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Getting Rid of Stolkholm Syndrome


Sharlate
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I'll try not to make this too long, but I really need some help.

I live in L.A. and am in the acting business part-time. I have been acting since I was saying my ABC's, and that's how long I've known the man who sexually abused me because he was my boss sometimes.

The abuse stopped about a year ago after I escaped him a month after he abducted me.

My parents threw me straight into therapy after it.

They feel awful that I have been being abused for about 12 years, and they didn't even know it.

In therapy, they came to a conclusion that I have Stolkholm syndrome, but they haven't been helping me with it. They just teach me how to cope in everyday situations so that I don't go crazy.

That's good and all, except for the fact that I wouldn't go crazy in the first place if I didn't have Stolkholm syndrome.

Stolkholm syndrome has been explained to me in my situation as feeling protective and a love towards my captor/abuser.

I agree that this is my problem because the man convinced me that he was in love with me and that I was in love with him, and that WE were the normal ones.

He told me to ignore society.

He said love had no age.

He said he loved me more than anyone else ever would love me.

He said he forced me into doing things because he knew that I wanted to do them but didn't have the courage to do so.

He said I am just as much at fault as he is because it was consensual most of the time.

Because of all these things and much more, I am now convinced that he is right. I don't understand what's wrong with him being sexually involved with some one who is half his age. I don't understand anything my therapist or society has to say, and it's killing me inside because I know that the way I'm thinking is not normal and it is wrong.

I want to be able to hate him.

Not be in love with him.

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Wow. I think I've heard it all and then there are always new and disturbing wrinkles on well worn themes to get under your fingernails.

This is a difficult problem, I'm sure. Maybe more difficult than you appreciate right at the moment, simply because part of the way you've coped with the situation was to accept the story your abuser was telling you as your own story. That made some sense during the time you were being actively abused, as it helped you to stay calmer in a situation that would otherwise be probably fairly depressing and/or terrifying. After all - you were essentially being raped on a regular basis. You may have "consented" to some of it, but only in the manner that a child can consent - e.g., without full awareness of the larger meaning of what you were consenting to or a real, meaningful opportunity to say no.

What is adaptive while you are being abused can become a liability after the abuse is over. You know this, to your credit, but don't think that just because you know this, that it is easy to start thinking differently than you were thinking. The emotional part of yourself is not tightly connected to the intellectual part of yourself. That's just how the brain is built. You can know something and still act in a way that is counter to what you know you should do. We all do it. It's human nature. So cut yourself some slack for being a human being. This will take some time to get over.

A few other thoughts

- it's reasonably normal for someone to enjoy sex even when it is abusive sex. It's also reasonably normal to bond with someone you're having sex with - to feel intimate with that person and to want to forgive them when they harm you. That much is biological. Part of the purpose of sex for mamals like us is to bond couples together for child-rearing purposes. So even though it might do damage to your identity, your brain is wired to want you to stay coupled to a person you've had sex with. Just because it feels good doesn't mean it is in your interest.

Spend some time contemplating the meaning of some of the terms you're using like "consentual" and "forced". In this story you're currently living in, the normal meaning of consentual has been turned on its head. Normally, consentual means that no force was used whatsoever. it means you gave consent. In contrast, your repeated rape seems consentual to you in hindsite becuase it maybe became something that felt pleasurable later on and that changed the character it originally would have had. You suggest that if you were more courageous, you might have giving yourself willingly to this guy, but that is all from hindsight. Try hard to remember what it was like when the force was happening - when the experience was new. I bet it wasn't about you feeling hesitant at first. It was likely more like you were being pushed past limits you wanted to respect but couldn't because you didn't have a choice because he forced you. Think about "forced". It doesn't matter what you may have though about it later on - it matters what you thought about it while you were being forced.

Think also about this: It is possible that you can have tender feelings for this person AND at the same time be very angry with him for having taken advantage of you. It doesn't have to be black and white, and probabably generally isn't black and white. For your parents and for your therapist it is probably more black and white - this guy abused you and he is evil, but for you it's going to be more nuanced. You knew him as a person; were intimate with him even if it was an unfortunate and initially unwanted intimacy. Allow yourself to have more than one layer of feelings at a time. it's not only okay for that to happen; it's normal for that to happen.

My final thought is that its unrealistic for you to think that you can change how you feel simply through an act of will. If you "love" this guy, that feeling may linger for a while. It's not going to lead you towards anything healthy, but it probably will have a certain inertia. While you maybe cannot will yourself to feel one way or another, you can work on viewing your situation logically, using your head to overrule your heart. Ask yourself whether it would be okay with you if this guy were to approach another girl as young as you were when you were first raped. Would that be creepy? Maybe though it's hard to appreicate what happened to yourself, viewing it from the inside as you must, it will be easier to appreciate what happened to you if you view it from the outside as though it is happening to someone else. When we look at things that don't affect us directly, we can see them more clearly, and I bet you will be creeped out by this guy's lack of boundaries, respect for your welfare and significant selfishness if you view it from that sort of angle.

Anyway - like I said - this is complicated, becuase feelings have a life of their own. Just don't mistake a feeling you have for the truth, or something good to act on.

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The emotional part of yourself is not tightly connected to the intellectual part of yourself.

That is EXACTLY how I feel.

it's reasonably normal for someone to enjoy sex even when it is abusive sex. It's also reasonably normal to bond with someone you're having sex with - to feel intimate with that person and to want to forgive them when they harm you. That much is biological.

And that's how I feel, and it makes me feel very ashamed for feeling that way.

It doesn't matter what you may have thought about it later on - it matters what you thought about it while you were being forced.

When it was happening, I was scared sh*tless.

Ask yourself whether it would be okay with you if this guy were to approach another girl as young as you were when you were first raped. Would that be creepy?

OH. MY. GOD. I switched it like that and I wasn't okay with him doing this to a five to 16 year old girl. That's wrong. How could he do that? It makes me think harder.

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