In August of 1973 in the city of Stockholm, Sweden, two robbers held four bank employees hostage for six days. The hostages were strapped with dynamite and held in a vault. In an amazing twist, the captives became enamored of their captors and even defended them when their ordeal was over. The term “Stockholm Syndrome” was soon born, coined by psychiatrist Nils Bejerot.
The syndrome is marked by the denial of abuse by one’s captors and the staunch defense of one’s captors for all manor of psychological reasons. Oddly, an emotional bonding often occurs between captor and captive, abuser and abused; sometimes even between rapist and rape victim.
The Stockholm Syndrome dynamic could even apply to those who have been raised by overly zealous religious guardians. A blind loyalty to one’s religious manipulators often reveals a perverse bonding having taken place between these religious manipulators and their victims. When someone’s indoctrination into the cult of religiosity is so all-consuming it becomes the prism through which he measures all things in life, he may well come to value his deluded state so much he will go to great lengths to defend his intellectual and spiritual oppressors. And as long as the connection to his abusers’ religion undergoes regular maintenance through occasional church attendance, religious holidays, weddings, funerals, etc., he or she will want to continue to show his one-time captors loyalty and affection, thereby legitimizing his own status in the religious tribe otherwise known as family and friends.
Escaping this religious manifestation of the Stockholm Syndrome and its numbing effects entails the virtual deprogramming of the intellect. It also involves relearning—or learning for the first time—the value of independence and inquisitiveness in the free-thinking mind. This is no easy task. There’s a reason the Jesuits claim that if they have the attention of a child’s mind for the first seven years of life or thereabouts that child’s mind forever after belongs to them, and that reason is frighteningly clear: children want to please their guardians; they want the approval of those who feed them and clothe them—and ‘love’ them.
For a long time I was ‘stranded in Stockholm.’ Fortunately, my deprogramming ultimately succeeded, and I came to understand the nefarious nature of religious brainwashing. My captors, however, went on living the lie, believing it was their own failure that led to my escape. Little did they know, as long as they persisted in denying me intellectual freedom, they were destined to fail. ▪