Dr Allan Wade, a man I have learned a lot from, presented a paper in April 2015 at a New Zealand conference on The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other Concepts Invented to Discredit Women Victims of Violence.
Unfortunately I was not able to attend the conference, but here is the abstract of his paper which was given on the web prior to the conference:
“Stockholm Syndrome” was invented in 1973 after a hostage taking at a bank in central Stockholm, Sweden. One of the hostages, Kristin Enmark, criticized police and government responses as dangerous and disorganized and [for being] aligned tactically with the hostage takers.
After the hostage taking, Kristin became the first person said to have “Stockholm Syndrome”, a new label invented just for the occasion. Since then, “Stockholm Syndrome” has become a received truth, a concept that both reflects and upholds the habit of finding pathologies in the minds of victims of violence, particularly women. Oddly, the psychiatrist who coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome” never spoke with Kristin Enmark. Neither have present day experts who present misinformation and perpetuate the myth.
In this presentation, Dr. Wade will discuss his recent conversations with Kristin Enmark and present original source material to develop a quite different and contextual view of the hostage-taking and the notion of “Stockholm Syndrome”. He will show how Kristin prudently and courageously resisted the violence of the hostage takers, protected and kept solidarity with other hostages, worked through a disorganized response from authorities, preserved and reasserted her basic human dignity, and carefully managed a highly fluid situation.
From this analysis, Dr. Wade will show how “Stockholm Syndrome” and related ideas such as “traumatic bonding”, “learned helplessness”, “battered women’s syndrome”, “internalized oppression”, and “identification with the aggressor/oppressor” shift the focus away from actual events in context to invented pathologies in the minds of victims, particularly women. “Stockholm syndrome” can be seen as one of many concepts used to silence individuals who, as victims, speak publicly about negative social (i.e., institutional) responses.
Now the conference is over, there is an abridged version of Allan Wade’s Powerpoint available here:
Stockholm Syndrome: Hawkes Bay (Abridged) (PDF)
I encourage you to look at the Powerpoint. It may be hard to understand because we don’t have Allan’s voice explaining it all, but I think if you persevere to the end, having read the abstract above, you’ll be able to get the essence of what he’s saying.
This is new stuff for us all. Many of us have heard about the Stockholm Syndrome and received it as ‘truth’, unthinkingly. Some of us may have felt it helped us understand a little bit more of the perplexing experience of abuse.
It is really interesting to learn that the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was invented by a psychologist who didn’t even interview the woman it was supposed to describe!
Let us chew the cud on this:
- The term “Stockholm Syndrome” is a myth invented to discredit women victims of violence.
- It not only discredits them, it obscures their prudent and courageous resistance to violence.
- It shifts the focus away from actual events in context, to invented pathologies in the minds of victims, particularly women.
- It imputes psychological defects in victims of abuse.
- “Stockholm syndrome” can be seen as one of many concepts used to silence individuals who, as victims, speak publicly about negative social (i.e., institutional) responses.
- The same applies to related ideas such as “traumatic bonding”, “learned helplessness”, “battered women’s syndrome”, “internalized oppression”, and “identification with the aggressor / oppressor”.
The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse
Stockholm Syndrome, codependency and other labels used to pathologize, blame and discredit victims.
* * * *
The website of Allan Wade and his colleagues is Response Based Practice. If you click on this link (and scroll part way down the page) you’ll find a video of Allan giving a story from his therapy practice — Charlene’s story — which illustrates how victims of abuse always resist the abuse.
Lastly, here are the key concepts which Allan and his colleagues articulate:
Dignity is Central to Social Life
Social interaction is organized largely around the preserving of dignity. Even inadvertent slights can be met with intense responses. All forms of violence are affronts to dignity, but not all affronts to dignity involve physical violence.
Fitting Words to Deeds
There are no impartial accounts. Professionals and personal accounts of violence influence the perception and treatment of victims and offenders. Where there is violence, the question of “which words are fitted to which deeds” is crucial.
Social Conduct is Responsive
Individuals respond to social context, the immediate situation, and micro-interactional events and orient to one another as social agents with the capacity to choose.
Violent Acts are Social and Unilateral
Violent acts are social in that they occur in specific interactions and involve at least two people, and unilateral in that they entail actions by one person against the will and well-being of another.
Violence is Deliberate
Perpetrators of violence anticipate resistance from victims and take deliberate steps to conceal and suppress it. Even so-called “explosive” or “out of control” acts of violence involve choice and controlled, deliberate action.
