Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will – prisoners – develop a relationship with their captor(s). This solidarity can sometimes become a real complicity, with prisoners actually helping the captors to achieve their goals or to escape police.

The expression originates from a bank robbery that took place here on August 23rd 1973, when four bank clerks where held hostage in the vault for five and a half days. (information taken from a cache online)

Why am I posting this? Well, I have writer’s block, and cannot move forward on Monarch. Argh. So I’m distracting myself with something about The Breakaway. I also have thought a lot about my main character, Naomi, lately. She is truly a victim in my story, but most of it is her own doing. However, she is a kidnapping victim, and some of my readers have displayed frustration, even anger, at Naomi’s reaction to her captors.

Naomi accepts her imprisonment. She even learns to love her captors at one point. Why? And why on earth did I want to write such a story?

Perhaps it is because Stockholm syndrome has always held great fascination for me. During my research for Breakaway, I ran across this article. It clearly explains the mystery behind loving an abuser, and backs up the reality behind Naomi’s behavior in my story.

So, if you’re one of the readers who experienced great frustration over Naomi’s submissiveness, perhaps you might want to read the article.

A dear friend of mine, who has only begun the novel this evening, wrote in his comment: There is a spirit exhibited [in Naomi] that is not submissive but shows courage and the sense enough to reflect on her situation before reacting.

Although it takes Naomi a specific amount of time to react on her reflections, she is certainly not ignorant of the fact that she is submissive to a fault. Even subconsciously, she uses it to her advantage.

So my question is this:

How do you use your weaknesses as strengths? If you were in a Stockholm syndrome-type situation (either being held hostage or in an abusive relationship), how would you handle it?

Me? I think I’d react a lot like Naomi. Pulling in on myself is a natural instinct. Submissiveness is tempting. I want to believe I’d fight back, but knowing that it would end in pain or death, I would continue to ride out the situation until I found a better way than violence to escape.

P.S. This question does not just apply to women! Men are capable of Stockholm syndrome as well. There were several at the bank robbery mentioned above.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle

25 comments

That’s a really interesting question. It sort of makes me think of the “Flight or Fight” instinct/reaction/thing, but I believe there’s a third: freeze. Me? Unfortunately, I’m a quick draw. I thought my sister’s apartment was being robbed, I stormed up there to deal with the perps. Not smart. I think if I were in a situation like you described, I’d probably do something stupidly heroic and die in the first five minutes. Yep. If I thought it out and lived, however, I would probably then try to trick my way out of the situation. Being submissive though? That’s an interesting mindframe that I don’t know I would ever come into.Sorry. Random rambling. I want to read more of The Breakaway!! Curse my stupid inability to stay seated for more than ten minutes at a time!

Beth:Interesting response! You know, before writing my novel, I’m not sure how I would react in a situation such as hers. Now with all the research I’ve done, and learning through her character, I think I would be better prepared for what would work and what wouldn’t.I hope you can read the book eventually. 🙂

It is so funny you mention the Stockholm Syndrome. That is one of the first elements I thought of as I read of Naomi’s plight.With her situation, it takes her time to even gain some perspective. This is why I think there is more strength and reason within her, than what might appear on the surface.Thanks for posting the article on SS.:)

That’s a really interesting post. I’ve never heard the term Stockholm Syndrome before, but I can certainly see it being a good underlying concept for a story. Sounds like The Breakaway should be interesting.On NaNo they havn’t activated the person search (or if they have I havn’t seen it) so you can friend me by going to my page http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/436887 and adding there. You’ll have to give me your page link too since its not a mutual friend function like on myspace or facebook.

I actually remember hearing about this when Elizabeth Smart was found. Although didn’t really put it all together. It does make sense since humans tend to be rather emotional people! Me personally… well I think part of the reason I liked your book so much is because Naomi reflected a lot of my own personality. If my circumstance were just like hers then personally I would have probably stayed in that room and not eaten at all and let myself starve to death, that seems to be what I was thinking while I was reading your book at least and it fit my personality better. If however I were kidnapped now and leaving behind my daughter and husband then I would probably be very submissive, like her, until I found a way to escape.Very interesting question Michelle!

Having been in a long term abusive relationship before, I can relate to Naomi. I think "fake it 'til you make it" is a complex survival mechanism. There is more to any situation than meets the eye. Naomi's outward courage is something she will discover over the course of a lifetime of healing. Her inward courage (and desire to become her "authentic self") is something that boils under the surface.As I have experienced time & again, though I have healed greatly, I still freeze when someone says something inappropriate or creepy feeling. Inside, I'm livid. On the outside, I'm nice and accomodating. There's still a part of me that won't give someone the satisfaction of seeing that they bothered or hurt me in any way, shape, or form. As Dr. Phil says, "there's two sides of a thin pancake." And so it goes…Abuse is not so cut & dry when emotions are involved.Thanks for making Naomi realistic! Especially in her "slowness" of progress.

