- Anne San Juan Green, MFT
Being held hostage can be more than a physical situation. On the news we have heard reports of people being held hostage usually for ransom or some type of exchange. Yet being held hostage could also include being held by a situation or a state of being. As a hostage you can be bound both physically and emotionally; feel trapped and hopeless; and can be willfully held by someone or something else. I have encountered many hostages in my life yet their capture was not by any known terrorist you hear about on the news. The hostages I have met are those bound by their own minds and situations that they have allowed. Let’s explore situations and feelings that have bound people to themselves, to others or to situations and how you can unbind those ties and free yourself.
Working within a domestic violence shelter I met many women leaving abusive relationships with just the clothes on their back and their children in tow. They had heart rendering stories that makes you wonder: how could anyone allow, tolerate or accept the abuse from another? These women were held hostage by the systemic manipulation that they were incapable to be without their captor, dependent on them for their every need, made to fear that they would be hurt, and told that they were worth nothing to no one. Their battle to leave their abuser was one of calculated risk in hopes that their escape would grant them freedom from their abuse. Leaving is only their first battle. The next battle to be fought and the war to be won is within their mind to reprogram the thoughts beaten into them that they were incapable and unworthy of whatever life had to offer.
Drug addicts and alcoholics are another group of hostages. They are hostages of their own making and are held by a substance that in the past gave promise of euphoria. As the addiction progresses, the hold of substance reaches epic proportions taking over almost any life the addict/ alcoholic has left. When they recognize that life has become unmanageable or others try to intervene to save their lives sobriety and recovery becomes a possibility in the darkness they have been existing in. Making the decision and surrendering to the process of becoming clean and sober is only the beginning of the battle to fight the demons of their cravings, their urges and their beliefs about themselves. If addiction has been part of your life for a long time the process of sobriety and recovery is a lifelong battle to release yourself from being held hostage from the stigma of having been addicted, the feelings that no one will ever trust you again, the feelings that you are unworthy because of all that you have done to others and the pain that you have caused while in your addiction, and the racing thoughts of “what if.”
As a hostage, you are still in full control of how you perceive a situation and the actions that you choose to take. Your mind is a powerful tool and your willingness to take action will propel you toward freedom. Any situation despite how dismal it may seem can have a ray of light that permeates the darkness. One of the reasons we are able to be held hostage Is fear. Fear has the ability to make us feel hopeless and incapacitate us from taking action. Fear has evolutionary roots imbedded into our DNA as a means of protection. Fear causes us to fight or take flight depending on our perception of that situation. Fear can be a great motivator yet it is short lived and is only meant as the launching point from which to take action.
When held hostage by your mind, ask yourself the following questions to help yourself see the possibility of freedom:
Why is freedom from this situation or state of being important to me?
What options and/ or resources do I have available to me?
What is the next step I choose to take toward my freedom? Then the next step and the next step after that.
Freedom from anything takes the understanding that you are capable of choosing how you want to perceive a situation, having the willingness to take action and learning from mistakes to continue to make progress.