Thursday, August 26, 2010
One of my dear adoptee friends made a comment on my blog that had me doing some digging and research. She said that, while many adoptees strongly resist being compared to victims of Stockholm Syndrome, she found the similarities too real and too alarming to ignore. This was in response to portions of a blog where I spoke about the adoptees feeling responsible for the emotional welfare of those who adopted them. This is the other side of the coin from mothers who suffer from PTSD and also suffer from the same emotional stress suffered by families of service people missing in action. For us it is suppressed, unresolved grief and anxiety. For the adoptee, it is survival and adaptation. All of the above is based on fear.
Per Wikipedia: In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg in Stockholm, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28, 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their captors, and even defended them after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term "Stockholm Syndrome" was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast. It was originally defined by psychiatrist Frank Ochberg to aid the management of hostage situations.
The Wikipedia page goes on to explain: In cases where Stockholm syndrome has occurred, the captive is in a situation where the captor has stripped nearly all forms of independence and gained control of the victim’s life, as well as basic needs for survival. Some experts say that the hostage regresses to, perhaps, a state of infancy; the captive must cry for food, remain silent, and exist in an extreme state of dependence. In contrast, the perpetrator serves as a 'mother' ﬁgure protecting the 'child' from a threatening outside world, including law enforcement’s deadly weapons. The victim then begins a struggle for survival, both relying on and identifying with the captor. Possibly, hostages’ motivation to live outweighs their impulse to hate the person who created their dilemma.
My friend called herself an "AdAptee," readily adapting to whatever situation in which she found herself. It seems to all come down to survival and doing whatever it takes to make the most of the life into which they were placed. Even those adoptees who are the most devoted to their adopters will acknowledge the feeling of not fitting in with the rest of the adoptive family.
While I have no right to say that all adoptees suffer from a form of SS, I still have to say that this answers a lot of questions for me about some of the adoptees I know. That some would take this dependence on the good will of the adopter past the grave only shows how strong the conditioning can be. I remember being urged to consider the feelings of the adopters and thinking, very rightly, that the adopters sure weren't being urged to consider my feelings. If we dare say anything negative about adopters or adoption within the hearing range of some adoptees, we can expect a furious reply. Defending everything the adopters do, right or wrong, becomes, for some, a life-long vocation. It is a form of self-validation for many. For others, they are protecting the adopters' "as if born to" fantasy by stating, "I am of them. I am not of you. All you did was give birth to me." Even after all barriers are down and the truth is staring them in the face, they still cling to the image of the created 'family' over the blood bonds to the mother.
So, when we challenge or question any of the adopters' words or actions or even, as I did, relate our own, personal experience with adopters, the adoptee can react out of a learned fear for their survival and identity. These adoptees take upon themselves the duty to do battle in defense of the adopters as a matter of course, never stopping to ask themselves if the adopters really did do or say something outside the realm of decency. They believe it is their job to stand guard at the gates to the fantasy and only let those in who will support the illusion.
There is a new breed of Stockholm Syndrome survivors. These are the good beemommies (Such as the Birthmom Ministries group on Facebook) of today who praise the Lord, rail against abortion and simper about how glorious and good giving your own child to genetic strangers can be. It isn't just the adopters who perpetrate that dependence, but the industry as well. The clever facilitators, especially in the church-based agencies, know that they have to manipulate the mother's perception of their loss to show something they can live with..heroics and sacrifice and loving, if quickly deleted, motherhood. It's not just the adoptees who praise the takers and revile those who recognize that the Emperor is naked.
I have to thank my friend. I wish her honesty were catching. But she gave me more vital information that helps me understand my own adult, reunited children. That may not bridge the gap or reverse the damage, but it helps me, and hopefully, others, mothers and adoptees, to understand that the results of our experience have deeper and more complex roots than we knew in the beginning.
I don't have any answers to this dilemma. I am back to the truth that we can only, each, heal ourselves by accepting the truth and looking within.
That is a lot harder for some than for others.