There is a song by Muse called Stockholm Syndrome. You might like it. Let me know if you want a copy or well if you already know about it, then rock on! *hug*

I’m sure I’m not the only one who tries to imagine how I’d react in stressful situations, but we never really know until the situation is upon us, do we?I always thought if someone broke into my house I would hide in a closet with a phone and jibber nonsense to a 911 operator. Then one night I was house-sitting for the Neibaurs with only the two dogs for company. Just as I was getting ready for bed I heard something out the window. Police were scouring the neighborhood, announcing over a bullhorn that a suspect was hiding in the area. Police dogs were in use. Please stay in your homes, and if the dogs find you, stay still and don’t offer any resistance until an officer can reach you.And then I heard someone fiddling with the garrage door.Did I run for a closet? Nope. Did I even remember the existance of phones? Nope. I was scared spitless, but my racing mind started coming up with things I could use as a weapon. There were knives in the kitchen. If I couldn’t make it there, there were ornamental daggers hanging on the office wall. If I coulnd’t get to the office, well, there’s a heavy ball of quartz in the fountain in the entryway. I’ll bet that would do some damage!Luckily, it was just Shawn dropping by to pick up something he’d forgotten, but I learned something about myself that night. Even in the grips of near paralyzing fear, I’m enough of an idiot to grab the nearest weapon and go down fighting.*High-five’s beth*Let’s take ’em down together! 😛

Gary:Hope you get a chance to read the article. It will add a lot to your reading of the novel. :)Anette:Hope we both get a chance to read each other’s work . . . when NaNo is over!Anon:Thank you for this quote: Naomi’s outward courage is something she will discover over the course of a lifetime of healing.Exactly the point I wanted to make by the end of the book. You are perceptive. Thank you.Becca:What an experience! I hope, for your own sake, that you can train yourself to think before acting rationally. I don’t want to lose you to some stupid criminal who shoots you because you come rushing at him with a quartz fountain ball. Silly.Amy:Haven’t heard that song. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks! Send a copy over if you can. 🙂

Have you ever read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett? It’s a really interesting take on Stockholm Syndrome.

I think there’s a lot to be said for the mentality of the person. Not everyone in an abusive situation actually loves their abuser. My mother went through a stage where she was on certain medications that (until the dosage was corrected) she became very violent and had massive mood swings.I loved her for the woman she was. But I didn’t hang around, listen to her, or defend her when she was being abusive. I think maybe there’s an element of coediting. Someone taught to fight like a soldier or someone who grows up in a rough part of town would probably fight back. There’s a point where the person just reacts to a bad situation by fighting back. A person who is conditioned to be meek, submissive, and victim-ish (like Naomi in breakaway we could argue) will find a way to rationalize their weakness. They will fall into their own happy fantasy land where the captors are okay and good, despite the abuse.I know I’m the one who doesn’t get Naomi. I still don’t. Even reading the article. I think the people in Stolkholm were dead crazy. I probably couldn’t write a character like Naomi. Actually, I’m almost 100% sure I can’t. The mindset is to foreign. The idea of not fighting to strange. I can’t understand why Naomi doesn’t bring a knee up sharply, kick someone in the head, and run. Did the girl take no self defense classes?

Carrie:Nope, haven’t read it. Probably won’t for awhile, but I’ll put it on The List.It’s a long list.Lei:Naomi take self-defense classes? You think Brad would let her do that?????*laughing to self*If she fought her kidnappers, unfortunately, my novel would end at because Eric would kill her and my story would be OVER. My story is about something you don’t get at all – about being weak in the first place and learning to become strong, learning to stand up for yourself, and overcoming the failing weaknesses that make up people like me and Naomi.I’m sorry you don’t understand her.Maybe reading the novel will be good for you. Because trust me, there’s people like her out there, and SS is very real (even if it isn’t medically proven yet). The article clearly states that not EVERYBODY in a situation such as Naomi’s will react that way she does.Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t occur in every hostage or abusive situation. Quote from article:In another bank robbery involving hostages, after terrorizing patrons and employees for many hours, a police sharpshooter shot and wounded the terrorizing bank robber. After he hit the floor, two women picked him up and physically held him up to the window for another shot.So you are 100% correct.The fascination that I have is dealing with a character who DOES react in the way Naomi does. How does someone like that learn to be strong?That’s the story.Thank you for commenting! I value your opinion more than you can imagine. 🙂

You’re a doll, LG. I adore you. You market your novel well. Can I interest you in some good military sci-fi? Check out Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet. Meet Capt Desjani. That’s what I like to see in a FMC. Maybe a bit of Rione and a touch of lace. But, yeah, girls who can fire a gun.

