The Power of Denial and Why It’s Similar to Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm syndrome, or capture–bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors or abusers, sometimes to the point of defending them, and sometimes the feeling of love for the captor shows. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness. The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly 27% of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.

Stockholm Syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual’s response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they no longer become a threat.

~ Wikipedia, “Stockholm syndrome” (bolding theirs)

What is “normal”?

Ask five people, and it is unlikely you’ll get the same answer.  Why?  Shouldn’t something supposedly as common as “normal” be easily defined?

We live in a world where right and wrong, normal and abnormal are all measured in relative terms.  We measure what is normal according to what others do.  Of course, what others do is they do what they perceive everyone else is doing.  Therefore, “normal” shifts and changes over time as people’s perception changes.

Still, that only partially explains the human problem and dilemma.  Some people lean rebellious, after all, and so they set out to break the boundaries society has put in place.  Perhaps they, rightly or not, believe they have a legitimate cause to fight for.  Still, others are just bent on bucking the trend without cause.

Some just want something so bad that it must be right.  They seek out justifications for their bad behavior because “it just cannot be wrong”.  Drug addicts, alcoholics and adulterers can easily fit into this category, although there may be other reasons as well.

Of course, if enough people push the boundaries of normal, then normal itself changes, doesn’t it?

Herbert W Armstrong began his booklet A World Held Captive describing the world scene exactly as one would describe a world afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome:

THE NEWS has been replete with stories of kidnappings and aircraft hijackings. Bizarre among them was the Patty Hearst kidnapping, in which the victim was brainwashed into preferring the criminal life of the kidnappers to the respectable status of her parents. Happily, Patty’s mind later became cleared of the delusion.

But most astonishing of all is the actual fact of the colossal kidnapping of all time-in which the captive for 6,000years has willed to pursue the life and evil philosophy of the archkidnapper — Satan the devil. The willing victim in this case is the world that inhabits this planet earth! Yet this world has been so completely deceived that it cannot realize what actually has happened to it.

In this 20th century a world of awesome progress and material development is so blinded by the deceptions of the superkidnapper that it cannot understand the paradoxical fact that its progress is accompanied with appalling and still escalating evils, which are inflicting indescribable suffering, frustration and death.

You cannot change a problem that you do not acknowledge exists.  If an alcoholic does not admit they have a drinking problem, then there is no reason to search for a cure.  If a spouse abuser justifies their acts of violence as the other person’s fault, then they feel no reason to change.

Yet, denial is a powerful enemy.  Wiki Answers deals with the question “How strong can denial be?” (bolding mine):

Very. During the research for the book The Ambiguity Advantage I found that denial occurs as a reaction to fear and can lead people to not see, hear and feel sensory data at all and to construct new perceptive realities for themselves.

Did you catch that?  “Construct new perceptive realities”?  What is reality?  If it is not reality, then is it true?  If it is not true, then it is not reality at all!  A “perceptive reality” simply means what the person believes to be true, and not what is really true!

When you believe something that really is false to be true, what do people call you?  OK, I understand that you and I might call it “deceived”, but what does that mean?  What is the clinical term for believing an illusion?


Pick up a newspaper, and tell me the world has not gone insane.  We live in a world where rich celebrities who should have no physical need in the world feel as though they have no purpose in life and are bent upon a life of destruction.  We live in a world where people don’t want to be criticized for bad behavior so they try to change the language instead.  We live in a world where people get elected to represent the people but instead sit around and point the finger at the “others” as to why nothing ever gets done.  We live in a world where entire countries are filled with such hatred that they want to blow up other countries in order to appease their version of “god”.  We live in a world where right is called wrong and wrong is called right in an ever shifting sand pile of morality.

Yet, how many are in denial that anything at all is wrong?  As long as it doesn’t affect their partying or satisfying their lusts and desires, then they cannot be bothered with anything that disturbs their “perceptive reality”.

It is true of the alcoholic, and it is true of a world held captive.

What part of our society has not been touched by the influence of the evil one?

I’m in a fashion-bashing mood today.  Why?  Not only is a lot of it downright stupid (and frankly not all that attractive), but it is often “Killer fashion: Looking good never hurt so bad”.  Earlier this month, Metro reported on the new Israeli law targeting anorexia in the fashion industry.

These disorders run the gamut – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS). In addition, the problem starts early. In the US, 46 per cent of girls aged nine to 11 are on diets, according to the National Eating Disorder Awareness Association(

High heels strain muscles in the calves, cause bone spurs on the feet and throw the body’s balance off so that back problems occur in later years.  In fact, a good number of back problems in women can be traced to high heels.

Women generally wear high heels to complement an outfit, not for comfort, but some might not realize that these shoes can cause serious discomfort in the feet and can also exacerbate back pain. High heels alter the balanced position of a person’s body. When a woman wears high heels, a new dynamic equilibrium occurs. Dr. Brassard compared the musculoskeletal system to a mobile, hanging in dynamic equilibrium, each part balancing the other. If one part becomes ‘fixed,’ the whole system will compensate with a movement or restriction. Essentially, wearing high heels for any length of time increases the normal forward curve of the back and causes the pelvis to tip forward. This alters the normal configuration of the pelvis and spine necessary for the body to maintain a center of gravity.

