Identification With The Aggressor

Identification with the aggressor, also known as Stockholm Syndrome, is a condition where hostages develop positive feelings for their captors (including feelings of empathy and sympathy) and may even defend those captors against attempts to recover the hostages. This is considered to be a form of traumatic bonding between individuals where one person may beat, terrorize, harass, abuse or intimidate another person; there does not necessarily have to be a formal hostage situation involved. This is known to happen in some domestic violence situations also.

The term itself was coined in the wake of a bank robbery standoff in Stockholm, Sweden where bank employees were held for six days while the bank robbers negotiated a solution. By the end of this standoff the bank employees had gained such sympathy for their captors that they rejected help from governmment sources. A common interpretation of this phenomenon relies on Freudian theory that explains this as an ego defense mechanism that allows for bonding with the captor as by identifying with the aggressor.

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