Resistance is Ever-Present
Individuals respond to and resist violence and other forms of oppression. However, open defiance is the least common form of resistance. In extreme circumstances, resistance may be realized solely in the privacy of the mind / spirit.
41 thoughts on “The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and how it was invented to silence an indignant young woman”
I have only given this a quick perusal, so perhaps I am responding prematurely, without an adequate understanding of what is truly being communicated. If so, I apologize.
About 5 years ago I attended a training seminar for another ministry (not DV). In one of the training sessions there was a discussion about trauma bonding. I almost started shaking because I saw myself in the description given. I subsequently attended a version of the same training 2-3 more times. Each time this topic was discussed it opened a raw wound. The last time I went, I was sitting by another woman who has come out of an abusive marriage. After the session, I asked her about her reaction to it. She too related to this concept of trauma bonding.
I think there is something real to this. Again, perhaps I misunderstood this ‘discounting’ of trauma bonding / Stockholm Syndrome with cases of DV. But, I think there is something very real that happens, conditioning a victim to be linked to the oppressor—-at least until clarity and empowerment take place.
Betty A. Crews
Thank you Betty. I agree. I wonder if what this article we posted is getting at is that the concept of traumatic bonding can be used to make victims look “bad” or “crazy”? Maybe not. But we certainly aren’t ready to throw out the reality of traumatic bonding.
Thank you, Betty. Trauma is real; and the accounts from victims of abuse confirm that. But need we use the term ‘trauma bonding’? If we get rid of the term ‘trauma bonding’ and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ that does not mean we have to get rid of the term ‘trauma’. Nor does it mean we are dismissing the real lived experiences and emotions of trauma victims.
This post was not intended to discredit the concept (or the experience) of trauma. What I meant to do was bring our readers’ attention to the term Stockholm Syndrome and how it seems to have been invented and used to discredit survivors of trauma and abuse (particularly women).
It was very wrong of that psychologist to invent and spread the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ without having even interviewed the woman whose experience he coined it to describe! In my view, that psychologist was evincing a disdain for the voices and viewpoints of victims. Let me say that again, with the gender point added: that psychologist was evincing a disdain for the voices and viewpoints of female victims.
Where people may have used the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ to insinuate that victims are ‘crazy’, that is wrong.
People who have been using the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ in reference to some victims of abuse experiences of trauma, have not necessarily done wrong, so long as their motives have been good, but such people would now do well to become aware of the suspect origin of this term.
I would suggest that maybe we need to scrap the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ since its origins and creation are so tainted and it can and has been used to malign and discredit victims.
And are we wise to use the term ‘trauma bonding’? Maybe not: even that term is problematic. I’d like to keep the conversation open on this question. Could it be that even the term ‘trauma bonding’ has shades of maligning victims?
After all, the experience you’ve described, Betty Crews, and which many of our readers describe, is one of trauma. Yes! Trauma is real! And as victims / survivors we know that right deep down at the visceral, cellular level: when we are reminded (triggered) of past trauma that for whatever reasons we have not yet been able to fully process emotionally, we shake, we sweat, we feel scared, we feel all the trapped and paralyzed and conflicting feelings which we felt when the trauma was originally happening….
But is that ‘bonding’? Bonding to what? To the abuser? Hardly: victims always resist abuse. To the extent that it may look like they ‘bond’ to the abuser, that is only superficial appearance, and people jumping to conclusions which unfairly denigrate the victim.
Example: if a victim of an abusive husband is told by her church that:
—She must never even think about divorce.
—She must always try harder to submit to him.
—She must continually resist her inbuilt female tendency to ‘usurp male authority’.
—She must never gossip about her husband so she mustn’t tell anyone how he treats her.
—She has no right to complain; instead, she should rejoice in her suffering.
—And if she doesn’t rejoice in her suffering, that shows what a terrible Christian she is….
….if she is told all these things (and that list is only some of the constraints that bind her) then is she bonded to the abuser, or is she trapped, pinioned and encaged by false doctrine and false beliefs? And those false beliefs have been propagated by institutions. This puts the focus where it ought to be: on the societal and institutional responses to abuse, rather than on the victim’s supposed ‘pathology’.
