Mike Tyson and Stockholm Syndrome

Crossposted to Mikemac on Sports.

I was listening to a recent BS Report, a podcast about sports on Grantland, in which Bill Simmons had Mike Tyson and Jalen Rose on, and got Mike talking about some of the issues and demons that he has had to deal with throughout his life.

It was an interesting interview all the way around, but the thing that really caught my attention was when Mike said that early in his career, after he had found some success and starting making money, and people kind of came out of the woodwork wanting to be his friend, and attach themselves to him, and his money, that he knew they were using him, but he wanted to be used.

Now, it is hard to imagine someone as physically strong as Mike Tyson wanting people to use him, but he began to explain, and mentioned Stockholm Syndrome, and how when you grow up with nothing, being bullied and abused, that you start to simply expect this is how people will treat you, and it’s what you deserve. As he was talking I could really see how this made sense. He never had anyone growing up, suddenly people wanted to be his friend. He never really had any friends, but wanted some, so if being used was the price for having friends, and as far as he knew at this point, that was the way it is, then he would accept that and let people use him and his money.

The more I let that sink in, the more it really made so much sense. How many survivors have I talked to who simply accept being used, or abused again, as adults? How many simply assume that is the trade-off to being in a relationship, or having some one take care of them financially, or have a partner in raising a child, etc.? Does that not sound like Stockholm Syndrome, where kidnap victims begin to identify with their captors, and minimize the very real damage being done to them as a hostage? It’s a false belief that the only way to get love, companionship, friendship, etc. is to trade yourself for it, to let people use you however they see fit.

The struggle, of course, is to embrace the reality that is your past, accept it, and also learn to see it for what it truly is. In other words, to learn that you are more than something to satisfy the needs of other people. It sounds like Tyson is finally getting that, and trying to do different things with his life and make healthy choices. I hope he can continue to do that, just as I always hope the same for all survivors.

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  1. “You are more than something to satisfy the needs of other people.” Was your mom a narcissist too? Mine is in her 80s and still evil to me, manipulating facts to bend me (and others) to her will, repeatedly reinfecting old wounds. Child abuse ruins lives, wastes lives, not caring about educational status or years of therapy one bit.

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