Understanding trauma bonding

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1 Understanding trauma bonding Are you addicted to someone who has been abusing you? Can t seem to break out of the abuse cycle? Or have you left but can t stop thinking about the person? Experiencing obsessive thoughts? Are you tempted to break no contact? If you answered yes, you may have experienced trauma bonding one of the weapons in a narcissist s toolbox. What is it? Trauma bonding is what makes targets stay with their abusive partners. It s the element that keeps them addicted to the intensity of the relationship, the ongoing abuse and the person who is abusing them. Patrick Carnes who coined the term says trauma bonding is used to trap a person through the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings and sexual physiology. Why an abusive person uses it? There are multiple reasons why someone will use trauma bonding while they abuse their target. A target is a source of supply and someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will generally find it difficult to replace that source of supply in fact, even in having to replace them for the pain and upset they caused will make them angry. If you consider bonding in terms of a mother and a child, the emotional and biological process that forges a unique connection between two people is easy to understand. A bond is strong unlike love and trust you can t lose it. As the cycle of abuse goes around, the stronger the trauma bond becomes to the narcissist or abusive person, which is why the longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the harder it is to leave. There is a reason that the abusive person constantly creates drama and intensifies the relationship and that is to hijack the target s ability to

2 relate to people which ultimately causes symptoms similar to burn out. Meanwhile the target becomes more attached to this inconsistent and chaotic person because they can t put a feeling memory towards them this means when the target is separated from the abusive person, the urge to make contact is very intense because it is a stable feeling memory and it s at that point, the abusive person will generally hoover the target back in to the abuse cycle. What does it do? Trauma bonding occurs when the target feels emotionally and physically dependent on the abusive person who rewards the target to make them believe they are all-powerful. Targets will notice an attachment to the person who is abusing them that they may have never experienced before logically they can recognise they are being abused but emotionally and mentally, they can t keep away from the person. Ultimately, trauma bonding puts the target under greater danger and threat because it is used to gain the ultimate control over the target, demonstrates power balances and includes intermittent good-bad treatment which the target will bring up with their cognitive dissonance. How can I tell if this is me? If you can feel someone who you logically know is abusing you or has a hold over you and can control when you feel happy, sad, angry, safe, insecure, pain etc. or if you feel there s an unusual attachment you can t break it is likely that you are the target of trauma bonding. Healthy relationships don t have the intense attachment and addiction that is created by trauma bonding. Be aware of your self talk what you tell yourself in this situation looks like this: I feel so strongly

3 they must be special, I ll never find this again and the mind reading: If I do this at that time, they won t get angry at me and you start living like someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as you pander to all your abusive partner s needs. How can I tell if my friend, family member or colleague is trauma bonded? You can actually test this in several ways and please note that testing is emotionally and mentally extremely painful for the target, so if you do wish to test, go gently for example, say something bad or negative (but true) about the abusive person and see how they respond such as I noticed he makes you do this and that for him and you still come home with bruises all over you what is he really doing? Generally someone who has a trauma bond to the abusive person will become defensive, take the blame or very quickly change the topic. The test is to keep them on the topic for a few minutes and watch to see if they become anxious. A target s behaviour generally determines if they are being abused or not and if trauma bonding is evident in the relationship, they will: Make excuses for the abusive behaviour Deny the abuse is happening Feel there is no way out he has such power and control that you can never leave, and even if you do, he ll just hoover you back in Concern over surviving on your own Isolated from friends and family, and feel that no one would understand or could help Live hoping the relationship will revert back to how it was at the start

4 Believe the abuser is about to change because of everything you ve done Depressed: low self confidence, self esteem and self worth and their life may be put further at risk because of this Feel empty and alone, as though no one else will want them Think like the abusive person and modify their behaviour accordingly Stop knowing where the target ends and the abusive person begins. What happens if I stay? Long-term trauma bonding can lead targets to suffer from severe post traumatic stress disorder and even complex post traumatic stress disorder (which is a cluster of symptoms from post traumatic stress disorder). Should I date someone else to get over it? NO we understand the logic in trying to fill that big empty void and loneliness with someone else, but this is not a good idea for anyone who has been narcissistically abused because the narcissist has groomed you. This means one of two things: a. Because of the intensity of the relationship that has just ended, you will be unable to relate to normal, healthy people even superficially which means even if you find someone, it s a lot more likely they will also be abusive. b. If you do find someone normal and healthy, it s likely you won t want them: quickly getting bored or even end up hurting them. If this happens, this lowers self esteem, self confidence and self worth further and causes you to question yourself as you start to feel as though you are the problem.

5 How do I recover from trauma bonding? NO Contact with the abusive person is the only way forward, but it is even more critical where the abusive person has used trauma bonding as a method to keep their target attached. If the target can start to comprehend that abstinence from unnatural intensity will eventually restore normal relating capacity, the person of distress can be better endured. It takes a lot of strength and will power to overcome trauma bonding and it s critical that you have as much support around you as possible. Trauma bonding can be similar to love addiction. If this is you, don t allow this to add to the shame, guilt and other negative emotions you are feeling, instead: own it! You are not alone! Although the bond is detrimental to their wellbeing, targets of trauma bonding often develop a strong sense of loyalty and compassion towards the abusive person. Trauma bonding is extremely difficult for a healthy mind, and particularly a mind who has never experienced abuse will have difficulty comprehending what is happening. To recover, treat yourself as you would if you were a recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction. Understand that even a drop of that person whether that s seeing them from a distance or having any kind of direct interaction with them will reset your recovery process and it also puts you at risk of being hoovered back in. You will feel good to start, because you ve had that interaction, eventually that dies down and that intense feeling to see them again returns and that s where the recovery process is reset. Don t be afraid to get professional support. In order to heal grief and trauma recovery are essential in working to move forward. In addition it will be beneficial to gain some understanding into the elements of the toxic relationship, so that patterns are not repeated in the future.

6 When can I date again? Counsellors, psychologists and even online information recommend you should get back out there after six months. I disagree with putting a timeframe on it. Spend as much time as you can re-connecting with yourself. Relationship Free offers a six month recovery program with a series of activities and workbooks to keep you going through this time. Learn to love yourself as much as you can, as best as you can. Re-calibrate what love looks like to you. When the idea of dating leaves your mind and you don t mind whether you re taken or not, you will be in a better place to meet someone. First you need to be really specific about the type of person you are looking for, how they will act, how they will treat you in certain situations and you need to have clear understanding of your boundaries and what it means to you if those boundaries are crossed at all. It s important to remember that if you find yourself in this position, you re not only grieving the loss of a relationship but you will also be struggling to come to terms with the unreality of a fake relationship and that takes time to process. Recommended: The healing journey detox program with sessions by Relationship Free.

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