The Stockholm Syndrome

“The term Stockholm Syndrome first occurred in 1973 at an attempted bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. A man tried to rob a bank, and the police caught him inside. He took three female hostages and one male hostage and held them for 131 hours, during which time he terrorized them. He fired his Russian automatic assault weapon at them. He threatened to kill them on numerous occasions. He put nooses around their necks and threatened to hang them. But he didn’t harm any of them.

“When he finally surrendered, something very unusual happened. We expected the hostages to be antagonistic toward the hostage taker. But instead they said they feared the police more than the hostage taker. They also said they didn’t hate the hostage taker. They refused to testify against him. One of the ladies became engaged to this hostage taker, and as far as I know, she’s still engaged to him.

“The FBI analyzed thousands of hostage situations since that time. We found this happens very frequently. So we asked psychologists, ‘What happened? What causes this?’ They said in hostage situations, with a high level of life-threatening stress and positive human interaction, the people’s ego-defensive mechanisms come into play. There is denial of what is happening and regression to a different emotional state. The hostage will eventually begin to transfer his hatred; This guy doesn’t really want to hurt me; and begins to hate the policemen. And something else very important begins to happen; a love relationship begins to take place. And this love relationship is like what happens between a young child and a mother. The mother is protecting the child from the terrifying world and providing all its needs. This love relationship occurs both ways.

“One of the most outstanding examples occurred in Holland in the seventies. A group of terrorists captured a whole trainload of people. They made demands on the Dutch government. The Dutch government did not come through, so they began to murder people. They murdered two on the first day, and the second day, they selected a man by the name of Garrard Votters. They brought him out and said, ‘Say your prayers. You’re going to die.’ And he said, ‘Okay, but before I die, there’s a man here that knows my family. I’d like to give him a message.’ Of course the South Moluccans wanted to listen in. He said, ‘I feel my life has been a failure.’ He wanted to tell his wife he was sorry. He went on and on about his problems. He became a real human being instead of just a symbol to be executed. The Moluccans were unable to execute him. I’ve seen it happen many times.”

Satan holds people in bondage to their sin so long that they often hate anyone who tries to help them.

Source: Ted Childress (former FBI agent) quoted in Today’s Best Illustrations, Vol. 3, Elesha Hodge
Submitted by the homiletics class of West Coast Baptist College