THE CHARACTERISTICS OF STOCKHOLM SYNDROME
It may be easier to understand Stockholm syndrome as an actual survival strategy for victims. This is because it seems to increase victims’ chances of survival and is believed to be a necessary tactic for defending psychologically and physically against experiencing an abusive, toxic, and controlling relationship. Stockholm syndrome is often found in toxic relationships where a power differential exists, such as between a parent and child or spiritual leader and congregant. Some signs of Stockholm syndrome include:
- Positive regard towards perpetrators of abuse or captors.
- Failure to cooperate with police and other government authorities when it comes to holding perpetrators of abuse or kidnapping accountable.
- Little or not effort to escape.
- Belief in the goodness of the perpetrators or kidnappers.
- Appeasement of captors. This is a manipulative strategy for maintaining one’s safety. As victims get rewarded—perhaps with less abuse or even with life itself—their appeasing behaviors are reinforced.
- Learned helplessness. This can be akin to “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” As the victims fail to escape the abuse or captivity, they may start giving up and soon realize it’s just easier for everyone if they acquiesce all their power to their captors.
- Feelings of pity toward the abusers, believing they are actually victims themselves. Because of this, victims may go on a crusade or mission to “save” their abuser.
- Unwillingness to learn to detach from their perpetrators and heal. In essence, victims may tend to be less loyal to themselves than to their abuser.
Anyone can be susceptible to Stockholm syndrome. Yes, there are certain people with abusive backgrounds that may be more likely to be affected, such as people with abusive childhoods; but any person can become a victim if the right conditions exist.