Reflecting over the days and years, looking to the research on abuse, the history of slavery and captor-captive relationships, and the enduring and devastating trauma. I want to share my thoughts…
I believe that trauma can cause some people to celebrate when their abuser hands them trinkets and tokens of “reconciliation”. They don’t realize that these “gifts” are merely distractions and attempts to downplay and normalize the sustained abuse, while never admitting it and never ceasing.
The abuser uses these moments as part of their research and development efforts. They track the points along the way where you bend to their ways based only on their promises of a better life, freedom, etc. They note your highs and lows. They test your thresholds. They look to see at which points you showed strength and resolve, and the times when they thought they had almost broken you.
Can they make you grovel, beg, try to negotiate, compromise, sacrifice your dignity and humanness, rely upon them more than your own Creator?
The abused convince themselves that the abuser “Is trying” and “It’s a step towards progress”, “It’s better than before”, “I should be appreciative for these gifts”, and “I deserve these gifts after all that I’ve endured and continue to endure”. You’re conditioned to see these moments as a reprieve from savagery. Maybe even as a sign of better days to come.
But deep down your spirit and soul cry out, knowing that the abuser has not and will not stop. The abuser will only repeat this cycle as it breaks you down, round after round, until you finally begin to see yourself as the problem—until you believe the abuser is your savior, who you should be role modeling. The goal is for you to see yourself as inferior to the abuser. As powerless and dependent upon your abuser.
You begin to repeat what the abuser whispers to you: If only you were more pliable, forgiving, and accommodating. If only you would assimilate into the system the abuser has crafted with great wickedness and precision. If only you stopped resisting and protesting. If only you would give in and let your reality be created, managed, and ruled by your abuser.
“You’re not oppressed, that’s just your weak mind talking”. That is what your abuser says. “Your life is better than it’s ever been” so says your abuser. “If you were oppressed you wouldn’t have….” and “You’re an ingrate. Look at what I’ve given you all of these years. This is how you thank me!”
Those are the words of your abuser, your oppressor, your slave master.
We are hostages who keep clinging to the desperate hope that our captor will one day do right by us. Many of us have been convinced that our captor is our friend, who has given us privileges we could not gain without them. We have assimilated out of desperation for the pain to cease. Sadly, it doesn’t. So we blame other captives for causing the added pain through their delay in surrendering.
A lot of us don’t realize we’re tumbling through decades and centuries of generational Stockholm Syndrome.
~Natasha L. Foreman
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