Stockholm Syndrome: Loving Our Abuser
Reading old emails exchanged with my captors makes me sick. Nauseated. Loquacious lovey-dovey’s and toe-curling coo’s drip from our email conversations. The contrast between our communication back then is in stark contrast to the barbs and silences now.
It’s contradictory. Crazy-making.
Backstory: My parents forbade me from moving out ’til I was 31. My curfew was dusk. Only twice a year was I allowed a “treat” … a cultural event in the evening. They took me to it and expected profuse gratitude. Oh yeah. I’ve got Stockholm Syndrome…in spades.
Stockholm Syndrome overwhelmed me again last night, wracking my frame with guttural sobs. As tears poured down my cheeks, a voice I barely recognized as my own cried, “What did I do that was so bad? What happened to all the love? Why did they do all this shit to me? Did they ever love me at all? Did I ever truly love them? Did they ever have empathy for me?”
“Do you hear yourself!?” my patient husband responded. “Can’t you hear the Stockholm Syndrome? Those people basically held you hostage in their home ’til you were in your thirties. They charged you over $40,000 to live in a place you didn’t want to live. You’re the one who discovered they are narcissists and yet you still ‘love’ the people they pretended to be. You still blame yourself for walking away. You’re a smart woman, Lenora. Hello!? Stockholm Syndrome!”
And intellectually, I know he’s right. Going “No Contact” was my choice and only my choice. I made it with relieved determination the moment I heard the word “narcissism” and the Klieg lights flashed on.
My head knows…but my heart is dragging behind, sneaking a peek backwards, like Lot’s Wife.
Trauma Bonding is at the heart of Stockholm Syndrome. Click here to discover what Trauma Bonding is.
I’ve always found Stockholm Syndrome to be a complex enigma. A shit-ball with many interwoven sides. Like a dung beetle, letting go of the Stockholm Syndrome shit-ball I’ve carried for so long is a bitch!
What is Stockholm Syndrome, you ask?
It’s brainwashing — being intellectually convinced that every abuse was “valid.” While the same abuses may horrify you when perpetuated against other people, when committed against you they were justified by your inadequacies and the perpetrators “love” and “care.” While you may empathize with others who suffered the same abuses, you have no empathy for yourself.
It’s empathy for our poor, poor helpless captor who just loved us and needed us so much.
It’s false guilt for being so selfish that we abandoned the poor, poor “victim” to pursue our own life and dreams.
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It’s believing in the skillfully rendered image of themselves our abusers painted on the canvas of our minds.
It’s believing in the slopped-on yucky image of ourselves our abusers painted on the canvas of our self-image.
And it’s a reluctance to leave the house. Rationalizing away desires for hobbies. Using thrift as an excuse not to “waste the gas” driving to this concert or that event.
And that’s bullshit too. All of it…bullshit.
A Multi-Generational “Thang”
Like narcissism, Stockholm Syndrome is a multi-generational “thang.” How vividly I remember my mother and my grandmother avidly exchanging dangers, adding to the burgeoning “Danger Scrapbook” they shared. But it was only mother who took the dangers seriously enough to alter her lifestyle to exclude more and more dangers. While Grandma went blithely on her way, Mother became more and more of a recluse. A hermit.
This served a duel purpose. First, each new danger validated her agoraphobia and excused her from, well, life.
Secondly, by foisting these dangers onto me she was protecting their investment, their gravy train, their naïve brainwashed rent-payer-and-errand-runner who honored, obeyed and trusted them implicitly. Of course, it was all done under the guise of love, of caring, of “wising-you-up on the dangers of this wicked, dangerous world, Lenora.”
Really!? What I say is, follow the money trail. It turns out that the dangers they exploited as the “reason” a single woman should not live alone without the protection of either her husband or her father can be valued, monetized and audited. Monetized to the tune of $40,000.
Who Were They…Really?
If you’re like me, a correct understanding of who our captors, our resident narcissists, our brainwashers, our mind control handlers really were helps the most in unlocking the door of our Stockholm Syndrome cage.
The dichotomy between the image they painted versus the real person can be so confusing. As a child, it was a matter of honor to believe in their image, ignoring the many times they “whipped off their halos and pulled out their pitchforks.” (What a wonderful word-picture! Thank you, Melodie Beattie!)
