Surviving Kidnappers by Olav Ofstad

Review published on November 30, 2017.

In some ways this is an odd book, after all, just what are the chances of getting kidnapped? Well, the answer of course depends on where you live and what you do for a living. There are many people throughout the world who probably are at heightened risk – aid workers in conflict zones for example – and this book, written by a Norwegian lawyer and researcher, might just save their life. Olav Ofstad certainly knows his stuff, having spent years in conflict zones working with embassies and international organisations and working in the field of conflict resolution. To be sure some of the information at the beginning of the book about avoiding undue risks in the first place reads like basic common sense, but it isn’t long before he serves up intriguing, and quite possibly lifesaving, psychological analysis.

Surviving Kidnappers takes the reader through the process of being kidnapped, confinement, to (hopefully) release or rescue. Throughout the author analyses the psychological skills and stratagems one might use to survive. This is no gung-ho, wannabe special forces survival manual, rather a serious study gleaned through interviews with victims of kidnapping combined with the insights gleaned from the psychological literature. Topics include building empathy and understanding, utilising cognitive dissonance and cultivating a feeling of reciprocity on behalf of one’s kidnapper.

It would be a shame if this book was only read by those at risk of kidnapping, for as with many such titles the insights gleaned can feed into all walks of life. An appreciation of social psychology and how to influence others can be beneficial to anyone who’s job leads them to interact with others. I personally read a wide range of non-fiction and Surviving Kidnapping has certainly given me a greater appreciation of the psychological underpinnings of severe trauma, as well as a great understanding of psychological resilience.

James Pierson 5/2

Surviving Kidnappers by Olav Ofstad
Matador 9781788032797 pbk Sep 2017

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