Perspective: The Stockholm syndrome variation from Trauma Bonding

“Stockholm syndrome” was initially derived from a historical incident of bank robbery that occurred in Stockholm, Sweden in August 1973. The incident involved the abduction of four bank employees whom were held hostages for six days in the bank’s vaults but later turn out to defend their abductors. While being held for those six days, the hostages were said to have developed positive feelings and felt rather sympathetic towards their captors. Instead of making attempts to help the government in apprehending the robbers, they became more hostile towards the police and even sought for ways to prevent their captors from getting harmed.


Now judging from this explanation, I’d say that unlike the trauma bonding, I think the severity of Stockholm syndrome is a bit more complicated because it involves real danger and a kind of twisted psychological and emotional feelings towards the person who is believed to be the cause of the trauma. Imagine, when Olsson, one of the robbers involved in the bank incident was said to have wrapped a jacket around the shoulders of a female hostage when she was shivering, she perceived the gesture as being “kind”. Also, when he threatened the police on shooting the leg of a hostage if they attempt to force their way in, she still thought of him as being “kind” enough to only shoot the victim on the leg. Sounds creepy right? Well it surely does.


Furthermore, one of the hostages (on a phone call) was reported to have expressed being more scared of the police attacking the robbers and causing harm to everyone instead of being scared of the abductors. Even at the final stage when the robbers were caught, the hostages exchanged hugs and shook hands with them. The female hostages were reported to have cried, warning the police to not hurt the robbers. This sort of unhealthy attachment must have developed as a result of their traumatic experiences although there is not enough backup to prove that Stockholm actually exist with a formal diagnosis.


My basic assumption therefore is that, the victims were already traumatized, expecting the robbers to harm them but then, the robbers were lenient towards them so they exaggerated their leniency as kindness. And because they all mingled together for six days exposing their most vulnerable sides, they formed a kind of mental alliance and developed positive feelings as a result of the fair treatment they received from the robbers.


The above scenario is somewhat different from the trauma bonding which follows a more ‘natural’ pattern of adaptation. I am not saying that trauma bonding process is entirely natural, of course we know it involves massive amount of subtle manipulations but my point is, it appears to be more natural than Stockholm, being that the former requires long term exposure for the bonding to occur, while the latter does not. Interestingly, there is a reversed case of Stockholm syndrome known as the Lima syndrome where the abductors develop positive feelings and sympathy for their victims.


Writer: Karima Shehu


Penned 10/12/19

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23 years old freelance writer, author and novelist.

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