And if this woman gets triggered into remembering this feeling of being trapped and traumatized, is she evincing she is ‘bonded’ to the trauma? Or is she evincing that her mind, body and spirit are yearning for healing, are moving towards healing, and her re-living some of the trauma experience is how she is going to become crystal-clear aware of the false beliefs so she can TRASH them and trample them under her feet, and so make room in her spirit to feel — and work through — the emotions and responses she has had to the trauma, without all the false guilt and double-bind-entrapment.
Am I making sense?
This comment really helped me understand the intent of the post
I realize that this is an old post but I just came across it and it has been VERY helpful. This part especially, “if she is told all these things (and that list is only some of the constraints that bind her) then is she bonded to the abuser, or is she trapped, pinioned and encaged by false doctrine and false beliefs? And those false beliefs have been propagated by institutions. This puts the focus where it ought to be: on the societal and institutional responses to abuse, rather than on the victim’s supposed ‘pathology’. “…. I was not told these things by one church or one leadership, but instead, women’s books on how to be a good wife and the general long held belief about divorce that has been ingrained somehow along the line. This post has helped alleviate some of my false guilt for staying in a crazy and abusive marriage for 21 years. (I did, however, initiate divorce proceedings myself.) Thank you.
HI Betty, if you only read my reply to you as it came in your emails, please click on it and read it at the blog site itself, as I’ve re-worded some of my reply after having published it. Sorry.
I am very lucky to have access to the back of the blog so I can edit my comments after they’ve been published.
Thank you for sharing this powerpoint – it was incredibly interesting to read her conversation with the police. She was intelligent and logical while the police couldn’t think outside their box. Of course they had to blame a woman for their lack of wisdom. Interesting how that blame has triumphantly trickled down to infect both individuals and society in so many multifaceted ways.
I’m open to new terminology-but what do you call it when a victim escapes and voluntarily returns because she misses/likes him? Suppose this happens when friends and family are Not pressuring her to go back. I understand that we don’t want to accuse her of being ‘crazy’ but what do we call it when she feels attached?
Good question, M&M.
Let’s see what our readers say.
but my two cents would be that we could perhaps suggest any or all of the following (and there are more possibilities than the ones I’m listing here):
— she still feels some love for the abuser, because there are parts of him that are sometimes nice, and she wants to be treated nicely
— he was so very charming when he courted her, and she hopes / thinks that is the ‘real’ him, and she longs for that man to vanquish and overcome the nasty man. She can do this in her own character: she knows she has battled her own character defects and is being fairly successful, with God’s help, in weeding out her faults and weaknesses; so why can’t he do that kind of thing? Isn’t there hope for him to change? If she were him, she would be working really hard to overcome such bad character defects! (In other words, she has not yet come to realise that not all people have a sensitive conscience like she has. . . and not all people who profess to be Christians, are.)
— Now, that might perhaps be called ‘bonding to a dream’, or better still, bonding to the false image which the abuser deceitfully created, a false image which, in his self-deception, he may even have believed himself (sort-of) — But who would blame the victim for believing in the dream? The abuser was so charming! And we all want to be loved: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and cherished in marriage! And everyone else thinks he’s such an honourable guy!
— She puts her own needs below those of her kids, and she thinks that the kids need their father
— She is still partially in the fog. (We know the fog comes and goes — for almost all of of us the clearing of the fog has been a gradual, re-iterative, onion-peeling process.)
Wow, Barbara. What insight. You wrote it all just the way it is. Although I have not returned to my ex, I can relate to everything you have written. Especially the part about the woman weeding out her own flaws, faults. This is where I currently am after about a year and a half outside my marriage. I have taken stock of myself and see how my insecurities and weaknesses likely contributed to my ex’s dissatisfaction with me and my “performance” as wife/mother.
Living on my own now with my kids, I have become aware of my own lack of discipline in several areas. I am pressing in to the Lord for his help with overcoming these things. I can see better now how my very disciplined ex (well, maybe not disciplined in holding his tongue/anger) became frustrated with my lack of discipline and how it likely contributed to his constant state of upset with me.
I go in and out of saying to myself, “I caused this. I obviously could have risen to the standard he desired. If I had gotten up earlier each day, if I had been more rigid with a time schedule, if I had kept the house neater, if I had more structure with the kids’ schedules, then all would be well. If I had been a better “keeper of the home” he would not have been in a constant state of dis-ease.”
I am in a place of blaming myself again and wondering if I became more disciplined if things would be different. I am annoyed with myself at this “way” that I am, so I can see how it would surely annoy someone else who lived with me. I want to fix this part of me, but am not sure where to start. I asked the Lord this morning, the one who created me and knows my story from beginning to end, what I am supposed to do next as I wander through the middle of the book (aimlessly of late) asking him to reveal the next line of the story to me.