Here are some examples from my life. Please feel free to add more of your own in the Comment section below.
- If you never recognize yourself as identical to the over-bearing, control-freak mother in Now Voyager who drives her daughter to the brink of a nervous breakdown…you might be a narcissist.
- If you accuse the daughter who keeps you company during each of your six-hour chemo appointments of “not doing anything with her life”…you might be a narcissist.
- If you teach your daughter never to return to an abusive relationship but express surprise at “the grievances you expressed in your [No Contact] letter”…you might be a narcissist.
- If you forbid your daughter from ever giving her daddy a big ol’ hug, but then give your new son-in-law big ol’ hugs…you might be a narcissist.
- If you suspect your adult daughter of being an almost-whore and regularly accuse her of trying to seduce her own father, but then inform her, “You’re sexual, Lenora, whether you know it or not”…you might be a narcissist.
- If you regularly tell your adult daughter that, “You’re not ready for marriage yet”…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim to be so empathic but are shocked and surprised when you daughter expresses pain and anger at the two statements quoted above…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim to be unemotional and objective, yet arrive home from work in a rage every day…you might be a narcissist.
- If you encourage your daughter to eat healthily but get angry because the cranberry bread she’s baking is “taking too much power”…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture but threaten to rip up your daughter’s Bible…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim to be born-again but are upset when your wife is converted…you might be a narcissist.
- If you tell your little daughter how lucky she is to have your protection from molestation, while licking out her ears and painfully slapping back-and-forth between her thighs…you might be a narcissist.
- If you glory in teaching your daughter to enjoy her femininity but dress her in men’s boxer shorts ignoring her furious protestations…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim your daughter was nicely dressed in High School but you made her wear hot sweaters over too-tight skirts, heavy brown shoes, a dog tag, a glasses chain, home-cut hair and no makeup…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim your adult daughter has freedom but put oppressively incapacitating “boundaries” on her use of her own car “for her safety”…you might be a narcissist.
- If you express regret that your daughter hasn’t found Mr. Right yet while ending all of her romantic relationships…you might be a narcissist.
- If you express regret that your daughter doesn’t have any friends but were instrumental in convincing her that none of her friends were “good enough”…you might be a narcissist.
- If you immerse yourself in learning about codependence and develop barb-wire topped boundaries for yourself, but forbid your daughter from having even the most basic human boundary of privacy…you might be a narcissist.
- If you express interest in becoming emotionally healthy but refuse to read your own daughters’ articles…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim your daughter’s car isn’t worth fixing, but drive it for five more years after she gives it back to you (with a rebuilt transmission)…you might be a narcissist.
- If you agree to dicker with the salesman on the price of your daughter’s new car, but never open your lips…you might be a cowardly narcissist.
- If you claim your daughter is welcome in your home while treating her like a Summer Camper and begrudging her every creature comfort…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim your daughter’s 13-day betrothal and 30-minute wedding (at no charge to you) was “very distracting” from your focus on your precious, all-engrossing cancer…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim you’ll be the “perfect mother-in-law” but order your daughter to keep secrets from her new husband…you might be a narcissist.
- If you claim that any loving grandmother would order a police welfare check but refuse to meet your own three step-grandchildren…you might be a narcissist.
- If you play the “Granny victim” card (exactly as I described in my article) to attempt to shame me into returning my inheritance…you might be a very silly, disrespectful narcissist.
- If you attempt to invalidate my blog just as you contradicted and invalidated every dissenting opinion I dared to share with you while I was growing up…you might be a narcissist.
I could go on for weeks, but you catch my drift. Oh, you want more!? Here’s some hilarious “If…Then” scenarios shared by my Facebook friends.
As always, the truth has, is and will continue to set us free from Stockholm Syndrome!
For more rants, ravings and reverse engineering of narcissism, please visit www.lenorathompsonwriter.com and don’t forget to subscribe for daily updates by email. Thanks!
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Under no circumstances should it be considered therapy nor replace therapy and treatment. If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed by certified crisis response professionals. The content of these blogs and all blogs written by Lenora Thompson are merely her opinion. If you are in need of help, please contact qualified mental health professionals.
Thompson, L. (2016). Stockholm Syndrome: Loving Our Abuser. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2016/03/stockholm-syndrome-loving-our-abuser/