Propaganda: Module One: Session Five


The Stockholm Syndrome

The full story about the event that led to the name Stockholm Syndrome.

  • Stockholm Syndrome primarily develops under the following conditions:
    • Victim perceives the abuser as a threat to her survival, physically or psychologically.
    • Victim perceives the abuser is showing her some kindness, however small.
    • Victim is kept isolated from others.
    • Victim does not perceive a way to escape from the abuser.

Psychodynamics of the Stockholm Syndrome

  • The Stockholm Syndrome develops because the abuser traumatizes the victim with a threat to survival. All victims need to be protected and nurtured, yet the victim is isolated from the outside world so she must deny her rage and turn to the abuser for nurturance and protection. If at this time, the abuser shows the victim some kindness, the victim will bond to this positive side. From here, the victim will work to see the world from the abuser's perspective so that she will know what will keep the abuser happy, helping her secure her survival. As a result, the victim denies her own perspective and she becomes unaware of her own needs. The victim finds it difficult to separate from the abuser because (1) she fears that showing any disloyalty will cause the abuser to retaliate and the abuser may see separation as a form of disloyalty; (2) the victim has denied the violent side of the abuser so she sees no danger; (3) the victim fears losing the only positive relationship in her life and (4) the victim identifies herself through the abuser.

Major Indicators that Stockholm Syndrome has developed:

  • Victim has feelings of love and hate for the abuser.
  • Victim is very grateful for any kindness shown by the abuser.
  • Victim denies or rationalizes violence by the abuser.
  • Victim focuses on the abuser's needs.
  • Victim sees world from abuser's perspective.
  • Victim perceives those trying to help her as the "bad guys" and the abuser is the "good guy".
  • Victim finds it difficult to leave the abuser even when it is okay to do so.
  • Victim fears the abuser will come back to get her, even if he is dead or in prison.
  • Victim shows signs of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) including depression, low self-esteem, anxiety reactions, paranoia and feelings of helplessness, and recurring nightmares and flashbacks.

The full story about the event that led to the name Stockholm Syndrome.

  • Adapted from:
    Rawlings, E.I. Allen. P.G. Graham, D.L. Peters (1994) Chinks in the prison wall: Applying Graham Stockholm's Syndrome Theory to the treatment of battered women. From: Stockholm Syndrome
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