Blue and red lights are flashing everywhere, stress levels are extremely high and escalating, and bull horns are being used to make demands by authorities. Ann Patchett is painting a picture for us of what it might be like to be in a hostage situation. She is painting it from both sides though, not solely the hostages nor only the militant terrorist group. Thoughts are running through both groups minds. The terrorists are rapidly trying to think of how they will get out of this situation, and what demands they should make in response to the authorities. Hostages just wondering if they will make it out alive to see their families again. All of the thoughts that go through their minds intrigues me a lot. How psychology plays in to the situation on both sides of the situation. Even down to the psychology of negotiation between the authorities and the terrorists. What intrigues me the most however is the hostages, so that is what I decided I would do my research on. What are their thoughts, how are they feeling emotionally, and what physical effects do hostage situations have on them?
Right off the bat I started to realize that there isn’t just a generic response, or generic list/cycle of emotions that hostages go through. Rather, each person reacts to a hostage situation differently based on what they perceive. Not only is each person’s hostage experience different, but they also perceive the situation totally different, even when put into a very similar situation. Our brains are hardwired to see and notice things differently than each other, so it allows everyone to see the situation in a different way.Some people may see the hostage takeover as an end to their existence, while others may spend the whole time thinking of how they will get back to their families.
How well people can handle a hostage takeover genuinely depends on several things: their ability to remain sane, their thoughts prior to the hostage situation that have conditioned them for this situation, and sometimes just the overall mental and emotional strength of the individual. Those who have a strong desire to survive will likely do much better throughout the hostage situation versus those who role over and accept it as a loss.
Many hostages try to play hero in a situation or think of their “imaginary pistol” as in Bel Canto. Thoughts arise like “How do I get out of here?” and “How can I stop these guys and save everyone?”. It is thought of by many psychologist to be good to think about escape, or how you think you could escape. The problem tends to come when that is all you think about and when it consumes the thoughts so much that a reasonable exit strategy can not actually be made. However the thought of and plan of escape is extremely beneficial to keeping a sound mind while in captivity.It is also thought to be very good to talk to others in captivity with you about planning to escape as well, as it builds the belief that you actually can escape.
Being in a hostage situation is extremely stressful. It takes a huge tole on an individuals emotions, psychology, and even physical body because of the great amount of stress and anxiety. That being said, I was able to find many things and tips that allow hostages to stay healthy in all aspects. Physical activity, even just pressing your hands together firmly help to keep you physically fit, which in turn can help with your escape and maintaining a sound mind. Having conversations with people (especially loved ones) in your head, while aware that they are still just in your head helps with being able to stay perseverant about your escape/release. Playing games, talking with others, solving problems, and other tricks such as these help with the psychological aspect of being in this situation.
Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who end up surviving hostage situations, more than do not actually. Because of this there are many stories of varying hostage situations that can be found, so I will share some that seemed very interesting to me, and pertain to what it is like to be a hostage. Nicholisis Henin, a journalist from America was held hostage recently by the Isis militant group. After surviving he said that he did not think that the violence and brutality was the worst part, even though most people would assume it was, but instead it was the fear of what could happen in the next day, hour, or even minute that tore his mind to pieces. Others speak of the coping mechanisms they used such as telling jokes to break the tension. One hostage said that he kept a sound mind by knowing he was far more superior in intelligence than his captors, as their incompetence was always evident. At one point he said he new they were idiots when they blew up the engine on their boat in the middle of transporting him!
It is evident that all hostage situations are extremely different for each individual entrapped in the situation. It affects each person in a different way psychologically. I am really looking forward to seeing the different reactions of the hostages in Bel Canto. We are already seeing some, but the psychological affects will continue to increase as time prolongs