I have been convinced for a while now that many adult children of narcissists show signs that they are operating from a Stockholm syndrome perspective. The article is careful to state that:
It is important to emphasize here that nothing about the Stockholm Syndrome suggests the captive does anything wrong or abnormal. The situation is driven entirely by the abusive captor and responsibility for it, and for the captive's responses, lies directly with him.I completely agree with this statement. This syndrome is a survival technique; it is a quite effective one at that. But in order to live a healthy adult life one has to recognize if their behaviors are still operating from the mindset of a captive so they can break what are now destructive habits and thought processes. What helped you survive as a child in an abusive environment will be largely detrimental if those same adaptive techniques are applied in different context.
One of the criteria of Stockholm syndrome is that the abuser seems to show some kindness occasionally:
This is probably one of the most confusing and damaging aspects to living with an abuser that survivors report. What can a child make of a father who cruelly sexually abuses her at night but, the next morning, makes her favorite breakfast? She is left with a mix-up between cruelty and kindness, love and hate, which her undeveloped brain can not unravel, and so which may be with her far into her adult life.I want to focus on this particular statement because this is what I most often observe in adult children of narcissists--they are confused and not sure if their parent is an evil abusive narcissist because they can remember times when their abuser was kind. There are happy memories here and there which the individual thinks are indications that their abuser is just a bit misguided at times, or has "anger management" issues, that if brought under control then the wonderful and loving person hiding in their abusive parent would be able to come out.
...which may be with her far into her adult life
Indeed. Does this describe you? How confused are you by happy memories with your abusive parent?
I have stressed in various posts on this blog that an occasional good deed doesn't weigh against a systematic and chronic series of abuses. It is very common for chronically abused individuals to try to put the fault on themselves when their parent continues to display abusive behaviors. Even though the adult has likely escaped from day to day control by their abusive parent, they often act as though they don't have control over their own lives. They often will abdicate their own desires and needs if those desires and needs contradict what they know their abusive parent would want. You have to make a decisive effort in order to break the psychological control your abusive and narcissistic parent instilled in you when you were their captive.
One component of the Stockholm syndrome is the belief that your abuser will kill you if you don't comply. This may throw some of you off if you don't recognize that it is possible to believe your abuser has power to kill you even if they didn't overtly tell you or show you that intent. My own mother did issue a direct death threat to me when I was around six years of age, but I remember having the feeling from a much younger age that my mother was life to me. A child is not insensible to their dependence on their parent(s). They are very aware that they depend on their parents for life itself. A child can be very young (as young as three) and have clear thoughts that if something happened to their parent they themselves would die. So, even without overt death threats, a child is very aware that their life is one that completely depends on the adult(s) in her life to feed her, clothe her and protect her. When a parent shows disapproval by emotional or physical withdrawal a child can feel like life itself is endangered. A child will often comply with any request of a parent who uses this cruel method to get compliance from the child. Parental withdrawal feels like a death threat from the child's perspective.
I hope you will read the linked article and carefully assess whether or not you experienced Stockholm syndrome as a child. If so, then ask yourself how much your behaviors today are still dictated by this dynamic with your abuser.
While it is hugely distressing for a survivor to realize that, as a child, she was so trapped, helpless, and manipulated, on the other hand this realization provides her with the freedom to put that past behind her and understand she now has control over herself and her life, and she does not have to remain hostage to her abuser any more.That last statement is the intent and purpose of my blog. Whether or not you feel like it is true, you do have the freedom to make new choices. Choices which will free you to assert control over your own life. Freedom to break off from your abuser without any longer having to put their feelings and "needs" ahead of your own.
Life is way too precious and far too short to continue to live in the slavery your parent subjected you to as a child. Now is the time to sever the identification with your abuser which keeps you looking at your world through the abuser's eyes. As long as you continue to operate from the Stockholm syndrome you are prevented from living your life as an autonomous and mature adult. You will find yourself trapped in an infantile state which believes that your good feelings about yourself can only come from the approving glance of your narcissistic parent. Today is a good day to set your feet on the path of autonomy and wave good-bye to emotional dependence
on your abuser. They are not looking out for your best interests. They expect you to look out for theirs. This dynamic will never stop unless you stop participating in it.
There is nothing that justifies what they've done, so stop justifying it and start living.