Sayonara Stockholm Syndrome! What to do after an abusive relationship - Sovereign Health Group
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Sayonara Stockholm Syndrome
02-15-16 Category: Mental Health

Sayonara Stockholm Syndrome
Chris called it loyalty and Francis thought they were just codependent, but anyone from the outside looking in knew it was abuse. She verbally tortured and emotionally manipulated him, and neighbors heard her knocking his slender frame around the apartment more than once. She finally caught a case that landed her in jail for eight months, which, in a miracle, abruptly ended their relationship.

Now Chris is free for the first time in a long time. He truly doesn’t know what to do with himself and feels like he should just stay put. Where should he go and what could he do?

Why the abused stay

Many freed slaves in America stayed behind on plantations after emancipation, citing trepidation of what else to do or holding a misplaced affinity on those who forced subjectivity. Similarly, newly liberated partners in abusive relationships will often continue the couple’s routine or frequent the same haunts.

Both scenarios, as well as those of hostages, cult members and unlawful prisoners, have been considered survival mechanisms of bonding with an abuser. Coupled with post-traumatic stress disorder and compounded by distortions, the condition is known as Stockholm Syndrome.

P. Gail Allen, J.D., Ph.D., designed a clinical model for recovering from Stockholm Syndrome. In what Allen dubs a process of “unbonding,” she explains that advancement through unbonding stages was marked by an increase in self-reliance and a reduction in attachment to the abusive partner.

She adds, even if a partner manages to separate from the abuser, custody timeshares may make unbonding murky if children are involved.

Alternatives to face-to-face child exchanges after abuse

The 7th Judicial Circuit of Missouri lists advice for nonconfrontational child exchanges between parents where partner abuse has been an issue.

  • Door to curbside: The receiving parent can drive up to the curb, keeping windows up to avoid verbal conflict and signal arrival. The other parent can escort a child to the door and supervise from a distance as the child goes to the vehicle curbside.
  • Exchanging at school or child care: Lengthening weekend periods from the end of school on Friday until the school start on Monday eliminates direct contact. School staff are trained to be attentive to children on campus. Inquire about school exchange policies.


Self-care to repair

Once a plan is in place for any children involved, it’s time to take care of oneself. Call it rebounding or getting one’s groove back, according to Sue Cornbluth, Ph.D., there are four components to making a comeback once out of a negative relationship.

  1. Release your feelings – Japanese hotels that feature crying rooms and cathartic storefronts that let patrons smash and shatter dishes and appliances are creative ways to release suppressed emotions, but finding any safe, consistent and private place to let go of residual feelings is a smart step.
  2. Take time for yourself – Work and family may help one keep busy but taking time to sit with emotions, feel and relinquish them will bring healing; avoidance only delays.
  3. Get a social network – is a solid resource to find social groups to match any interest. A toxic relationship is like any addiction; the void left in its wake needs to be healthily filled.
  4. Find a passion – There are likely things abused individuals gave up for their abusive relationship. A talent, a bucket-list desire or a dream deferred should be explored about now.

Sovereign Health of California is a refreshingly innovative rehabilitation group combining cutting-edge treatment modalities with traditional and alternative therapies for lasting recovery from mental or mental or behavioral health issues. Call our 24/7 helpline for details.

About the Author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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