I go back and forth with, “What if it really was me? What if I truly was the cause of all his upset? I get upset with myself personally over the way I am, so I can see why he would be upset, too. Maybe I should write him a note of apology. He was only exercising the role God gave him as head of the family, and I was not doing my best to keep up my part.”
It’s not that I even want to return to him. He has said some really awful things since my departure. Out of the heart the mouth speaks, and there have been some absolutely awful things said to me in emails and texts. I know he is mad because he is hurt.
Much time has past since I have lived with him, so I really get confused with it all. I am so happy not to have to daily process the hurt I felt while I was married. But I look back after all this time apart and wonder if it could have been different if I had only been different.
As you said, everyone wants to be loved and cherished. I did not feel that way in my marriage. I am wanting to feel that way so much.
I always have this idea in my head, “With God all things are possible.” I continue to “fantasize” that there could be a happily ever after ending where we are restored and living a God-blessed reconciled life together. I don’t really believe it will happen even though with God I know it could.
I do wonder that by writing things out here at this forum if Satan gets an insider’s view of my thoughts and can therefore plot and plan against me. I am thankful to have a safe place to vent / share / be vulnerable, but worry at the same time that it can be used against me by the evil one.
Thanks for letting me speak my heart today. This journey is a process. I was feeling like I was making great strides (and I have) but as each new layer of the fog lifts there are new revelations and realizations that have to be thought out and worked through. It’s bittersweet. Like you said, Barbara, it’s on onion-peeling process.
I am also feeling the want of a new relationship, not that there is anyone pursuing me. I just want a man friend to hang out with, hold hands with, talk about God-things with, share life with in a loving way. I wonder if I am too damaged to begin again, and if I even know how to love a man “right.” It would seem unfair to bring all this baggage into a new relationship. Is there a man out there “equipped” to deal with a woman like me who is not wholly healed but might be salvageable, who is middle-aged and still has kids at home? I can relate to the Bible time where the Israelites had God but they wanted a king. I feel like God should be enough for me, so why do I want a man? I have Jesus. Isn’t he enough? Of course he is.
So, yes, Barbara. I love your post and can relate to every word of it. My ex was not “all” bad. He could possibly overcome the Jekyll / Hyde thing and be the man I envision(ed) him to be. After all, I am changing and he could be, too. And it would / could / should be good to reunite and rebuild with the man I married and once loved, rather than starting over with someone completely new (if that even happened). And the kids would get to be with their dad again.
One of my young sons says he doesn’t think his dad will ever forgive me for what “I” have done (my leaving his dad, that is). So, as I said, it’s pretty much an impossibility reuniting will occur.
Please, anyone, comment on anything I have said. I appreciate your perspectives so very much.
freeatlast, here are some questions that might help you:
If, while still married to / living with your abuser, you had been well organised in the way you managed the home, housework, kids, etc., would that have meant that you husband didn’t abuse you?
Would he have found something else to pick on your for?
Did you know that some women are fantastic at keeping clean and tidy houses, but their abusers pick on them anyway about their housework?
Are you aware that when abuse victims modify their habits and behaviour in the ways that abusers order and demand they modify them, that abusers typically then find other things to complain about. And some abusers even complain about the very thing that their wife is doing which they had demanded she do!
Here’s another way of looking at it. Let’s imagine a woman who is slovenly and disorganised in housework. Let’s imagine she is married to a man who cares for her and loves her. Wouldn’t that man present his grievances about her housework in a way that was respectful of her? Wouldn’t he be trying to negotiate solutions to the problem in ways that they both could honour and carry out? Did your husband present his grievances to you respectfully? Or did he present his grievances in a vicious, attacking, sarcastic, demeaning, bitterly harsh way?
I guess, Barbara, what I am saying is that my lack of discipline in certain areas likely lead to my ex’s frustration. Maybe his “abuse” would not have happened if I had done a good job at the things he brought to my attention. But yes, I did feel like he would “pick on me” as you said. I think over time, though, after being called out so often, I became uber vigilant. He could say something about anything, and maybe not mean anything by it, and I would immediately either become defensive with explaining myself, or feel like a loser / failure, or I would hop to it and go take care of whatever it was he was upset about. He usually would not lift a finger to help with whatever it was, saying that’s what we have kids for, and that we need to train them to do these things.