Lei:Military sci-fi.*eyes widen at shiny possibilities*I’ll have to look into it, but not before I read your stuff first. :)Girls who can fire a gun. Got one of those in Monarch. She shows up halfway through the book. She’s a real, uh, headstrong girl. And a real brat. I love her.Too bad she’s only a secondary MC.

Alyse:Whoops, completely missed commenting on your comment! Sorry.Yes, it is interesting how other people we care about influence our personality, isn’t it? Knowing that people you loved were waiting for you to pull through – that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?I would be embarrassed to find out that they discovered I was stupid and got myself killed – when sticking it out and being smart about the whole thing instead, could have saved my life and returned me to them in the end.That’s assuming my recklessness didn’t save my life. Some people are strong enough to fight their way out. More power to them, I say. I’m not one of them.

Interesting question and article, Glam! I’m not entirely sure how I’d react. 😛 Probably badly as when I get startled I tend to lash out and try to maim the surprise. 😉 SS is, well, I do have a fascination with it. (And psychological disorders and triggers in general.) Ever since a reader of one of my novels (Riven) theorized that the MC had a type of SS, I’ve pondered that. I guess it sorta counts, though there was a strong positive relationship between Riven and the “villain” before the situation turned brutally abusive. (It’s fun how messed up I made the characters in that one. Not that I don’t do that normally in all my stuff…)I’m kinda curious to read “Breakaway” now to see this in Naomi. 😛 ~Merc

Merc:Hey, I’ll invite you into my queue. There’s one spot left. You should feel honored. I think.I love the name Riven. Is that in one of your books I could read? Or is it one of the horror violent-filled ones? Aren’t all of your’s that way, though? Still interested in that alliteration-talking character. I think it was alliteration…Oh, and if you read my stuff, you’re allowed to shred it, but please don’t make me feel like I want to burn the thing and never write again.I’m not thick-skinned yet. Obviously.Sniff.

It comes to mind the incident of Joseph being sold into Egypt and his submissiveness and his continual growth in strength in any situation. He had many captures and masters which he served and grew to love and respect. I know this isn’t quite like the article but I thought there was a small and interesting connection.

Thanks! I knew I could count on you for suggestions. lol Yeah some parts were kinda crappy and I couldn’t figure out why. You know the feeling. I’ll use your comments. Thanks again!

anon:Nice comment, thank you. I never would have thought of that. Now it’s got me thinking….Amy:You’re very welcome. 🙂 It’s a great song!

Ah. Carrie Harris has already suggested the wonderful Bel Canto. It’s worth reading even when you’re not writing about hostages but if you are, it’s essential.

Jane:So I looked up this book you and Carrie say I HAVE to read. Wow. It looks like something that would rise straight to my top ten favorites.It looks like something I might wish to write.And that’s never a bad thing. :)Thank you for your suggestions.

It’s a wonderful book. Do read it. It’s still with me, years after I read it: I can remember what everyone looks like even now.

To your questions "How do you use your weaknesses as strengths? If you were in a Stockholm Syndrome-type situation (either being held hostage or in an abusive relationship), how would you handle it?", my answers are:The biggest benefit I get out of my weaknesses is humility. I suspect that's why I have so many, because I still need a LOT of practice.If I was hostage as Naomi was, where the threat was greater than I could physically handle, I would be praying and praying and praying. The truth is I wouldn't know how to handle it, I've always done my best to keep myself away from any areas that are even close to dangerous.What about physiologically? There I personally have a great advantage over Naomi, in that I was raised knowing I am valued and loved. If I don't feel valued and loved, then first I check my attitude and adjust what is needed. If it still persists, I check my relationships and should they not be conducive, so what can be done to improve them. But if it comes down to it being held only because of someone else's distorted wishes, I leave. I've learned that when someone has a perspective on life that imposes on another, staying nearby is not going to change it.Whoops, a bit too opinionated and long for a comment. Pay it no mind. Go back to writing what you write because it is you! ;->

Alicia:If Naomi was as smart and blessed with as much knowledge as you, she never would have ended up in her situation. And if she still did, I don’t think she would have fallen for Jesse.But you have. *chuckling quietly*

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