Stockholm Syndrome: Why Do We Love Our Tormentors?

Last updated by Katie M.

I always wondered how we could have sympathy for someone who took us hostage. Plus, with what we constantly hear in the press, I am terrorized by the idea of experiencing this. Indeed, this is a psychological phenomenon that kicks in and allows us to survive. The term "Stockholm syndrome" appeared in the 70s and occurs when the victims adopt the vision of their tormentor, even defend him! But, why do we act in this way with a person who mistreats us or, even worse, someone who puts our life in danger?

Stockholm Syndrome: Why Do We Love Our Tormentors?
Contents: 

What is Stockholm syndrome?

In 1973, there was a bank robbery in Stockholm. During this event, hostages; who were mostly bank employees, were held for several days, and they ended up developing empathy for their captor. More incredibly, they defended him and even visited him in prison after his arrest.

So to give a simple definition of Stockholm syndrome: it is when we understand our abuser, because he is able to explain and rationalize his actions. Although we are a victim, we are able to put ourselves in our persecutor's shoes and develop positive feelings toward our captors, in other words; it’s a survival strategy.

🧠 In the most serious situations and especially under intense psychological stress, victims are afraid of dying. Since they end up escaping alive, they feel grateful and indebted. This is what happens in a hostage situation like the one in 1973.

Why do we come to love or feel sympathy towards our attackers?

Stockholm syndrome is a means of survival. Often, following a state of shock, our brain will adapt in order to protect us. It is a psychological phenomenon that allows us to "bear the unbearable". Here, our mind will adopt this defense mechanism to adapt to a situation where we are in danger.

Our behavior adapts when our life is threatened, as in the case of the hostage victims. But we react in the same way when someone displays both mental and physical abuses towards us. When developed in everyday life, it can be even more perverse. It is not a hostage situation, but is an example of repeated violence that gradually destroys mental health and self-confidence.

>>> Discover; What is trauma bonding?

Stockholm syndrome doesn’t just apply to hostage situations

It also impacts the relatives of those victimized

Stockholm syndrome is a mechanism that can be found in situations of abuse in the private sphere. It is even more marked when the persecutions last over time. When we are mistreated by someone in our intimate circle, a very strong link unites us with our aggressor, and it becomes harmful. In the long run, we get used to the violence, and we are even thankful that our abuser does not go further.

The Stockholm syndrome in a couple takes many forms: intimidation, humiliation, persecution, physical or sexual violence. Moreover, the tormentors are often narcissistic perverts. Edmundo Oliveira, a criminology researcher, explains that in the case of domestic violence, women rarely denounce their aggressors, and they continue to live under the same roof. The abused women keep silent, because there is a paradoxical feeling between affection and fear. Some are relieved to be alive and think that this silence can save them.

Can it occur at work?

Stockholm syndrome can be found in a professional setting. For example, it can take the form of a supervisor or co-worker who persecutes, intimidates or harasses us. When it happens the first time, there is a surprise effect, but once this reaction is soon over, and we do not act. There is a hierarchical effect, so we minimize it by finding excuses for the person.

➡ According to the Harvard Business Review, Stockholm syndrome in the workplace is more prevalent than it used to be. The fact that getting a job is more difficult than it used to be contributes to the increase in this phenomenon. Running away from their job and their toxic boss is not an option, so the employee finds themselves stuck in a toxic situation.

How can you break the cycle?

Realize and speak up

Regardless of the situation and the relationship you have with your abuser, you must be able to recognize that you are a victim. When you are under the influence of someone, you tend to accept behavior that is typically unacceptable. Listening to the reactions of those around you is often a good way to become aware of the situation. Being belittled, humiliated, mistreated or physically harmed should never be considered normal or commonplace.

Once you are aware of this, you must break the "harmful bubble". Talking to a friend, a doctor, or a therapist is a good way to get out of this psychological phenomenon. Hearing from someone that what you are going through is not normal, helps to make you aware of the seriousness of the situation.

>>> This is a must-read: How to help a close victim of a narcissistic pervert

Treating Stockholm syndrome

The best way to treat it is to consult a therapist. A psychological follow-up will help us to react and to set limits with our tormentor. In order to do this, we must express our feelings and explain what we are experiencing. This change in behavior will have an important impact on the aggressor. In more serious cases, you should not hesitate to ask for help or even to file a complaint, or even to go to safety when you feel that your life may be in danger.

Editorial opinion: Are you a victim?

Stockholm syndrome can be experienced on a daily basis, whether it is in the workplace or even in a relationship. If you realize that you are subjected to certain actions that you should not tolerate, contact a therapist to assess your situation. There are many very effective therapies to free yourself from this torment.

🤗 Understand yourself, accept yourself, be happy... Let’s do it here and now!

#BornToBeMe

The following articles might also interest you:

Article presented by Katie M.

Discover the world through my eyes.

Read our latest articles here:

How To Make A Narcissist Fear You?

