Stockholm syndrome is so named because of the reactions of hostages taken in a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. Robbers took hostages and kept them for a week threatening to kill them and then giving them food or sharing details of their lives with them, which, created trauma bonding. (Trauma bonding will be discussed in another blog). The police broke in to rescue the hostages and to their surprise, the hostages attempted to protect their captors.
This is exactly the same scenario that plays out with abusers and targets of abuse and not coincidentally cults and acolytes. Family and friends attempt to “rescue” the target of abuse, only to have the target side with the abuser and attempt to excuse, deny, or rationalize the abuse that the abuser had been doing to the target of abuse. Family and friends are then stunned that the target cannot seemingly see or remember the abuse suffered.
How long does this syndrome last? It can last indefinitely if the target of abuse does not receive counseling to break the trauma bond and correct the mistaken thoughts and beliefs created by the trauma bond and the abuser. It also persists if the target of abuse is still living with the abuser and is constantly being gaslighted by the abuser. The abuser will, through verbal repetition, tell the abused over and over again that they (the abuser) are their savior and the good guy and everyone else is bad and the abused will unfortunately, believe it.
Can someone overcome Stockholm Syndrome while in an abusive relationship, yes, but it takes giving yourself more and more space and time away from the abuser as the abuser will undo anything a therapist or family tells them.