In the universe of the human psyche and mind, there are endless peculiarities and pathologies that can affect us in different ways. strange mental illnesses, capable of interfering in our interpersonal relationships and our vision of the world around us. If you’re a fan of suspenseful and horror movies, you’re sure to be familiar with Stockholm syndrome. In a few words, it is a very rare pathology in which a person who has been kidnapped develops an identification, even a crush, on their kidnapper. Join us to learn the history, meaning and nuances of this rare syndrome. Let us begin!
The history of Stockholm syndrome
As happens with all diseases, of different kinds, Stockholm syndrome owes its history and the study about it, to a first case. The story began in 1973 in the Swedish capital, in the middle of summer. The Kreditbanken bank in the city center was involved in an armed robbery that ended in a hostage situation. Offender Jan Erik Olsson, a convict on furlough, injured one police officer and overpowered another, both dispatched almost immediately by the Swedish police.
Such a situation lasted six days, in which the kidnapper demanded three million crowns, a vehicle and two weapons, thus beginning the negotiations. The government only agreed to take a friend of Olsson’s, Clark Olofsson. Since the hostage taker was threatening the hostages and too much time had passed, the police decided to act. Fortunately no one was injured, but To everyone’s surprise, one of the hostages, Kristin Ehnmark, was reluctant to be rescued. Moreover, he sided with Olsson and showed fear of police action.
Both criminals were convicted, and Olsson emerged after 10 years in prison, fully rehabilitated and with an extensive fan base. In the judicial process, all the hostages were reluctant to testify against the kidnappers and when asked why, they explained that the police terrified them much more than the captors. They felt safe with them. After analyzing such behavior, the criminologist Nils Bejerot called this type of identification “Stockholm syndrome” to refer to hostage situations in which they “recognize” themselves in their captors, despite the danger in which they have been put.
What is Stockholm syndrome?
This first episode served to throw the first light on a concept that was just born, the Stockholm syndrome. Since that abduction, criminologists, forensic psychologists and other scientists have characterized the syndrome as a psychological reaction in which the victim develops a relationship of complicity and a strong emotional bond with the person who has kidnapped him. Within the studies, it is thought that the people most susceptible to generating the syndrome are those who have suffered abuse, who have been beaten or humiliated repeatedly during their lives.
This link that defines the Stockholm syndrome develops thanks to the fact that the hostage misinterprets the hostage taker’s lack of violence as a show of sympathy or an act of humanity towards him or her, and they exhibit two typical reactions: on the one hand, positive feelings towards the kidnappers and on the other, fear and anger towards the police authorities.
As both, victim and aggressor, want to get out of the conflict unscathed, they “associate” and cooperate. In addition, the total loss of control of the person who is kidnapped is very difficult to handle, which is why he justifies his cooperation with himself in the face of the possibility of surviving. The power is held by the kidnapper, who becomes a benefactor and that is why this emotional “relationship” develops where the kidnapped person ultimately thanks the perpetrator of the crime.
Causes and symptoms of Stockholm syndrome
As we mentioned, there is a whole previous psychological component, which drives or allows a person who goes through a kidnapping situation to develop Stockholm syndrome. In the first place, the syndrome occurs almost exclusively in people who have gone through situations of trauma or violence throughout their lives. For example, It is common in people who have been victims of gender or domestic violence, members of a sect, victims of sexual abuse or prisoners of war.
Another variant that has been analyzed about what generates Stockholm syndrome has to do with childish behavior. The abductee, generally a person who has had affectivity problems in childhood, begins to conceive in his mind the bond with the kidnapper, as a father-son relationship. In it, good behavior and obedience appear as key factors to avoid punishment and that everything goes well.
In relation to the symptoms of this syndrome, they are generally quite uniform. The first thing that happens is that the abductee begins to develop positive feelings for her abductors. Empathize with them, and begin to value any positive behavior as a gesture of kindness and even affection. It perceives two other things at the same time. The idea that both he or she and the abductor are pursuing the idea of getting out of the situation alive, and the perception that the police or rescuers are really the real “evils.”
Another emblematic case
There have been many cases of this syndrome that have been documented so far. Another of the most popular occurred in year 1974. It was the kidnapping of communication magnate William Randolph Hearst’s granddaughter, Patricia, by the Symbionese Liberation Army (or Symbiotic), a far-left terrorist group operating in San Francisco, USA.
The 19-year-old girl was never handed over, rather, Patty, as they knew her, changed her name to Tania, as the pseudonym of the famous guerrilla companion of Che Guevara, and months later they would see her armed with a rifle and attached to the group. Although this case differs from that of Stockholm syndrome in which the identification of the victim with her captor was automatic (Patty was locked in a closet for months, sexually harassed and indoctrinated), it is also considered a form of this syndrome. The human psyche will never cease to amaze us, right?
In addition to Stockholm syndrome, there are other disorders and conditions that are truly curious. Meet some of them.
And you, Did you know about Stockholm syndrome? What do you think of this rare mental disorder? Feel free to leave us your opinions in a comment. We will be happy to read you!