Now as the mother, I get that, but I myself was not so bothered by the things that bothered him, and as I said, I am less disciplined and more of a free spirit in a lot of ways than he is. So what drove him crazy often didn’t phase me. I just feel like I knew what he expected and I was not disciplined to follow through with meeting his expectations a lot of the time. I am telling on myself here. Many times I could justify why certain things didn’t happen. We have / had a LARGE family and I was easily distracted and would get caught up in a task at hand and stray from the thing I had started out to do. I was always looking at super moms like Michelle Duggar and was mad at myself for not being more structured with less than half the number of kids she has. I wanted to be like her so much, but as I said, I lacked the discipline. So I wonder if I ever went back and put my nose to the grindstone, maybe it could work.
It would be like a neat freak wife who is married to the proverbial slob husband. She would likely get pretty frustrated with him in the long haul. She might get pretty darn mad at him and say mean things. She might even yell at him and call him names. I know that is not okay, but I know we are human and do things like that sometimes when we hit our peak.
I think my problem is that I have been out of the house for a while now and have not been daily exposed to it and I am thinking more about my areas of weakness. I get in to the wonderings of if it really was my fault. I could have done a better job. But then I look around me and see some really “difficult” women (loud, strongly opinionated, completely unsubmissive) who I know whose marriages are still intact. I wonder about how some women have had affairs and their marriages stay together. I wonder if secretly their husbands are yelling and ranting at them behind closed doors, too. I don’t think I am such a bad person, so why did I get all the crap I did?
I guess I have not really known a man who loves Jesus fully and displays that kind of love toward his wife. I think my ex thinks/thought he was loving me correctly. It did not feel like it to me.
I do understand about “fixing” one area and being picked on in another. I was always feeling like I was not measuring up somewhere. I became soooooo defensive–another thing he hated. Once he complained about the infrequency of intimacy and my lack of initiating. I made a mini calendar and kept it handy. I marked all our encounters on the calender…when, where, who initiated. I made sure to initiate at least twice a week and let the other encounters fall where they may. I knew he would bring this up again, as he REGULARLY got mad about this. Our “intimate” times became something to mark off my “to do” list. Well, about a month later the rant came again, as I knew it would. But I was ready with my chart. I showed it to him. He said I hadn’t initiated in a long while, that I was ignoring his sexual needs. But the chart with documentation on it stated the truth and showed his complaints were unfounded. Instead of saying, “Oh, wow. I was wrong. Why did I think and say we have not been active when it’s obvious we have been?”, he got mad at me for keeping a log and accused me of not being spontaneous.
So yes, when I made efforts in an area to rise to his expectations he often found other things to be upset about. And he never minced words. He delivered his truth straight up. It could cut like a sword. This makes me wish I could call up some video episodes of the past and watch them from my new perspective just to see what was really going on. I know I played in to it. I was not innocent, especially in the early years when I was a babe in Christ, but still full of the flesh.
I really think it’s just that I have been away from him for a while now and the pain has begun to diminish, sort of like after having a baby.
FreeAtLast – You said: “I have taken stock of myself and see how my insecurities and weaknesses likely contributed to my ex’s dissatisfaction with me and my “performance” as wife / mother.”
This is probably exactly why your abuser picked you. He saw those weaknesses in you. Most if not all abusers know their victims very well. It’s a setup. They prey on the weak and pick them, so they can do exactly what your abuser did to you –
This comment describes me Barbara.
Today I am very unwell emotionally. My counselor told me two days ago that I am the victim of marital rape. I am not coping with this. I awoke to this comment yesterday and the flood gates opened. I have reread comments I’ve made on this blog today and I see the proof in this by what I have said. It is heartbreaking. . As if I didn’t have enough to deal with.
I feel like I’m going crazy… I’m crying a lot … I feel so unwell inside. I’m not in a good way.
My PSTD is not good. I’m spinning out in my mind.
I’m leaving I’m not leaving. I’m leaving I’m not leaving … this is where I’m at
Earlier, you said: is she bonded to the abuser, or is she trapped, pinioned and encaged by false doctrine and false beliefs?
I would have said that I was bonded to the abuser, because I felt that way, but really, the bonding was DUE to being entrapped by false beliefs. If there is no way out, why would you not try to be as close as possible to your spouse to make it work? So I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. What we term trauma bonding may have very little to do with psychopathology and much more to do with minimizing chances of violence by following church advice to make the relationship pleasant.
