“The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival,” writes Joseph M. Carver, PhD for the web site Mental-Health-Matters.com.
Interesting, you say, but what does this have to do with the price of iMacs in China?
Well, nothing, but it does have a great deal to do with a recent issue I had with an IT department head at a company with which I am consulting. I won’t get into the specifics, but you know the drill, this guy hates Macs for some reason, makes outright fun of Macs using all of the usual myths (too expensive, no software, no one uses them, Apple’s going out of business, etc.), but is getting pounded daily by his company’s workers and management as his network repeatedly fails due to viruses and patches and just plain Windows crashes.
I think I’ve finally figured out the answer to my own article from last November, “I really wonder what some Windows users think about Macintosh.”
These Windows users are sick. Sick, I tell you! Mentally ill. Want proof? Okay, but keep in mind that this gets eerie, proceed at your own risk:
Dr. Carver explains the history of the naming of Stockholm Syndrome, “On August 23rd, 1973 two machine-gun carrying criminals entered a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. Blasting their guns, one prison escapee named Jan-Erik Olsson announced to the terrified bank employees ‘The party has just begun!’ The two bank robbers held four hostages, three women and one man, for the next 131 hours. The hostages were strapped with dynamite and held in a bank vault until finally rescued on August 28th. After their rescue, the hostages exhibited a shocking attitude considering they were threatened, abused, and feared for their lives for over five days. In their media interviews, it was clear that they supported their captors and actually feared law enforcement personnel who came to their rescue.”
“While the psychological condition in hostage situations became known as ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ due to the publicity – the emotional ‘bonding’ with captors was a familiar story in psychology. It had been recognized many years before and was found in studies of other hostage, prisoner, or abusive situations. In the final analysis, emotionally bonding with an abuser is actually a strategy for survival for victims of abuse and intimidation,” Dr. Carver writes.
Stockholm Syndrome has certain symptoms or behaviors according to Dr. Carver. These include (along with my interpretations for my specific situation with my IT friend in parenthesis):
A. Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser/controller
(Even though completely locked into a failing computer system, he compliments Microsoft when speaking of Windows and Microsoft applications.)
B. Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends, or authorities trying to rescue/support them or win their release
(I was trying to explain the benefits of Mac OS X vs. Windows when it comes to usability, stability, and virus/worm security only to have him make fun of Apple and the Mac based upon myths and falsehoods.)
C. Support of the abuser’s reasons and behaviors
(His support of Microsoft’s system of patching problems as they came up, how Windows worked, etc. was strong.)
D. Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim
(This poor bastard loved Microsoft.)
E. Supportive behaviors by the victim, at times helping the abuser
(This guy was proud that he had been awake for 56 hours, working through two nights straight to patch hundreds of infected Windows machines.)
F. Inability to engage in behaviors that may assist in their release or detachment
(He wouldn’t listen to me as I offered him an option, Mac, that did everything he needed to do, and more, without the problems of Windows.)
According to Dr. Carver, four situations or conditions must be present that serve as a foundation for the development of Stockholm Syndrome:
A. The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat
(The perceived threat, I believe, is that my IT friend would have to “learn something new” or, to put it simply, fear of change. This is a very strong fear in some humans.)
B. The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim
(Microsoft had worked with him on licensing, some custom work, etc.)
C. Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser
(My IT friend would not hear the words Mac or Apple or anything other than Windows without immediately shutting down intellectually and resorting to making fun of the Mac and Apple users.)
D. The perceived inability to escape the situation
(He was so deeply invested in time and money with Microsoft, that he couldn’t even consider life without Microsoft.)
Dr. Carver explains that, “In abusive and controlling relationships, the victim has the sense they are always ‘walking on eggshells’ – fearful of saying or doing anything that might prompt a violent/intimidating outburst. My IT friend had long ago barred all users from installing any software on their machines, kept Windows restore discs everywhere (even in his car!), and acted like keeping his computer running was the result of hours and hours of fine-tuning (which it was).
I’m going to stop translating because it’s just not necessary any longer, just read what Dr. Carver has to say and apply it to my IT friend, Microsoft, and my attempts to offer him the Apple Macintosh solution:
“In severe cases of Stockholm Syndrome in relationships, the victim may have difficulty leaving the abuser and may actually feel the abusive situation is their fault.”
“Abusers and controllers are often given positive credit for not abusing their partner, when the partner would have normally been subjected to… abuse in a certain situation.”
“In relationships with an abuser or controller, the victim has also experienced a loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, and psychological energy. The victim may feel ‘burned out’ and too depressed to leave.”
“Stockholm Syndrome produces an unhealthy bond with the controller and abuser. It is the reason many victims continue to support an abuser after the relationship is over. It’s also the reason they continue to see ‘the good side’ of an abusive [situation] and appear sympathetic to someone who has… abused them.”
Now let’s look briefly at “Cognitive Dissonance.” Dr. Carver explains, “Throughout history, people have found themselves supporting and participating in life situations that range from abusive to bizarre. One way these feelings and thoughts are developed is known as ‘cognitive dissonance.’”
“’Cognitive Dissonance’ explains how and why people change their ideas and opinions to support situations that do not appear to be healthy, positive, or normal. In the theory, an individual seeks to reduce information or opinions that make him or her uncomfortable… Even though we might find ourselves in a foolish or difficult situation – few want to admit that fact… the more you invest (income, job, home, time, effort, etc.) the stronger your need to justify your position.”
Dr. Carver explains, “Studies tell us we are more loyal and committed to something that is difficult, uncomfortable, and even humiliating. The initiation rituals of college fraternities, Marine boot camp, and graduate school all produce loyal and committed individuals.”
Add Windows IT professionals to the list of pledges, recruits, and grad students. Emotional investment, Dr. Carver explains, is the key, “We’ve invested so many emotions, cried so much, and worried so much that we feel we must see the relationship through to the finish.”
My poor IT friend. He’s ill. Dr. Carver writes, “The combination of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘cognitive dissonance’ produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed ‘all their eggs in one basket.’ The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.”
I could go on, but my point has probably made many times over by now. So, how do we break the abused from the abuser? According to Dr. Carver it is a complex problem that may require counseling and professional help. In my case, I just sent along my first draft of this article anonymously. Drastic, maybe, but I don’t have an extended period of time here. That was 10 days ago. I’m not going to mention Apple or Mac to him for a while, but I’ve noticed that he’s no longer visibly recoiling at the sight of my PowerBook anymore. A small step, but it seems to be in the right direction.
SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.