By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
Recently, I met with a mother and her teenage son for initial visit regarding demonic activity in their home. I did a cleansing a few days ago, but I’m not going to focus on that. Both parents and all four children have seen ‘paranormal activity’. In fact, the mother and son said they see apparitions and shadows every day, and all day. This has been going on for a decade. The family is falling apart and they know it is due to the demonic presence. Worst, are the focused oppressive attacks on an adolescent daughter. If what they both said is only partially true (and I’m inclined to believe them), then the girl is in trouble, all of the family needs deliverance from demonic attachments, and the house, and property need to cleansed/blessed (I cleansed the house first so that there would be minimal distractions during deliverance of family).
Even though they both know the true identity and intent of these demons, and even though it has wrecked havoc beyond calculation and in innumerable times and ways, they both shared their hesitation to meet with me this morning, and go ahead with deliverance. I gently asked why they were reticent, and their reply was instructive: as destructive as the demonic activity had become, it was their ‘normal’, and they were afraid of change. This normalization process took place over a period of years of daily exposure. Remember the saying that all change, no matter how good, can be emotionally difficult. Also, the mother expressed that she was fearful that confronting “it” would cause things to get worse…like stirring up a hornet’s nest.
It is their hesitancy to seek help, even in light of knowing the horror they have lived with, which I have been pondering lately. I call it the “Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome” (or SSS for short), obviously named after its natural counterpart, which some of you have heard of. Let us take a look at the original, and then we’ll return to discuss the spiritual side in more detail. (The following is from Wikipedia)
Stockholm syndrome is a psychological condition that causes hostages to develop sympathetic sentiments towards their captors, often sharing their opinions and acquiring romantic feelings for them as a survival strategy during captivity. These feelings, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other." The FBI's Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly eight percent of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.
Formally named in 1973 when four hostages were taken during a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, Stockholm syndrome is also commonly known as ‘capture bonding’. The syndrome’s title was developed when the victims of the Stockholm bank robbery defended their captors after being released and would not agree to testify in court against them. Stockholm syndrome’s significance arises due to the fact that it is based on irony, as captives’ sentiments for their captors are the opposite of the fear and disdain an onlooker may expect to see as a result of trauma.
There are four key components that generally lead to the development of Stockholm syndrome: a hostage’s development of positive feelings towards their captor, no previous hostage-captor relationship, a refusal by hostages to cooperate with police forces and other government authorities, and a hostage’s belief in the humanity of their captor, because When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.
Symptoms and Behaviors
Victims of the formal definition of Stockholm syndrome develop “positive feelings toward their captors and sympathy for their causes and goals, and negative feelings toward the police or authorities”. These symptoms often follow freed victims back into their previously ordinary lives.
Stockholm Bank Robbery
In 1973, an escaped convict known as Jan Olsson forced four employees of the bank (“three women and one man”), as well as his friend, also an escaped convict, to assist him in robbing the Kreditbanken, “one of the largest banks in Stockholm, Sweden.” He held them captive for six days (from August 23 to August 28) in one of the bank’s vaults while torturing them with nooses and dynamite. When they were released, none of them would testify against either captor in court; instead they began raising money for their defense. “According to some reports, another hostage eventually married one of her captors.”
As a Coping Mechanism
From a psychoanalytic lens, it can be argued that Stockholm syndrome arises strictly as a result of survival instincts. Strentz states, “the victim’s need to survive is stronger than his impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma.” A positive emotional bond between captor and captive is a “defense mechanism of the ego under stress”. These sentimental feelings are not strictly for show however. Since captors often fear that their affection will be perceived as fake, captives eventually begin to believe that their positive sentiments are genuine.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
This book is widely used as the "classification system for psychological disorders" by the American Psychiatric Association.Stockholm Syndrome has not historically appeared in the manual, as many believe it falls under Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The work was updated in 2012, when the fifth edition came out, and Stockholm syndrome was included under 'Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified'.
Loving to Survive
First published in 1994, author Dee Graham uses the Stockholm syndrome label to describe group or collective responses to trauma, rather than individual reactions. Graham focuses specifically on the impact of Stockholm syndrome on battered and abuse women as a community. She claimed that in both the psychological and societal senses, women are defined by their sense of fear surrounding the threat of male violence. This constant fear drives women to perform actions that they know will be pleasing to men in order to avoid emotional, physical, or sexual assault as a result of male anger. Graham draws parallels between women and kidnapping victims in the sense that women bond to men to survive as captives bond to their captors to survive.(Wikipedia)
This syndrome is also known as ‘captive bonding’. Relating this to demonic oppression, as a survival strategy, people will develop strong emotional ties to their spiritual captors. The visceral desire to survive will lead many people to do things which may not seem rational to us. Take the example given above. The family knew the true identity and intent of their captors, but their survival instincts was the over-arching desire, muting all the other issues…until it got so bad they could not turn a blind eye anymore. The daughter’s horrible plight was the needle that popped the captive bonding bubble.
I can’t criticize those in this situation. Demonic oppression can cause common-sense to go out the window. The demonic influence on their minds and affections can cause them to do all sorts of irrational behavior. Remember, demons are constantly poisoning their minds with deluded thinking, and they are also bombarding their affections to cause ‘captive bonding.’ It is the focus on their affections which is at the root of SSS. Demonic oppression affects not only people’s minds but also their affections. Their affection or love for Christ is the primary target…a long walk in the wrong direction to hell is their main desire for us. But through various means, they can cause otherwise intelligent people, to loathe or fear the only thing they know deep down can save them—deliverance through Christ.