So what would I call the voluntary returning to an abusive partner? It’s probably a combination of the factors you (Barbara) have outlined. We are all individuals and our lived experiences and environmental pressures are unique, so these factors may affect each of us to varying degrees, but the bottom line for Christians seem to be the need to keep the marriage together, hence the bonding to the abuser, to the dream, to the marriage, etc.
Wow. This comment also has just now helped me tremendously. Thank you. I left my husband of 21 years this year but before that I had 21 years of “the cycle”. I lived all of those points you made above. The Lord gently showed me,, through time, my own grown kids, and certain events, the truth of the whole thing. He was not going to change. I got out and am very glad that I did. But, thank you again for this post. It has helped with some of my false guilt.
I went back because I was committed to this relationship. It was my dream to make this marriage work. I truly believed it would be different and that he was repentive and that he was sincere with wanting to reconcile, but it wasn’t what he wanted. Instead he manipulated me into dropping everything and just shy of a month he filed for divorce and claimed that I abused him.
In my experience it can be safer to behave as if everything is normal, to act as if the abuser is a nice person, and it’s all going to be alright. It can be very dangerous when a violent person realizes their victim sees them for who they really are. In this case going back or maintaining some contact doesn’t mean the victim is bonded to the abuser, it means they’re not safe enough yet. It’s an absolute myth that all the violence stops once a victim leaves.
I think this is why my ex what bewildered by my exit.
I had been trying to develop an exit plan from my dysfunctional marriage for awhile. It takes time to get a strategy together after being married for over two decades, having no job, and still having minor children at home.
The relationship would be bad, then good, then bad, then good. Every bad time, I would be energized to leave. But then the good time would follow when I would foolishly think it would stay good. Then bad would inevitably come again.
I had finally chosen to plan an exit. In the process, though, there would be good times and I wouldn’t work on my plan as diligently. But the plan was taking shape so that eventually it would be executable.
Then a really bad time hit. The plan was not ready yet, but it was getting close. My ex discovered my plans which led to an intervention and exit that was not in my plan at all. But because I had already set my mind to leaving, it was doable. As long as I kept hoping in the good to roll around again in the stupid cycle we were in, I don’t know that I would have ever left, even with the most well-thought out and pre-planned exit strategy.
But my ex seemed stunned to find out that I was thinking of leaving. It’s not like we were solid and happy and secure. We were a mess and had thrown the “D” word around in arguments for a long time. He even encouraged me to leave if I didn’t like the way things were. But he also called me a coward and said I didn’t have the “balls” to leave.
After I left, he sent me copies of emails I had written him during the “normal” times, when things were going right–times when I had begun my exit plan unknown to him. On the surface I was living and doing life, but underneath I knew the bad time would surely come again. I had to live life until the plan was ready, which meant, as KayE said in her comment, “to behave as if everything is normal…”
This lead to my ex telling me I was a deceptive liar because while I was doing life, writing him emails asking about his day, etc., I was “secretly plotting against him” (his words). If I had told him my intentions to leave, I know he would not have received them kindly. The few times I respectfully stood up for myself with him, he would mow me over and put me in my place. So there was no use in telling him I was planning on leaving.
Even if I had never left through the intervention as it occurred or a well-prepared exit strategy, it gave me solace and comfort to work on my “plan.” It was my way of standing against the abuse. As this thread shows, victims may appear to be accepting of the abuse, but in reality they do resist it–even if in the hidden secret places in their minds that only the victim knows about, a place the abuser cannot gain access to.
Perhaps fear is the force that causes her to return. I am referring to the fear of the unknown. Even though it is an extremely unsafe place to be, with the abuser, it is a familiar place. She has absolutely no idea of what is waiting for her on the other side of the fence, so to speak. She could be afraid that it might be even worse on the other side. Fear convinces her to stay, to not take the risk. Erosion of self-confidence up to this point would be a factor in her fearful decision.
and that fear can be very reality based: fear of not being able to maintain safe housing or a sufficient income-stream to survive on.
Also fear of unending vindictive retribution. My anxieties about this possibility turned out to be very well founded, I was not being paranoid at all.
Absolutely yes, Seeing Clearly.
I guess for me, I would call it being deceived, naive, gullible and definitely in a fog.
