I am going to preface this blog post by stating that it may seem a bit confusing. I have tried many times to edit it so that it makes any lick of sense to you. I am at the very early stages of being genuinely free from my abuse so the words to explain that freedom is not coming as easily as I would have liked.
While doing research for a project that I have been pecking away at, I came across a piece of literature that was written about a psychological phenomenon called Stockholm syndrome. It is described as a behaviour that victims in hostage situations sometimes exhibit when they inexplicably express empathy and sympathy towards their captors. They will even go so far as to defend them. The victim believes that there is no way to escape their situation so, in response, they believe that their only survival is to deeply bond with their captor. To sum it up, the syndrome is described as “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”. This syndrome has also been applied to victims of abuse and incest victims.
Some of the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome are:
- Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser/controller.
- Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends, or authorities trying to rescue/support them or win their release.
- Support of the abuser’s reasons and behaviours.
- Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim.
- Supportive behaviours by the victim, at times, helping the abuser.
- Inability to engage in behaviours that may assist in their release or detachment
Since coming out with my abuse, I always wondered why I was able to hold onto my secret for so long. I was confused as to why I was able to love someone who did something so wrong to me yet I felt unbelievably uncomfortable around him. I’ve wondered how after I decided to tell my secret to the world, I was easily able to detach myself from my abuser; as if turned off like a switch! I scared myself when I realized just how fast I could move on from a relationship that was so all-encompassing in my life. Am I a cold-hearted asshole? Could I do that to others?
My confusion haunted me until last week when I learned about Stockholm syndrome. It’s not like I was looking for some kind of blame, I just needed answers to why I lived my life so illogically. There was no logic to why I lived the way I lived for so long.
I had spent my entire childhood trying to please my father and keeping him happy was the only control I had in my life. Deep down, I believed that if I kept him happy, he would not drink, and therefore if he didn’t drink, I wouldn’t get abused. Over the years my survival instinct became a habit. How could I ever come forward with my abuse and keep him happy at the same time? There was no way in hell that could ever happen! Because his happiness became my mission, my entire life revolved around showing him love and guarding the secret that only the two of us shared.
The day I came out with my abuse, I felt as though I was set free from a cage. I couldn’t run faster from the man. But I noticed that as I ran further from him, I started to feel sympathetic to his cries and pleas to have me back into his life; I was causing him pain! I was confused as to why I felt that way, but they weren’t real feelings for me. They felt empty. I didn’t miss my father, I only missed my habit of keeping him happy. Yes! I was free from the clutches of a relationship built on lies, but No! I was useless in a world where I felt I was making everyone around me disappointed including the man that took my innocence. I had become very, very broken.
To finally understand the confusion that I had over the past 7 years is almost as free as the day I came out with my abuse. I realize that the life I had lived was mostly lived on survival. It was my brain’s way of protecting my emotions. I was able to hold onto my secret for so long because I believed that upsetting my father would be worse for me than the abuse itself. I had accepted the abuse and believed I had deserved it. The relationship that I had with him was built on the premise that he held my happiness provided he was happy. I realized that I could run from that relationship so easily because I could see real happiness outside of it the day I held my son for the first time. I just needed to break free from the trap.
When I met my hero Theo Fleury for the first time, he wrote a quote in a book that I had him sign. The quote read: “Don’t quit before the miracle”. I often wondered since then what that miracle was, or if I had already experienced it, or if I ever would find it. I never thought that my miracle would come at 5:30am on a Tuesday morning. While still a work in progress, my life makes sense to me now. I am no longer confused.
After 27 years, I am now a healed man. I have finally found my miracle!
For more reading and understanding on Stockholm syndrome, please click the link.