25 Feb 2010


One day, learning that an assistant of a rather demanding senior doctor left her job, GW wondered aloud, “Why doesn’t the remaining assistant quit, too?”

“Stockholm syndrome.” I replied slyly.

Stockholm syndrome was coined by criminologist Nils Bejerot after the famous Norrmalmstorg robbery in Stockholm in August 1973. During the event, bank robber Jan Erik Olsson took four people as hostages for six days. While the victims naturally persuaded the government to follow Olsson’s request when they were held captive, it was remarkable that they continued to defend the robber after he surrendered. With strong emotional bonding, the hostages still claim they feared the police more than Olsson.

At present, Stockholm syndrome refers to a psychological phenomenon in which hostages develop irrational positive feelings towards their captors. Although the pathogenesis of the syndrome is not completely understood, there are a few prerequisites. The captor is considered to have the power to kill and grant lives by not killing. The hostage is isolated from other people. Importantly, the captor shows some kindness towards the hostage. As a result, the hostage perceives that his/her survival is linked to the captor.

In real life, we seldom meet fully-armed villains. However, I cannot help but think that we are often similarly bound to old habits and stubborn decisions for the same reasons. Failing to think outside the box, we are isolated from alternatives and exaggerate the danger of change and the merit of the present state.

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