3,096 Days in Captivity
Empowering, self-respectful and progressive. Natascha has shared a map for healing.
Nota bene - I published this review elsewhere on February 11, 2016I have a read a number of captivity narratives and this one is by far the most profound, insightful, empowering, and aware. It still haunts me in a way that few works have. Perhaps
Nota bene - I published this review elsewhere on February 11, 2016
I have a read a number of captivity narratives and this one is by far the most profound, insightful, empowering, and aware.
It still haunts me in a way that few works have. Perhaps it is her candor. Perhaps it is her intelligence. Perhaps it is her steadfast will to honour humanity, in herself and others. All others. Perhaps it is the moving power of self-love and the belief in one's own self.
To thine own self be true. Few words are as meaningful to those struggling to find themselves after experiencing oppression and trauma.
She teaches us that that can be enough. If all the world is lost, there is still that inner spark: precious, inspiring, definitive and loving.
If you believe in yourself, sometimes that can be enough.
Natascha Kampusch's "full story of [her] ... abduction" contains not only the harrowing, agonizing account of her survival but reveals how her resilience, pragmatism, observational powers all contributed to her belief in herself and which eventually manufactured the opportunity for her courageous escape.
To provide a glimpse into the elegant beauty of this young woman’s perspicacious mind, let me recount one moment in the memoir.
There is a key moment years into her captivity when, starved of human feeling, she asked her captor for a hug.
It seems so irrational and counter-intuitive that she would want this of the very person who violated her. But the human mind and heart know truth and love. In her request there is the brilliance of thousands of years of human evolution and survival, all working quietly, yet powerfully, deep within her.
That request is nothing short of how the subconscious works: in desiring a hug, physical contact being so essential for human beings, it also in addition to giving Natascha some solace and connection to humanity did something remarkably similar to/for her captor. For in being asked to hug her – a request conveying nothing more than simple humanity from him and meaning that he was actually humanly capable of it- his own humanity was validated and confirmed. Is this not a message so desperately needed in our world? That those considered evil monsters could be transformed into loving beings by being themselves loved?
The likes of the great Alice Miller taught decades ago that people like Hitler and Stalin were themselves abused children, whose feelings never were validated. That is why they took their vengeance out on the rest of the world, to get back at their own abusive parents. This is how sociopaths and psychopaths learn to operate in the world, by predation. And this is what probably happened in the case of Natscha's own captor.
Natascha seems to intuitively have known this, just like she had come to learn before her abduction about the spate (or rings?) of other abductions that immediately preceded her own, as though she knew.
Could it be that in the act of reaching out to her captor she was unwittingly causing the effects of trauma he experienced at the hands of abusive parents to thaw? Was that reaching out to him in effect the first step towards his own unravelling as a captor, freeing him to move into a sense of self-knowledge and self-love? I believe so. It is a fascinating possibility. If it is the case, it reveals how wrong punishment is for the long-term wellness of all societies.
But there is more here, the author shows herself-in telling her story-to do so in a non-re-victimizing manner, non-exploitative and non self-demeaning way and in embracing her own humanity (and others) she blossoms into a powerful, breath-taking advocate for all victims-at all levels. She dismisses labels like Stockholm Syndrome as overly reductive and simplistic and makes a very convincing case of it, thank you very much.
If you are expecting a book of binarisms, of polarized thinking and dichotomies where there are clever and neat little categories like bad and good, hero and villain, black and white, etc., go watch propaganda, however persuasively, entertainingly attired and presented-this is a nuanced work that exposes deep hypocrisies in her (and our) world. She tells us, "Nothing is all black or all white. And nobody is all good or all evil.” This is higher order and very perceptive thinking (Mellissa Fung’s ‘Under an Afghan Sky’ also touches upon this recognition). And society would do well to learn this lesson so that we can begin to fashion a new social language of honesty and humanity and in doing so to prevent in the future the poisonous circumstances that lead to all captivities and enslavements, at all levels.