We'll have to develop a collective Stockholm Syndrome to tackle the scourge of corona, says Sumit Paul

We must develop the outlook that we shall have to live with this pandemic for years, if not eternity

Sumit PaulUpdated: Friday, April 09, 2021, 12:33 AM IST

One may wonder what does Stockholm Syndrome have to do with overcoming the blues caused by corona across the globe? Before descanting upon how this syndrome can help, it's better to understand what does the term means.

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response. It occurs when hostages or abuse victims bond with their captors or abusers. This psychological connection develops over the course of the days, weeks, months, or even years of captivity or abuse.

With this syndrome, hostages or abuse victims may come to sympathise with their captors. This is the opposite of the fear, terror and disdain that might be expected from the victims in these situations.

Over the course of time, some victims do come to develop positive feelings toward their captors. They may even begin to feel as if they share common goals and causes. The victim may begin to develop negative feelings toward the police or authorities. They may resent anyone who may be trying to help them escape from the dangerous situation they’re in.

Named in 1973

Episodes of what is known as Stockholm Syndrome have likely occurred for many decades, even centuries. But it wasn’t until 1973 that this response to entrapment or abuse came to be named.

That’s when two men held four people hostage for six days after a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. After the hostages were released, they refused to testify against their captors and even began raising money for their defence.

After that, psychologists and mental health experts assigned the term “Stockholm Syndrome” to the condition that occurs when hostages develop an emotional or psychological connection to the people who held them in captivity (Courtesy, ' Healthline).

Living with it

Now, psychologists and doctors dealing with the collective depression induced by the ongoing pandemic are seriously thinking of introducing and inculcating a fluid and diluted form of Stockholm Syndrome among the people. It’s not that the beleaguered mankind should fall in love with corona! That's a silly literal interpretation of the term that has many shades and a far bigger ambit. What psychologists mean is: We must develop a feeling and outlook that we shall have to live with this pandemic for years, if not eternity.

Once the acceptance, not a sense of fatalistic resignation, comes and grows among mankind, it'll be far easier to deal with this global health issue. So long as we resist and resent, the issue seems to be a gigantic one in all its gargantuan scope. That's very psychological. The human mind tends to make peace with a tricky situation for survival. It's a basic survival instinct. Once it makes peace with a seemingly insurmountable problem like Covid-19, it (mind) starts functioning in a natural and normal way. It's like pessimism. When you get used to it, it's just as agreeable as optimism.

In other words, we shall have to change the way we're perceiving corona. Accept it as a part and parcel of human existence and move on with life. Right now, corona is being given unnecessary negative attention. We need to get accustomed to it in a normal way so that it loses its sting.

Stoicism and indifference

To quote Mirza Asadullah Khan ‘Ghalib’: Ranj ke khoogar hua insaan toh ghat jaata hai ranj/ Mushkilein itni padeen mujh pe ke aasaan ho gayeen (Once humans get inured to sufferings, the pain subsides/ So many calamities I faced, they slowly became bearable). That's the spirit that we all must develop to negotiate corona and its cankers. A little stoical approach and a sense of studied indifference will surely help ebb away the fear and apprehension regarding Covid-19. That doesn't mean, we should take it lightly to the extent of laughing it off. Our approach to the pandemic should be of careful insouciance.

It's not the first time humankind is facing something of this magnitude. Many pandemics and endemics, as well as the first and second world wars battered mankind in the past. But humans bounced back to surge ahead. Great Britain faced the scourge of bubonic plague (known as 'the Black Widow') a number of times. But life didn't come to a standstill. Poets and playwrights like John Dryden and the Bard of Avon remained unperturbed and exhorted the people to stay calm.

Unwelcome guest

We cannot let the temporary depression degenerate into a universal psychological disorder due to corona. We must accept the fact that this unwelcome guest has come to stay for an indefinite period. There’s a Chinese adage that to oust an unwelcome guest or an enemy, you don’t bring your house down!

We can’t lose our sanity and a sense of equilibrium, equipoise and equanimity in the face of corona. We need to adhere to our intrinsic and innate sang-froid to tide over it.

Remember, there’s no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn. Just bide your time, live life with a potential enemy with caution, sagacity and a positive mindset. Nothing lasts forever.

The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilisations and cultures.

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