mother would call just to talk to her, and tell her that she was worried about her and the kids, and so because of that, then the husband would find out and would abuse her more for talking with the mother, so she slowly started telling her mom, “Please stop calling, you’re just causing us trouble.” “You’re ruining our relationship.” And so, since we’re so isolated from any positive person in our life or any person who actually has any insight and is loving and supportive, all we can see is that abuse cycle, and that abuse life. Another way that this is described is “walking on eggshells”. We will do everything in our control to make sure that we keep the abuse at bay. That may mean seeing things, and our whole life and perspective from the abuser’s perspective to make sure that everything is just the way they like it, because if it’s not, we don’t know what’s gonna happen, and we may fear that they will hurt us. The fourth and final condition that must take place, is that we actually feel that we are not able to escape. This can be in a lot of fashions, but one of the most common, is actually through money. Many abusers will over extend them, as a family, or as a couple so that if the person that’s being abused tries to leave, they actually can’t afford anything, and they may feel like they’ll be out on the street. Another way this can happen, is kind of through the emotional abuse avenue, where they will know intimate or embarrassing things about you, or even threaten to shame you publically. There was a woman who was speaking in one of the forums that I’ve read, saying that her ex boyfriend made her do some sexual acts that she wasn’t comfortable with, and then when she threatened to leave, he said that he’d videotaped it and was going to release it on Facebook to all of her family and friends, and so that fear, and that embarrassment and shame, held her captive for another two years. This can also play out in a threat of suicide. A lot of the abusers will say to the abused, that they will kill themselves if they leave. Or, they’ll threaten homicide. They’ll threaten to kill a child, or an animal, or a parent, or someone else that we love, if you leave. And so, the person who’s being abused feels like they really can’t, because they don’t want anything bad to happen to the person because they actually love and care about them, or the other people in their lives. I’m sure if you’ve learned anything about the abuse cycle, you can kind of see how this plays into it, and how it’s so eerily similar. And the abuse cycle, I’m looking down at my notes just to make sure I get them in order, is tension building, incident, reconciliation, and calm. And we go around and around. And so you can see how these certain conditions, as they play into it, can be so similar to the abuse cycle, and that’s why people get stuck in it. If you know someone who’s in an abusive or controlling relationship, the best thing that we can do, is just listen, and try to be supportive. Don’t talk bad about the relationship, don’t get them to leave, and try to force them to leave, because that can only build on the shame and embarrassment that they may already feel due to that relationship. And just being there to listen, and support them, is honestly, at times, what they need. And encouraging them to get some professional support. You can talk about how, maybe, you’re in therapy, and it’s really helped to manage some of the things you’re going through, and you wondered if it might be helpful to them as well. And doing things kind of passively is honestly the best way to continue to have that relationship, so they don’t cut you out, and also be there to support them when they are ready and strong enough to make healthy decisions for them and their family. And like I said, there is so much more information on this topic. I find it so fascinating. I’ll be doing a whole other video on cognitive dissonance, and how that plays into it, but let me know. Give it a thumbs up if you want more videos about this, I can talk about the abuse cycle more, and as always, share in the comments, what are ways that you’ve gotten out of these relationships? What are things that you did? How did you get support? How did you see out of that psychologically trapping environment? And if you’re a friend of someone, how were you there, and how were you able to support? Even if something didn’t work, let us know what didn’t so that we can, as a community, come together and figure out what may help out, because it can feel so isolating and so difficult in situations like that, and we’re just here to help one another. Am I right? So let me know Give it a thumbs up! And I will see you next time!