Yes, Barbara, that is what I am referring to. It is easy for someone else, standing on the other side, to be critical of her. She could be labeled as an irresponsible women, making poor choices. But from her perspective, she processes all that experiences have taught her. This time she is trying to be careful to not jump from the frying pan into the fire. She is in an extremely vulnerable place. Risk taking rarely proves to be a good decision from past experiences. She can think very hard prior to decision making, but gut level intelligence tells her to return.
Thank you for sharing this.
It shows how even under the cohursive control of another being, there are creative ways that the victim develops to side step fully complying with the goal of the abuser.
With that said, I have witnessed how an abuser can project a phony state of omnipotent power to many members within a family setting, and cause long term compliance, out of fear of reprisal.
I am not certain what to think about this, when it comes to the “bonding” issue. I believe that we are all “bonded” to our abusive husbands in some form, because there are at least small moments when life could be (not in all cases – but in some) livable. We all probably married them believing we were going to be loved. So when you are bonded with someone and then trauma comes, I believe that is where traumatic bonding enters. The messing with your mind and emotions causes that and it is truly a very hard bond to break and causes real havoc in a victim.
As for naming these issues and effects of abuse, perhaps it would be misused by some, but when it comes to women getting help and counsel, there needs to be a name usually attached in order for insurance companies to pay, etc. So a counselor needs to have some form of diagnosis, even if it is called “transitional stress” or “life change support”. It doesn’t have to say “traumatic bonding” or “Stockholm Syndrome”, but if someone is going to pay, there has to be a code for treatment.
I can see where changing this and removing all titles of the effects of abuse could be just as harmful to women as labeling them. For instance, a Christian counselor within a Church would probably just dismiss the consequences of abuse as “sin” because he/she sees it as the woman not just forgiving and moving on. Put a label to it and some may likely do the same in dismissing the problem as the sin of unforgiveness, but at least it may cause others of them to look more closely at how they counsel someone with a definitive label of what is going on with them.
My concern is that this could trickle down and the war veterans who have PTSD could now just be labeled mentally ill or weak and possibly stand to lose payment for treatment of the PTSD they have. We also know PTDS is real for victims of abuse.
My only concern is that removing the diagnostic labels could result in even more harm for victims of abuse and make it much harder for at least some of them to get adequate counsel and treatment.
All that being said, I don’t like how they came up with Stockholm Syndrome either. I actually think it is so closely related to traumatic bonding, that they could lose that label.
That’s such a good point!! During my previous comment I was thinking “even if the name changes this phenomena needs a name.” But you thought of reasons why it needs a name……and a diagnosis code.
To my knowledge, the term “Stockholm Syndrome” has never been a diagnostic category used by mental health professionals. Those professionals usually use the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychological Society). And if they need to give a diagnostic label so their client can claim health insurance, they would not use term Stockholm Syndrome. They might use the label PTSD, because that is a category in DSM. (someone more knowledgable than me on the DSM might like to add more detail here).
There are other categories that might be usable for clients who are victims of abuse who want to attend a mental health professional to help them recover, but I don’t think ‘traumatic bonding’ is a category. So I don’t think you need have concerns there.
The category PTSD is quite adequate, and it is most unlikely it will be dropped from the DSM. And there may be other categories that will be (or already have been?) added to the DSM, such as CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder). So war veterans and abuse survivors are going to be well catered for, I think. Psychology is getting better are recognising trauma and its effects.
There is still have a long way to go, but the mental health field is certainly better at understanding trauma than it used to be.
Barbara, I think you’re right about that – the category of PTSD has been expanded in the new DSM V to recognize the emotional, behavioral and other aspects of a victim’s life that is affected by trauma. It is no longer an anxiety-related disorder, but related more to exposure to trauma and stressors. Although complex PTSD is not recognized as a free-standing category, it is validated by a new sub-type of PTSD that includes dissociative symptoms of depersonalization and derealization, that is, how they affect our identity. Complex PTSD may well have its own category in future editions. As far as I know, Stockholm Syndrome is not listed in the DSM V.
Link to an article about the DSM V’s criteria for diagnosing PTSD, from the US Department of Veterans Affairs:
DSM-5 Criteria for PTSD [Internet Archive link]
Update: I emailed Allan Wade about this post and he has requested I change the latter part of the title from “how it was invented to discredit women victims of violence” to “how it was invented to silence an indignant young woman”. So I’ve changed the title and the URL accordingly. Thank you Allan, for the amendment. 🙂
Loves6, praying for you. I had been “coerced” also, for many years, but that finally ended with me saying NO MORE a few years ago. Remember that you are God’s precious child, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. You should not be treated like a sex object.
