Hamas released the first thirteen Israeli hostages on Friday afternoon, in addition to twelve Thai hostages. In return, Israel releases Palestinian prisoners. Ellen Gables, professor of conflict and security psychology at the University of Twente, interviewed dozens of people who had been kidnapped or held hostage for her research.
What does kidnapping do to a person?
“First, there is the acute stress response caused by the kidnapping itself. People can often talk about this in detail later, as the brain works very well at such a moment. This is then followed by the first week, during which the hostages go through emotional ups and downs ranging from Gaining hope of being released leads to losing that hope.
“Then you see the hostages trying to find a new routine. Maintain physical fitness, for example, with whatever is available. Do yoga exercises, or fill bottles with sand to use as weights. Keep a diary. In the group previously held by Islamic terrorists, One of the hostages challenges the other hostages every day. Until one of them can sail well. The person sat on a carpet, and the carpet became a kind of imaginary ship in which he explained to the rest about sailing.
“Of course, a lot depends on the conditions you are held in. It makes a big difference whether you have any space to move or communicate or whether you are tied up somewhere alone.
in One of your studies “In the end you forget who you are,” says a former hostage.
“Who we are is shaped largely by our social relationships. But abducted people remain cut off from the outside world for a long time. A photo or letter from loved ones can be very valuable in such a situation. Or a mirror, so you can at least see what you look like.” Hamas kidnapped many Israelis at the same time: relatives and villagers. For their psychological safety and to maintain their sense of identity, I hope they stay together in groups.
“Stholm Syndrome,” it instantly sounded on social media. The term refers to a prolonged hostage situation in a Stockholm bank in 1973, in which the hostage developed a close relationship with the hostage-taker and even refused to testify after his release. But immediately shouting “Stockholm Syndrome” when the hostage says something positive about the kidnapper is absolutely undesirable. This leaves the victim feeling like there is something wrong with them.
“Sometimes hostages and hostage-takers have been close to each other for a long time: it is a very human thing to then build a bond. Many hostages do this intuitively. It is also beneficial because it increases their chances of survival. But my research shows that Hostages don’t just speak negatively about their former captors long after the kidnapping.It’s hard to see someone as a complete monster when you spend a lot of time with them, or when they offer you food, or maybe the radio, or when you talk about family or hobbies.
What can emergency services do for people who have just been exposed to a kidnapping for a month and a half or more?
“You should basically follow people into what they need.” Don’t they want to talk and resume their old lives as soon as possible? Well, then make it clear that you are there for them if the need to talk arises later.
Fortunately, treatment options are more comprehensive than they were, say, twenty years ago. For example, EMDR is a therapy that has been shown to help process trauma. You then think back in detail about what you experienced in a safe environment, while the therapist presents distracting, repetitive stimuli that you hear or see, for example a moving light that you follow with your eyes. Your memory then stores the memories with a less intense emotional charge, as if the rough edges had been removed.
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