Imagine you have been suffering from all manner of demonic oppression for a decade, and they have broken you down physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially and relationally. You are utterly exhausted. You are gasping for air but you are still ‘breathing’. Can you empathize with their fear that their normal will be utterly gone? How will they breathe under a new normal, which has become emotionally foreign to them? I know someone who has lived with the paranormal all their life and it is utterly normal for them. Add to this, bad advice from trusted friends and family, or TV, and you have a recipe for disaster in the form of SSS.
"When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.” Even in what I call a “Happy Haunt” in which the demonic presence is either not overtly hostile or there is rarely any paranormal activity at all, the silent but deadly presence of the demonic is very real. Like spiritual radioactivity, the demons are influencing their minds and slowly causing them to adapt similar values of the demons, especially regarding Jesus. They may believe in Jesus, but which one?! Their minds may get so polluted that they are unable to discern right from wrong. A strong delusion overcomes them and they embrace or sleep with the enemy with no qualms…sometimes literally.
Or what if they believe the blue orbs that dance around in their bedroom every night are protective angels, simply because they are blue? Not only are they not alarmed at the demonic presence, but actually think that their enemy is protecting them. How profoundly sad, yet it happens frequently.
Negative energy has no ontological status, it is nothing. Or, I should say that demons give off negative energy. But it’s the demons that are the cause, and negative energy is simply a symptom or effect. Another form of SSS is allowing the entity to stay, but to sage the negative energy when it gets too high. This accomplishes nothing, except a false sense of security and health.
One of the four components mentioned above was the humanizing of their captors. Is that not precisely what many people are being told by paranormal investigators? Instead of seeing these unclean spirits as pure, inhuman evil, they tell their clients that they are living with deceased humans. Once they embrace the false notion that their captors are human, they are more apt to see harmful behavior through rose colored glasses. They may even develop pity for these lost souls who are oppressing them because they are lost souls who need help to find the light, ect.
They don’t need help, these spirits need to be expelled, and ultimately damnation. Perhaps the humanization of demons is the biggest reason for the widespread nature of Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome. Once you humanize supernatural evil, the devil has all sorts of ways of messing with your mind to keep you in bondage. That is one reason I detest the notion of earthbound spirits with such passion.
A statement worth quoting is that, “A positive emotional bond between captor and captive is a ‘defense mechanism of the ego under stress.’ I have noted that there are innumerable people who resist deliverance for all kinds of reasons, but it seems clear that most are defense mechanisms of various sorts. It usually takes a truly earth shattering event/s to awaken them from their lethal slumber…to help them see the true identity and intent of their captors, entities of pure evil out to destroy them.
Instead of turning against the police, they sometimes turn against those who give a clarion call to the true identity and intent of their captors. Since most pastors don’t know what to do nor speak of this matter, many folks are stuck for so long they’ve given up hope for any deliverance. So many people on Facebook are experiencing demonic oppression, but they either ignore or ridicule those ‘wierdos’ who are always fixating on the paranormal. But that is small price to pay when we get an email pleading for help.
Folks who have suffered chronic demonic oppression over long period of time need our tender mercy. To paraphrase one mother, “I’m scared to see change. I’m so used to having every area of life in turmoil, I’ve gotten used to it. I’m not sure I’ll know who I am or what to do if it’s not like that.’ Does that not make your heart weep? They don’t need judgment from us, but understanding and love. They need to be gently but firmly reminded to live by faith and not in fear. They need to hear over and over their authority in Christ…that as children of the Living God THEY have the authority in Jesus’ name to send demons fleeing. Many become so broken, they need outside help, and that is where exorcists/demonologists come into the picture. But we can do 100 cleansings and it won’t ‘stick’ if their thinking is not changed from fear to faith. God is perfect love…there is no fear in love…perfect love casts out fear. 1John 4:18 Leaving them with a written prayer that reminds them of their authority in Christ can be of great help. Demonic oppression leaves scars which need patience to help them change their thinking.
Consider how an addict thinks of the drug that is killing them. Most addicts cannot envision life without their drug of choice. Life seems impossible; terrifying without it…that is how strong a grip it has on their psyche. Similarly, one can get so ‘addicted’ to demonic oppression and its effects, that life without it is terrifying. Again, this calls for tenderness and patience from those who are trying to peel away the layers of the onion that comes with dealing with discovering the cause and cure of demonic oppression.
If you carefully read the section on Stockholm Syndrome, then there are other parallels one can see with SSS. For example, even if the chronically oppressed family knows their captors are demons, some folks are of the opinion that they are not as bad as the bible says. In fact, they may see them as wanting to repent and go to heaven. I’ve heard people speak of demons in this manner, but they must realize that fallen angels are irreformable…they cannot change. God did not die for them so they are utterly without hope, and they don’t want hope.
Having finished my most recent cleansing, I was struck by how deeply SSS had had a grip on this family for 10 years. It takes discernment to pick up on this, but I hope this article will help demonologists and others to realize what is going on, and may possibly assist you in understanding some of the dynamics going on in the families you are helping. The sheer desire to survive is what is driving many oppressed families. Hence, they are apt to put off deliverance for years, or some other behavior that seems irrational to us, simply because they have bonded in some form or fashion with their captors…or the environment they have created. SSS…Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome…think about it.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.