Stockholm Syndrome, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with his or her captor.” This occurs when people are held against their will. In this situation, hostages feel intense fear and believe escape is impossible. They often suffer isolation, threats, and abuse. In an effort to survive, the hostages begin to bond with their captors. The name is derived from the 1973 bank robbery that took place in Stockholm, Sweden, when four hostages were held captive for six days. Months after their release, the victims continued to show loyalty to their captors by refusing to testify against them. Some even helped raise money for their captors’ defense. Without any intervention or deprogramming, victims of such psychological weaponry will remain enslaved and are doomed to relive the nightmare they suffered. The mind becomes a prison.
Let’s take this a step further. What happens when the ego takes the mind hostage? Is this not a form of Stockholm Syndrome? The ego is a highly skilled, stealthy captor. It can seize our minds with lightning speed, and if we are not prepared, it can cause irreparable harm. Once it takes the mind captive, it begins to feed us its gospel of lies cleverly disguised as truth. In our isolation, it makes us feel that escape is impossible, that we are not worthy or deserving, and as a result of ego’s constant barrage of negative messaging, we succumb to its power. We become enslaved by our own thinking.
Ego can be very charming at first. If it can’t trap us outright, it can trap us subtly by fooling us into believing things about ourselves that make us think we are larger than life. It falsely builds us up only to tear us down later, like Macbeth when he visits the three witches, demanding to know his future as King. In the witches’ equivocation, they conjure visions -- apparitions -- that provide him with a false sense of security and assuredness. Macbeth interprets the messages as ones of his invincibility, only to realize later the truth of their lies, as his world falls apart. In his darkness, his ego devours him.
I liken the ego to the serpent in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. It sold lies as truths to two unsuspecting people, like us, who were then thrown out of Paradise to suffer the consequences. When we believe the lies spawned by ego, we exile ourselves from our own personal Gardens of Eden within, severing our connection with our divine source. God didn’t exile Adam and Eve; they exiled themselves by following the voice of ego rather than listening to their Inner Source.
Breaking the ego is not easy. For some, it may require intense professional help, depending on the extremity of the situation. For others, it requires an understanding of how the ego works and learning strategies to keep it under control. For every negative seed that ego implants in the garden of the mind, it will take at least two positive seeds to cancel out the original seed. Knowing how the ego works, we can reconnect with our divine source (which never left) by taking part in activities such as meditation or prayer, or by involving ourselves in other creative or spiritual endeavors that empower and edify us, lifting us out the victim mentality into one of victory. We shatter the illusion, thus releasing ourselves into freedom. We shall be hostages no more.