Psalm 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.
I put a stop to it a month ago… it’s just such a shock. .. I would never have used those words to describe what has happened.
I had one of my older boys say to me today that no one could ever get such a supportive husband as I have and a man that loves his wife like his dad loves me. My son says I have to forget the past and move on. Get better and walk hand in hand with my husband. Today has been a very bad day… I really have felt like I don’t want to live anymore. I haven’t the strength to do what I know I must do.
I want an easy way out… what makes it even harder is no one knows what my counselor has said this week that has caused my meltdown. It’s very hard to deal with when I cannot say to anyone knowing id be believed and when I do not have access to support in dealing with my after counselling sessions
Thanks for praying
Dear Loves6, I am still praying.
easy ways out. . . sorry, I don’t have them. 😦 I don’t think they can be found on the web, in the shops, in churches, or anywhere much.
But bless you for being honest about where you are at and how you are feeling! 🙂
Have you considered that you may need to put up a wall against that son so you stop listening to him? His words are only making you weaker, by the sounds of it.
Yes, dear sister. I confirm that you have been raped in marriage, raped by your husband, multiple times. Mabye too many to count or remember. . . 😦
I think you counselor has told you the truth. And your spirit is recognising it. And you are reeling and spinnning from it.
The truth, the awful truth, is very painful. But it is by knowing the truth that we begin to be set free.
Is there a suicide hotline that you can ring to debrief and express your feelings? I would suggest you ring such a line as often as you like. I have used those hotlines a lot, in my time. And when there is no-one else to talk to, especially in the wee small hours, it can really help. That’s my experience anyway.
I rang the Crisis Team yesterday. .. and I was thinking I need to phone again.
Thanks for you reply Barb. Your comments really help me to pick myself up and put the next foot in front of the other.
Yes I’m reeling and I’m spinning out. It is one of the worst things I have ever had to come to terms with and I have had some hard stuff happen in my life.
Actually, I wasn’t thinking of the Crisis Team, I was thinking of a phone hotline which anyone can call, which is manned by trained volunteers. In Australia we have such a hotline — it’s called Lifeline.
The nice thing about that kind of hotline is that the people on the phones are not mental health professionals and they do not have access to anyone’s psych file in the mental health system. They are just there to offer reflective listening and to be a safety valve, so to speak, for anyone who may be feeling suicidal, distressed, hopeless, traumatized, or whatever. Maybe there is no such hotline where you are. . . but maybe there is. 🙂
Keeping you in my prayers! Please don’t give up! You are stronger than you know! What it takes to endure what you (we) have… takes great strength! God is with you…He knows what you are going through and he is watching it all! XXXX
Loves6, I was where you are a year and a half ago. I am on the other side of the volcano erupting. It was awful. Oh, yes, it was awful. You are in the tension of the swell that seems about to explode. I felt hopeless, scared, joyless, angry, sick, devastatingly disappointed. And oh did I want the short cut…easy fix. Even after the eruption, there were quite a few more less powerful, but still violent eruptions…then the aftermath of the destructive lava pouring out. But the lava eventually stops flowing, it cools, and hardens. Then you look around you and decide it’s time to get busy assessing the damage, making plans to clean up, get aid and help in rebuilding, and put your hand in God’s to do just that.
I was sick at divorcing my husband. I felt such guilt and sadness. My ex told me I would go to hell for disobeying God’s word by divorcing. But one day during tears in worship at church, the Lord reminded me “Nothing can separate you from my love…not marriage, not divorce.” I loved him even more for saying that to me.
He has been with me through the pain, the suffering, the disappointment, the grieving over my broken dreams, the losses in other areas of my life, and in the rebuilding of my relationship with Jesus (not my husband) on the throne of my life. The Lord teaches me daily as I spend time in his word with the scales now removed from my eyes. This past year and a half has been amazing in many, many ways.
The process will not be pain free, unfortunately, but I promise it does get better if you press into and go after God with all your might. He has been very faithful to me and I know he will do the same for you.
I will be praying for you, dear lady.
The flow of healing has changed, from rapid insights to insights requiring more time to evaluate.
Adjusting to the new process is frustrating – I cannot tell when I have addressed a much needed change.
Patience, whispers God in the quiet.
I need to remember this….
[…] as a real diagnosis, even though it has been discredited as a victim-blaming invention. See The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and how it was invented to silence Kristin Enmark by Barbara […]