With the help of psychotherapy and life coaching, it has become easier to find an explanation of different behaviours people have been dealing with for their whole lives. For instance, a person who is co-dependent may recognize similar patterns in a relationship but unable to break these destructive patterns. These patterns and behaviours with the help of psychotherapy can be dealt with to have a positive, sustainable future.
Those who have not been in the profession of life coaching or psychotherapy when they come across a person who has been in an unhealthy relationship may ask, “Why don’t you leave, or why do you stay?” It is an insensitive question to ask someone. Instead of asking this question, they should help them understand the concept of “trauma bonding”.
In this article, I am going to explain this to all of you who are stuck in bad relationships and want to break this destructive cycle. So let’s get started:
What is trauma bonding?
Trauma bonding resembles Stockholm syndrome a lot, in which those who have been held captive start to having feelings of trust and sometimes affection for those who have captured them and held them against their will. This can also happen in a relationship. We call it trauma bonding. It mostly occurs in a relationship when one partner is a narcissist.
What is trauma bonding? Trauma bonding occurs when there is a continuous cycle of abusive behaviour with reinforcement of punishment and reward, creating strong emotional bonds which are almost impossible to break.
Patrick Carnes developed this term for describing, “The misuse of sexual feelings, excitement, fear and sexual physiology to entangle another person. So, what is trauma bonding? How we can define it? A simple definition, according to trauma bonding wiki, is as follows:
“A strong emotional attachment between an abused person and his or her abuser formed as a result of the cycle of violence.”
Trauma bonding signs
Trauma bonding happens when the trauma of abusive behaviour changes the brain physiologically as it starts releasing neuropeptides bonding you with the abusive partner that you become addicted to. When serotonin, cortisol, adrenaline, oxytocin and dopamine are involved, they strengthen the abusive nature of your relationship.
Depending on the type of relationship a trauma bond can look different, but on a broader note, there are two main trauma bonding signs which are as follows:
They start depending on intermittent reinforcement, first. In simple words, we can say “cycle of abuse”. It is not that difficult to leave a person who is never kind towards you or never shows concern about you what would be the benefits of being with such a person. Once you believe that they are not going to change, you would not stick by their side. But in the case of abusive relationships, one partner occasionally treats the partner very well. They might bring gifts for their partners and call them their love or soul mate. They also arrange romantic dinner sometimes and ask you to relax sometimes this creates mental confusion.
When the victim (yes, we will call the other person a victim here), sees these sweet little gestures, they get confused and feel helpless; they may also start thinking that the other person is changing.
Eventually, a person forgets about the abusive behaviour and starts believing in love. When the individual regains trust, the partner totally suppresses and ignores memories of past behaviour until this destructive cycle begins again.
In these types of relationships, there is an imbalance of power among partners. It feels like one partner is controlling the other to the point where you don’t know how to resist or break this cycle. Even if a person sets himself free from this cycle and breaks up with the individual, they still might not be able to break the emotional bond without the help of a professional.
The individual may feel lost or incomplete without this partner in their life and may want to return back to them. It is because the abusive cycle seems familiar, and you do not know anymore how to live and function without it.
Other key symptoms
If you are wondering, what are some other key trauma bonding symptoms? Here are some for you to have a better understanding:
You try so hard not to upset them, but it is useless
It feels like you are walking on eggshells. You always keep on worrying that you may say or do something that will upset your partner. Even if you understand that the person is abusive and hurts you, still you do not want to leave them and are afraid that they will hurt themselves too you believe you cannot survive without each other.
You go out of your way to help them.
None of us wants to be with someone having an abusive nature. We will run away immediately. But sometimes it happens that the emotional bond is so stronger we may not want to leave them at all. We think that they are disturbed emotionally, and we should help them out. We stand with the abuser against those who really care about us just to protect the abuser.
You always try to please them.
Another trauma bonding symptom is that you always try to please them. You want their attention so badly that you will do anything. They hurt you again and again, but you cannot stop trying to make them happy. You remain loyal to them.
You try your best to hide your emotions even if you are depressed to the point that you are having suicidal thoughts. You will not talk to them about these thoughts if they are moving around in the house happily you pretend everything is okay. You will try to cover your emotions and will put a fake smile on your face.
They become your worst addiction.
Recent research has shown that this trauma bonding occurs as a result of emotional and hormonal roller coaster an abuser has put you on. No matter how bad they act occasionally, you feel so good when you get their attention; you forget everything bad they have done to you.
You always try to justify their behaviour.
It is a very common behaviour seen in abused persons. An abused person try to defend their bad behaviour saying things like:
- It is all my fault; I shouldn’t have said that.
- He/she is just depressed because of work thing; he is not like this always.
- He/she had a terrible past; I should help and support him.
- He/she loves me so much, just was a bit angry.
- I can change him/her with love and care; he/she is a nice person.
The above is one of the clear trauma bonding signs.
You forget that you have your own identity.
