Have you heard about Stockholm syndrome? Can you see how such a twisting dynamic also often happen before our very eyes?
Let me share a story first.
A couple had lived in a small studio apartment for some years, before finally moved into a small nice house of their own. In the new home, things of course different as now they have more space for different things, in contrast to the previous place they lived in, where everything happen in the same studio room.
One day, the wife asked her husband this cynic question: “Why now you watch TV with such a low volume? You like to turn up the TV sound don’t you? That’s what you always do when watching TV, and I almost deaf because of it!”
The answer then was: “I hear clear enough at this volume.”
Obviously, some sort of displease or tension exists between the two. It is quite clear they do not communicate well. But what is the subtle but very important condition that creates the conflict here? What could have happened in the past that leads to this unpleasant question? Can you see it?
It is true though, that he TV’s sound volume is actually lower, as ‘accused’ in the wife’s question. What was not fall into awareness is the changing place. In the past, everything in their life in the studio apartment happens in the same room, all the time. In that setting, it is very likely that in the past, one of them was watching TV while the other was doing something else. But, as this mix of everything in the same room was the reality they have to live in that time, they started to accept that situation as natural. Even the turning up the TV’s volume was becoming natural to balance other sounds. And, on the other side, hearing the TV’s high volume sound even though was not watching TV was also become natural through ‘forced-adaptation’.
All of them are ‘natural’…..until they move to the new place and start to notice the incoherence between the ‘forced-natural’ they have used to live with, and the experience in the new place. But, instead of becoming aware about the changing place, the wife notice more on the changes on the habit of turning up the TV’s volume. What could be wrong with that? Nothing. Since now there are more spaces to different things in different place, including watching TV in the TV room, and then there is no need to turn up the TV’s sound volume higher.
But the ‘forced-natural’ is stronger than the fact. This might seem irrational, but it is true. The ‘forced-natural’ is dominating the couple’s mind, and therefore clouds them from the facts of the new environment. The facts of the new place are not yet accepted.
In this particular story, the wife’s mind is actually blinded from the fact that their old home was too small and therefore too noisy. Instead, she focused more as the husband’s suddenly-changed habit. For her, the problem is her husband’s behavior in turning up TV’s sound volume. The limitation of space in their old home seems to be not an issue at all.
On the husband side, he does not aware about the facts either, and couldn’t provide any explanation that sufficient enough to answer his wife’s question. He might notice the difference, but does not aware about it until his wife’s question brings it to his awareness.
In a simple way to look at it, the problematic condition in the old home has been accepted as the normal situation, while the new habit (that seems logically more acceptable) is the strange one. While this seems an illogical reaction, it is a common thing we experience in many aspect of our life: The situation we once considered unpleasant, and we found no way out of it, which forced us to embrace it as a pleasant one. Once we found something that is supposedly pleasant, we find it as a bit difficult to accept. We can see in the couple’s story, where the supposedly positive changes was found as strange and fall into question.
Now let’s get back to Stockholm syndrome. I’m sure some of you have heard about it before. It is one way to name a condition where a victim of capture or hostage situation, having both sympathy and empathy toward the captor. While logically victims are supposedly see the captor in negative view, what turns out to be the reality is they see their captor in positive view, like them, and even defend them.
The couple’s story was not about Stockholm syndrome. But it does bear a similar ‘twisting’ dynamic, where the supposedly negative situation is preferable over what most people consider a good situation. The problematic situation is considered as not a problem, because it has accepted as ‘normal’ already. Because of it, many progresses might be seen as problems.
This ‘twisting’ reality is often found in many aspect of our social live, including in organizations, where unsolved issues that exists for some time then slowly is accepted as no longer an issue. We could say that it is like a fish grow up in muddy water. It does not realize the water is not clear, nor feels that it should become one.
So, are you ‘twisted’ now?