~ American Chiropractic Association, “Today’s Fashion Can Be Tomorrow’s Pain”, ACA Today

Yet, young women will ooh and ah over high heels and deny there is any problem with them.  Denial will cost them later in life, whether it be in the back, bone spurs in the feet or in pulled muscles in the legs.  That’s assuming, of course, that something more drastic like getting a heel caught in a manhole cover or causing one to trip on a carpet sends the woman tumbling down the staircase.

Ever ask a smoker why they smoked?  I used to smoke – a lot.  Yet, even the denial involved in this area can surprise me a great deal.  I know a smoker who spent a few days in the hospital.  This person was not able to smoke during their stay.  When that person came home, they were surprised at the smell and how bad it was.

Their reaction?  “Why didn’t you guys tell me how bad it smelled?”  Instantly, the smoker justified their behavior and blamed others.  Even after admitting it smelled bad, did they stop?  Do you want to bet me whether they did or not?

Yet, this is a microcosm of the world as a whole.  When Christ comes back, what will have to change?  One word: Everything!  The world calls up down, down up, good evil and evil good.  Everything will have to change.  The Bible even speaks about a pure language.

9 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.

~ Zep 3:9

This brings me to the biggest denial of all.  In fact, it is the oldest denial in the Book, literally.

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

~ Ge 3:6

This is where denial comes from!  It is the result of breaking God’s commandments.  It is the result of redefining “Good and Evil” on individual terms and learning the results through experiential “Knowledge”.  We can learn either through revealed knowledge as given by God, or we can learn the hard way through the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The denial was deep, wasn’t it?  Adam said (paraphrasing), “Not my fault!”  Eve said (paraphrasing), “Not my fault!”  It was everyone else’s fault.  In fact, Adam seemed to be saying it was indirectly God’s fault, seeing as God created the woman.

Denial is just a form of self-deception, isn’t it?  It is a form of insanity, isn’t it?  Yet, that explains the mad conclusion that humankind will bring itself to in the Book of Revelation.  It will be so self-destructive that Christ will have to step in to stop it all.

What lies have you told yourself lately?  You know, we are put on this earth in the company of other people to watch their odd behavior.  Why?  Why does God even record the sins and missteps of even the righteous men in the Bible?  Again, isn’t it to reveal something to us?

19 Just as water reflects the face,
so one human heart reflects another.

~ Pr 27:19 (CJB)

You ever consider how easy it is to see another person’s folly?  Have you considered what we are supposed to do with that?  Should we not use it to judge ourselves?  To break our own little (hopefully!) island of denial?

This knowledge that it exists should help us to have compassion upon others.  It should prepare us for the time, which is already here, in which people will not listen to reason but because of their itching ears seek out those that validate their own opinions.  This is not limited to just the Church!

3 For the time is coming when people will not have patience for sound teaching, but will cater to their passions and gather around themselves teachers who say whatever their ears itch to hear.

~ 2Ti 4:3 (CJB)

Does this not describe the Internet age?  People used to be interested in a “liberal education”.  It was meant to be a sampling of various things and disciplines in order to produce a well-rounded person.  People are no longer interested in that sort of thing.  They surround themselves, either physically or virtually, almost entirely of those that share their view.  It becomes a sort of groupthink, and that becomes group denial.

Why will kings and rulers yell at the mountains to fall upon them, desire death, instead of repenting (Rev 6:16-17; Rev 16:9-11)?  Denial.  They will have been brainwashed into believing they are right and God is wrong.  Pure and simple.

It is a form of Stockholm Syndrome, but in this case the captor is Satan.  People will identify with him and his values rather than God’s.  They will be mistaken, just like hostages are mistaken, in believing that taking on the beliefs and values of their abductor will cause the abductor to not harm them.  This does not work with human kidnappers, and it does not work with the spiritual one either.

We see the results all around us.  Children starve, unborn babies are mercilessly killed, corrupt officials take food aid and sell it to those it was meant to go to for free, cheap labor is paid pennies to work in dangerous conditions, and much, much more.

Even the weather will not cooperate.  God answered Job out of a whirlwind, a tornado.  However, there was also a tornado that killed Job’s sons and daughters.  That was not God, but it was the work of Satan!  When God takes away His protective hand from a person or a group of people, dangerous things happen!

Right now, yet again, more tornadoes are in Oklahoma.  Who will get the blame, though?  Atheists will ask, “Where was God?”  Insurance companies will call them “acts of God”.  Yet, who is really to blame?

More important, will anyone open the Bible and see that they should blame themselves collectively?  God made many national promises to an ancient nation, but they had the stipulation that they must obey God.

The problem is that people like Pat Robertson will point the finger at a specific group of people.  Jesus, however, made it plain that sin is a national problem (Lk 13:1-9).  He warned them that unless they repented “ye all shall likewise perish”!  Not a few.  Not just New Orleans.  Not just for the Democratic National Convention.  No, according to what Jesus said, everyone, including Pat Robertson, needs to repent.

The blame game.  Denial.  Self-justification.  Deception.  It goes by many names.  However, one thing it needs to be called is “a lie”.

Collectively and individually, Jesus called us all to repentance.

14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,

15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

~ Mk 1:14-15

That message has not changed!  Repentance requires we stop denying the fact that we are all sinners and believe what is real.  You can contribute to the mass chaos of this world, or you can come out of this world and prepare to help others to as well.

You know what they say: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Don’t be part of the problem.