Monday, December 18, 2006
It’s a strange thing, Stockholm Syndrome. I first came across it when Patty Hearst raided a bank with her captors. Recently, the kidnapped Austrian girl, Natascha Kampusch, now a young woman, revealed her fondness for the man who had kept her in a cellar for all those years. So far she has refused to reveal what he did to her. Prisoners of war have displayed similar feelings towards their guards. Whilst these extreme cases make exotic and disturbing reading, I began to wonder about more humdrum examples. Psychologists are becoming interested in mild versions of the various psychoses and neuroses that, in their full-blown forms, might lead straight to the padded cell, drugs or electric shocks. Quite a proportion of the population wander quite happily (or miserably) through life, without causing harm to anyone and without any need for a diagnosis of their slight abnormalities. As bell curves go, there must be within the range of what we think of as ‘normal’, a fair proportion on either side of the apex, who display symptoms just short of dysfunctionality. We may even think of them as ‘characters’.
So what would be the faintest imprint of Stockholm Syndrome in every day existence? Supporting a football team that never wins anything, yet loving it beyond measure (previous Blog)? Staying in a marriage which shackles us in the misery of another’s narrow horizons and calling it love? Unable to put down a loathsome pet? In fact, any continuing circumstance or ritual which both subjugates us and at the same time makes us feel we do not want to change it, no matter how banal and every day.
We are all, to some degree captive to behaviours we know are demeaning, belittling or simply irrational. We should stop and ask ourselves what we want to be. Imprisoned or free.
It only takes an act of will. Only….