Dangerzone Q 2 - Stockholm Syndrome, trauma and the Asian experience
I’m sure you all know about the story of the three young women that recently broke free from their captor after being kidnapped and kept locked away from the outside world for the past 10 years. While watching the story unfold on morning television I couldn’t help but take notice when the reporters started discussing the reasons why the girls didn’t try to escape sooner and why the other two girls did not try to leave at all when given the opportunity. In such situations, when a person is isolated and relinquished of any sense of personal freedom or power, the captives will inevitably start to form a deep sense of helplessness. Once the abuser starts inflicting emotional and physical pain on the victim this sense of helplessness is magnified a thousand fold to a point where even their sense of self may begin to erode. After a certain period of time the captive will then either react in two different ways: either by turning their hurt and anger inwards at themselves, or outwards to the attacker. In extreme cases the victim will start to form a sick ‘bond’ with their kidnapper. This defense mechanism exists such that the victim will delude themselves into thinking that they ‘love’ their captors as a way of coping and not having to confront the reality of what is really happening to them.
While watching the news program I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the effects of stockholm syndrome and trauma on kidnap victims and the symptoms that are exhibited by self loathing Asian people. Now before I go on further, no I am not saying that what Asians living in a white dominated society go through is equivalent to what these poor women had to endure for the past ten years. What they went through is beyond our understanding and the fact that they can still live on after dealing with such extreme trauma for such an extended period of time shows their immense bravery, character and will to live. However, though not nearly as extreme, I do notice that many Asian people exhibit the same type of behaviors (though not as pronounced) as these sorts of trauma victims.
Childhood Trauma: Alienation and bullying
Alienation is a subject that is very familiar to many Asian people while growing up as children whether they consciously admit to it or not. Imagine that as a child you would turn on the television and notice that nobody on any of your favorite shows looks like you. Worse yet, when somebody that does resemble you finally appears on tv they are always being laughed at, minimized or stereotyped. You notice the same thing whenever you turn on the radio, open a newspaper or go to the movies. Now imagine that when you go out you notice that people aren’t quite as friendly or open to you as they are to other white people. Sure the vast majority of them may be polite, maybe even a little friendly to you, but they’ll never be the same way they are with you as they are with other whites. Maybe you’ll even come across other people of color treating white people better than how they treat you, almost as if they were desperate to be liked or accepted. Now obviously you will make friends with white people, good friends even, as you will with black, Asian, latino or arab people, but deep down you know they aren’t really the norm. That’s why you feel more comfortable hanging with Asian people, that’s why you form an Asian circle of friends and hang around certain areas…because the majority of mainstream society will not accept you to the same degree as other Asian people accept you, and you know it.
This is alienation, that little feeling you get in your stomach from time to time that doesn’t necessarily ever go away. Now imagine what happens when you add bullying into the mix. According to recent figures, it is Asian Americans that suffer bullying the most in America compared to other ethnic groups. There you are, a young Asian boy or girl who already has a slight feeling in their stomach that they don’t belong…and then some white person comes along and hurls a racist slur at you, makes ‘chinky eyes’, or constantly makes you the butt of a racial ‘joke’. Imagine the effect that would have on a child who already knows something isn’t right. Though getting teased is a part of life, the effects of racial bullying on an Asian child is usually much worse than the typical kind of juvenile teasing that kids go through while growing up. In my opinion such racial bullying could potentially be incredibly traumatic, to a point where even people well into adulthood can still feel the same tinge of pain they felt in their childhood while recalling their memories of growing up.
The man/woman you become
The trauma caused by alienation and racial bullying will manifest itself in other ways later in life. The most common way this manifestation appears in a person is in decreased confidence. Usually such Asian people who were affected in childhood aren’t as open to other people, aren’t willing to engage in activities like sports or other hobbies that require aggression or intense desire to be successful. Many such Asian people are also afraid to speak up, whether it be in class or when getting bullied or in social situations in general. They stay in the background, because they belief that at least by being in the shadows they wont get hurt. I see this type of Asian person all the time, though most white people will just say they are ‘naturally quiet’.
The second way this trauma manifests itself in one’s personality is similar to what Stockholm syndrome sufferers deal with in kidnapping situations. When a kidnapper stops torturing their victim, the victim mistakes it as kindness and starts to delude themselves into thinking they love their kidnapper (Stockholm Syndrome). When a white person (usually a male) starts making sexual advances on a ‘Sellout’ Asian woman, she will have the same feelings a stockholm syndrome sufferer has for her kidnapper and be drawn to him. She believes if she will be a ‘good little Asian girl’ then maybe she wont feel that little tinge of pain in her stomach that she felt when she was a little girl. She’ll delude herself into thinking she’s in a good place and that he loves and respects her so that she doesn’t have to deal with the issues that are going on underneath. It’s much better than reliving experiences of the racial slurs that were shouted at her when she was 5, or the times in third grade when the white girls in her class ignored her or singled her out.
The most famous example of this in action is in the ‘political commentator’ known as Michelle Malkin. An anchor baby, Malkin has previously admitted that she was relentlessly racially bullied as a child, even by adults. The trauma she faced was so overwhelming in her childhood that she grew up to become a far right pundit that was more extreme and ridiculous than most of her white peers on that side of the political spectrum. She even went as far as to argue that it was right to intern Japanese Americans during world war two, something not even any of the other far right pundits wanted to touch.
The final way this trauma manifests itself is in the form of over compensating for one’s insecurities. I actually believe this is probably the least objectionable way when compared to the other two, though obviously I’d much rather they work through their issues. Typically the over compensating types tend to go to overboard with whatever they are into. The men try to exude an aura of ultra-masculinity, always talking about their MMA classes or about all the women they’ve had sex with. The women go on and on about how different and artistic and deep they are and try way too hard to appear cultured and intelligent.
Are they a lost cause?
The short answer is…probably. I believe most of these people are probably far too gone, and that the only way they could possibly be cured and be able to live a happy life is by 1. Going to a therapist, 2.Being continually exposed to strong, happy, successful Asian people and 3. Understanding why they are they way they are so that they can use that knowledge to become the sort of person they deserve to be. By writing these articles I hope people can stop and think whenever they start exhibiting the sorts of harmful thought processes and behaviors listed above so that they can try to live in a different way.
[I should note that I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker and that everything that I have written is just my personal opinion]