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Not Used To Freedom

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Believe what you want. These walls are funny. First, you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them.

Someone has been held for a long time in a place, or has been a member of an institution where their freedoms have been very much limited, such as a prison or a mental hospital, and has either difficulties in fitting in outside, or wants to remain in or return to their former place of confinement. Some wild animals too much used to be cared for by humans might also become unable to function in nature.


The Old Soldier and The Old Convict can suffer from it, as can a Slave Race, a Servant Race, or a Cult Defector.

Related to Freedom from Choice, Happiness in Slavery, Hope Is Scary, Manchild, Quicksand Box, There's No Place Like Home, Just Got Out of Jail. Can be a consequence of Stockholm Syndrome.

See more on The Other Wiki here.


Anime and Manga

  • In Kemono Jihen, Kabane was used by his Evil Aunt as free labor and constantly made to do tasks, rather than do things like go to school or hang out with others his age. By the time he's thirteen (he thinks), he's so unused to the idea of having his own free time that he stares at a wall and waits for instructions when there's nothing to do at Inugami's office.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Kanao was sold as a slave from a very young age, which turned her into an Emotionless Girl who will not do anything unless told to. Even after she was freed and became a hunter, if she received no orders, she would rely on a coin toss to decide her actions. It took Tanjirou's intervention for her heart to start opening up again.
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  • One Piece invokes the trope via flashbacks. For three years after Koala's liberation back when she was a child, she retained a fake smile at all times, as slaves who cried were immediately killed. Even when Fisher Tiger broke that facade down and Koala spent a genuinely happy couple of days with the Sun Pirates, she'd relapse into her slave behavior every now and then; something Aladine, a former slave himself, could relate to. The story doesn't elaborate further, but it implies that it took Koala some more time to fully recover, though she became a genuine Perpetual Smiler by the time she returns in the present.
Comic Books
  • In the Astro City story "The Tarnished Angel", Steeljack agrees to investigate the deaths of small-time criminals simply because, as a recent parolee, he's got way too much time on his hands and can't think of any other way to fill it.
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  • Kingdom Come: Played for Drama. At some point during the other heroes' retirement, Orion finally defeated and killed his monstrous father. However, when he attempted to free the enslaved population of Apokolips, the people long since broken by Darkseid's tyranny couldn't handle the concept. As such, they forced Orion to become their new dictator, and overall nothing has changed. The experience has effectively broken Orion, who refuses to help Superman and wonders if all sons are doomed to become their fathers.


  • In the Fairy Tail fanfic Singularity, after being locked up in a lab for eight years, Lucy isn't use to the new freedom she now has aboard the ship she has been hidden away on. Only some coaxing from Natsu and Erza gets her to leave her room, even then she is rather timid.
  • In The First Flame Alchemist, after Mustang's time in Ishval is over and after he spent most of his childhood as a tortured lab experiment to create the perfect soldier, he doesn't adjust well to a life with a desk job. One time when Hughes didn't take him home in the evening, Mustang sat on some steps all night, waiting for orders.
  • In Freedom's Limits, the slaves freed from Mordor following the destruction of the One Ring have known nothing but slavery all their lives, sometimes over multiple generations. As a result, they don’t even understand what it means to be 'free' and wonder if Aragorn is supposed to be their new master. The same goes for the orcs, who were also slaves under Sauron. Madavi and several other former slaves end up going to work as farmhands and servants because they have nowhere else to go and know no other life than serving people; Madavi slowly begins to grasp what freedom means but she still can't quite figure out where the boundaries of freedom are drawn and why (hence the title of the fic) and comes off as very submissive to others at times. The orcs aren't so lucky; Men are not willing to forgive them for the atrocities of the War of the Ring, resulting in orcs turning to raiding human settlements to survive because they know nothing else.


  • In The Shawshank Redemption, Brooks hangs himself because he can no longer cope with freedom after 50 years in prison.
  • In Back to the Future, Marty's uncle "Jailbird Joey" is more comfortable as a toddler confined in his playpen; Marty tells him "better get used to these bars".
  • In Death Race, Coach did not want to leave the prison isle, not because used to be free but he doesn't have any places to go.


  • In East of Eden, Adam Walsh speaks about his experience in the military, saying he grumbled during service but that, when his time came to the end, he reenlisted for a further four years.
  • A big part of the Arkady Renko books Red Square and Wolves Eat Dogs is dealing with the relative anarchy and lawlessness of Yeltsin-era Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Live-Action TV

  • In the Proven Innocent episode "The Struggle for Stonewall", client-of-the-week Cindy initially declines to Madeline's offer to re-open her case, as she has no idea what she would do if she were free.
  • Discussed in an episode of Burn Notice where Michael poses as an ex-con. Part of his act is constantly asking his prospective boss for permission to do things, as ex-cons have gotten used to not having liberties.

Video Game

  • Dragon Age: The qunari are a culture that puts heavy emphasis on everything in society fulfilling a purpose to its utmost. People born, trained or converted into this philosophy have absolutely no freedom or say in the matter. People who defect from the Qun are called Tal-Vashoth and are considered dangerous animals. This is mostly because their previous lives were so rigid that they never developed skills in any area other than the one they were assigned; an ex-qunari soldier knows how to fight and nothing else.

Web Video

  • The Cry of Mann: Jouglat preferred the warr, and openly regretted even coming back home; he found it too quiet and hated not having anything to do, and eventually decided to just pack his bags and leave again.

Western Animation

  • In Rio, Blu the parrot is let out of his cage. He greatly misses the cage and doesn't know how to stay safe.
  • In Rango, Rango the lizard lives in a box but then is forced to live in the desert. He has trouble both fitting in and surviving.
  • In The Loud House episode "Frog Wild", Lincoln and his sister Lana set some frogs free, but then realize that they don't know how to defend themselves against predators because they were bred in captivity.
  • The Simpsons: One episode has Bart stuck in a giant hamster ball for a while. After he's released from it, he becomes agoraphobic.
  • Penguins of Madagascar: Whenever Marlene, who was born in captivity, steps one foot outside the zoo walls she becomes a feral, mindless snarling beast that's incapable of reason.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: Master Yao has been sealed inside a wooden box for over sixty years, and is extremely energetic and excited about the outside world when let out for the first time.
  • This happen on the series finale of Superman: The Animated Series. After Superman finally defeats Darkseid, he leaves him at the mercy of the slaves he ruled over. Instead, they help Darkseid, showing they were too broken and only knew of being ruled by Darkseid.

Real Life

  • There's plenty of cases of former prisoners committing crimes to return to prison, such as here and here.
  • Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was famously kidnapped and held hostage for eighteen years, wrote in her memoir about her captivity that upon escaping from her captors she had to get used to be able to make her own decisions and work on being more assertive.
  • This can happen as the result of a Shoo the Dog scenario with an animal that is normally wild. Indeed, this is the reason why forest rangers often ban feeding wild animals.


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