Stockholm syndrome in ourselves

The Stockholm syndrome refers to a hostage sympathizing with the hostage holder and finding themselves defending them and taking their side.

This can happen with us when we get caught up in an issue. In a sense, the issue holds us hostage and we are at its mercy. We identify with the issue. Sympathize with it. Perceive through it. Act on it. And defend it and find reasons why its right.

This is the Stockholm syndrome in us. We are not only held hostage by an emotional issue but we also side with it and defend it.

When we release ourselves from this, it may go through three phases. First, we are held hostage and defend the issue. Then, we may still be held hostage but we don’t defend it. And finally, we are released from the issue.

Here is a couple of examples: I see Trump as a racist and bigot and get triggered by him. The issue is that I have that in myself, as we all do in our culture, but it doesn’t fit into my self-image. If I am in the first phase, I am blind to this. I justify seeing him as a terrible person and I may deny having what I see in him also in myself (even if how I relate to it is different). The second phase is recognizing it as an issue and refraining from defending it. I am still triggered by him but know it’s an issue in me and I don’t go into or fuel stories about how how I am different from him. There is some disidentification with the issue and I can see it a bit my from the outside, from a third person perspective. In the third phase, I have worked on the issue and find in myself what I see in him, the charge in the issue has lessened, and I relate to it differently. I don’t get caught in it as before. The issue has gone from being “I” to “it” for me.

A woman grew up with an alcoholic father who was unpredictable and cycled from being loving to abusive to absent. When she is in adult relationships and it gets intimate, her fear of intimacy and of being abused or abandoned is triggered. In the first phase, she is identified with this issue and acts on it and justifies it with a story about the other person. In the second phase, she recognizes the issue, relate to it more intentionally, and is able to not act on it so much and also not use stories about the other person to justify retreating or leaving the relationship. In the third phase, the issue is more healed and she can be in the relationship without having the issue triggered so strongly and when it is, she can relate to it in a more conscious way. She offers the issue the sanity the issue itself doesn’t yet have.

I won’t go into the healing process here since I have addressed it in other articles. I’ll just mention that this is an example of how the outer world mirror the inner and vice versa. If something draws our attention in the outer world, it can be interesting to see how it fits dynamics and patterns in ourselves and our own life.

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