Stockholm syndrome

a supposed condition in which the hostage develops a psychological bond with the captor

Stockholm syndrome is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. These alliances, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims.


  • Whereas Marx identified the essential condition of capitalism as one of enforced servitude (wage slavery), the Frankfurt School alluded to something even more insidious: a willingness in people to inscribe themselves within the very system that oppresses them; to defer to the widespread mythology of those who have 'made it': the rags-to-riches millionaire, the lottery winner, the pop/sports idols and so on. Contemporary subjectivity is thus one of perverse collaboration. ... Late capitalism is a kind of Stockholm syndrome writ large: a skewed and rather desperate faith in our own socio-economic betrayal.
    • The Routledge Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory (Routledge: 2013), p. 42
  • Stockholm Syndrome is a subtle thing. It doesn’t just mean people sympathize with their captors — it means that they internalize their values, to the point that their identities are remade.
  • I find it very natural that you would adapt yourself to identify with your kidnapper. Especially if you spend a great deal of time with that person. It's about empathy, communication. Looking for normality within the framework of a crime is not a syndrome. It is a survival strategy.
  • I learned that the psychiatrists I interviewed had left out something: victims might identify with aggressors as the doctors claimed, but things weren't all one way.
  • First people would experience something terrifying that just comes at them out of the blue. They are certain they are going to die. Then they experience a type of infantilisation - where, like a child, they are unable to eat, speak or go to the toilet without permission... The hostages experience a powerful, primitive positive feeling towards their captor. They are in denial that this is the person who put them in that situation. In their mind, they think this is the person who is going to let them live.
  • It was the hostages' fault. They did everything I told them to. If they hadn't, I might not be here now. Why didn't any of them attack me? They made it hard to kill. They made us go on living together day after day, like goats, in that filth. There was nothing to do but get to know each other.
  • Bound in captivity to an unfortunate situation one cannot escape, the common psychological reaction is to identify with the interests of the captor, find hope and justification in negative circumstances: the workaholic, Stockholm Syndrome and the Voltaire's character Pangloss with his argument, faced with the best of 18th century misery that this is "the best of all possible worlds", converges. Workers become the most sincere defenders of their own austerity cuts, a necessary and temporary prick like all those others before, whilst bankers and traders use the cover of crisis to accumulate more capital and increase their share of the collective wealth.
    • J. D. Taylor, Negative Capitalism: Cynicism in the Neoliberal Era (2013)
  • The powerful, if they carry oppression beyond a certain point, necessarily end by making themselves adored by their slaves. For the thought of being under absolute compulsion, the plaything of another, is unendurable for a human being. Hence, if every way of escape from the constraint is taken from him, there is nothing left for him to do but to persuade himself that he does the things he is forced to do willingly, that is to say, to substitute devotion for obedience. ... It is by this twist that slavery debases the soul: this devotion is in fact based on a lie, since the reasons for it cannot bear investigation. ... Moreover, the master is deceived too by the fallacy of devotion.

In Stockolm Syndrome and Domestic Violence, the victim is not necessarily or typically female. The victim will have had numerous examples episodes and/or years as a victim, often being convinced that their abuser is the actual victim and they should be defending them. Alienating family and friends, parents, Grand parents, are often deemed as the ones who are the aggressor, as they can realize the abuse that the victim themselves cannot see. Typically, an aggressor will have some kind if hold on their victim, often children in a relationship, or physical aggression. Often the aggressor cannot see that they are an abuser, they see themselves as defender of their family or partner. i.e.:- Mother-in-law to Daughter-in-law, Father-in-law sister or brother of victim, parent or grandparent. The fear of hate, abuse against the aggressor, or removing the victim, whom the aggressor sees as their lifeline or partner.

See also