Now, I know what you’re thinking, scaring a narcissist is impossible, so, let me stop you right there because it’s totally false! Getting these awful manipulators to fear you is no easy challenge, however, there are certain things you can do that will help you turn the tables on them in no time. Letting these abusers know that they’ve met their match is the first important step toward the road to recovery, so I hope you’re ready for the journey. Here are 10 ways to scare a narcissist

What Exactly Does It Mean To Be An Extrovert?

I wish I could say loud and clear that I’m an extrovert, but not at all. I belong to the opposite team, the team of introverts. However, even though we don’t operate in the same way, that doesn’t prevent me from being surrounded by extroverts. I myself have a few moments when my introversion gives way to my extroversion, when I feel good, surrounded by a few people that I know well. So how does extroversion work? How is it different? What can you do to get on well with an extrovert? Let me explain.

Everything You Need To Know About Hyper-Empathy

Sometimes you’re devastated by your best friend’s break-up, sometimes you’re euphoric about your sister’s pregnancy... Sometimes it feels like other people’s emotions are invading you, so much so that you feel like you’re experiencing what they’re going through like it’s your own life. Have you ever felt this way? Maybe you’re affected by hyper-empathy, a characteristic not dissimilar to hypersensitivity. But what exactly is it? How do you distinguish between the two? And above all, how do you know if you’re hyper-empathetic? Let me explain.

Why Do Narcissists Stare?

Narcissists have a reputation for being amongst the most manipulative people out there, and rightly so! The truth is, these people are so good at the evil things they do because they operate under the radar and use covert methods to exercise their depraved missions. Now, one of the biggest and seemingly most unsuspecting techniques they use to manipulate and control their victims is staring. You're no doubt a little dubious about a stare being an effective tool in the art of manipulation, but it's true, a void and menacing look is one of the most intimidating and unnerving gestures that these folks turn to.

8 Reasons Why All Narcissists Are Hypocrites

If you know anything about narcissists, you'll surely be aware that they are extremely overly judgmental and critical, especially towards other people. Their faultfinding stems from their perception of ultimate superiority, and therefore legitimizes them in holding people to intimidatingly high standards. However, although they may believe they are pretty much perfect, the reality couldn't be any more different, yet they are slightly more forgiving with themselves. That's right, they are huge hypocrites and go from one extreme to another in a split second. Here we discuss the reasons behind their hypocritical behavior.

Are Narcissists Born Or Made? - Let's Settle The Debate

There you have it, the nature vs nurture debate is back, only this time I want to focus it on those deviously manipulative personalities we refer to as narcissists. Now, evidently these folks get bad press and rightly so because they are often at the root of plenty of harm, but is it really their fault? Can they really be blamed for their terrifying and perhaps inherent traits, or are they simply just products and in this case victims of their environments? Let’s settle this debate once and for all and figure out how and when this disorder becomes apparent. So, are you born a narcissist or is it developed?

Why Do I Feel Bad When People Don’t Message Me Back?

Friday night rolls around and after a hard week you were expecting to have a drink with a girlfriend, but she seems to have left you hanging on read... To make matters worse (and the humiliation?) you even saw the little typing sign appear, yet you never received a reply. Well, if that’s the case, obviously you or your "how about a drink tonight?" didn’t deserve an answer. Let’s take a look at why some people don't reply to messages, and why when someone doesn't reply to your text, this makes us feel so bad.

How Does A Narcissist React When They Can’t Control You?

You probably know by now that narcissists only ever look for one thing and one thing only; and that’s control! Whether in their personal or professional life, folks with this personality disorder need to be in the driving seat and the one calling the shots, otherwise all hell breaks loose. Although their cunning and manipulative nature means they are often hard to escape, it is still possible to turn the tables on them and take the upper hand. Yet, you’ll need a thick skin to do so because when they feel their power slipping away, they become even more dangerous and abusive; here’s how they react when that happens.

How To Get Revenge On A Narcissist?

Narcissistic abuse is one of the most horrific challenges anyone can ever go through in life, but that’s not to say that their reign of terror will last forever. Evidently, breaking the cycle of abuse isn’t exactly straightforward, however, once the discard phase has been activated and victims realize that they can walk away with their heads held high, the revenge phase can commence. Unsurprisingly, getting even with a raging egocentric narcissist needs to be carefully planned, but ironically, their self-centered personalities expose to many axes of revenge, which will evidently really get to them…

How Do Narcissists Behave Sexually?

As with many things in life, narcissists also have unhealthy relationships with sex and treat it as nothing more than a self-gratifying activity. After all, manipulation, control, and emotional abuse are their so-called trusty weapons that they hide behind in most circumstances, so why wouldn’t they call on them in the bedroom too? The bottom line is people with this personality disorder are used to getting what they want and will only ever put themselves and their pleasure first, which doesn’t bode well for a healthy sex life. Discover how they behave in the bedroom and what you should do if you are involved with one.

Wengood's favorite tunes 🎵

How to detect a narcissist


"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." 

- Oscar Wilde


How to soothe an anxiety attack