There was once a feeling of confidence and power, self-worth and self-assurance. But there is just an empty space now. Their behaviour makes you feel like you do not deserve love or respect anymore. You seek their assurance; you want their approval in every matter and situation.
You ignore when others point out their bad behaviours.
Your friends and family members may point out their bad behaviour. They may seem disturbed around your partner. They may even tell you that your partner is abusive towards you. But you just ignore whatever they say.
Trauma bonding theory
Survivors of abusive behaviour seem to have mixed feelings about their abuser. It is totally valid to feel love for someone with whom you have built a strong relationship after investing so much energy, time and efforts. All things considered, it presumably wasn’t the destructive behaviour that leads to ignite the attraction. Even after the beginning of abusive behaviour, we know that inclining toward these sentiments of love, affection, and hope cannot assist us in dealing with this abusive behaviour. All things considered, we also know that this abusive behaviour will not diminish but will only increase with time, so utilizing these feelings as methods for dealing with stress can have long term inconvenient effects on your mental health and somehow on your physical health too.
In addition to this, survivors also share that their abusive partner has “great” behaviours too. Numerous domestic abuse survivors remark that their abusive partners are “awesome” or “brilliant” 90% of the time and that it’s only 10% of the time that is an issue.
Although it has been discovered it is the good behaviour patterns that are responsible for escalating the abusive behaviour and keep it continuing for a long time, as these good moments make it difficult to leave a person when abusive behaviour starts. In the event that your partner had damaging behaviour constantly and had never been kind or loving towards yourself, you likely wouldn’t stay. The great conduct, at the end of the day, is the thing that encourages the connection that makes it difficult to move away from the partner which is damaging in all ways.
The above situation, where one partner is showing violent and non-violent behaviour respectively, and other is just trying to cope up with this pattern is the basic concept behind trauma bonding.
If we have a look at trauma bonding theory biologically, we will come to know that it is developed or originated from the dependence on someone for our own survival, for instance, our parent or caregiver. Survival has a strong relationship with human attachment, so if the safety of a person is threatened (trauma), we automatically go to our caregiver in life, someone who provides us protection, support and cares about us. As a result of this bonding, oxytocin is released in the brain, which is commonly known as the love hormone, this leads to increase the attachment and comfort with the caregiver or partner in a romantic relationship.
According to this trauma bonding theory, we can now understand how trauma bonding occurs; basically, our abusive partner tries to threaten our safety with their destructive and abusive attitude. From birth, we have experienced that we should turn to our parents or caregivers for comfort, so this time we naturally turn to our partner even if the partner is the one who is threatening us with this abusive nature. This leads to the creation of a really strong trauma bond with our partner. We have the ability to make sense out of these abusive experiences, that it is not good for us or we should get rid of this abusive behaviour, so we try to rationalize the whole thing between harmful and caring actions of our abusive partner. This rationalization that is a way to defend them, even more, strengthens the bond.
It is above all this we are deceived, it is seen that the abusive partner keeps on promising that they will change themselves, try to help you in dealing with the wounds they have originally created, especially at the moments when we feel hurt and vulnerable the most. There is nothing strange with a feeling of the strong connection with them and having a hard time in imagining life without them.
Trauma bonding in children
Continual nurturing is necessary for children. It can be either from their parents or elders. Strong bonds and relationships can mold children and help them become well developed in a healthy environment. Quality and strength of the bond are very significant in this case. Trauma bonding in children is because of the violation of proper rules and care children demand.
The stronger the bond, the more positive impact it has on children’s behaviour. Children normally try to follow the footsteps of their parents. Parents need to behave positively and enhance the positive character of their children. Breaking of this beautiful bond can lead to disastrous effects on the personality of children.
They may feel abandoned and frightened. Bonding of children with their parents is not only significant for their survival but also for the sense of self. Children learn what they see. Parents need to be more careful about their behaviour. Children tend to feel unlovable, subdued and confused by disturbance of the bond they share with their parents. Neglecting children and their desire can lead them to a drastic state and leaves long-lasting effects on their physical and mental behaviour.
Trauma bonding in children is more lethal and effective than any other type. Behaviour one perceived as right from their parents at early stages of life has more effect on their life than perceived destruction at later stages of life.
Trauma bonding narcissists
Trauma bonding narcissists is complicated to understand. Narcissists use this factor in favour to make others addicted to them. In narcissists, trauma bonding actually develops when two people are in a relationship and suffer from phases of risk, emotional disturbance, heightened intimacy, unshakeable sense of loyalty and rising toxicity.
Trauma bonding Narcissists repeat their cycle of abuse with their partners. The romantic relationship usually becomes victim to trauma bonding. Narcissists use abusive and toxic behaviour with their partners and make them feel it’s quite normal in a relationship.
The abused partner is in fear of breakup and may suffer a lot, and this behaviour gives the abuser more power. The abuser keeps on manipulating their partner and implementing physical and emotional abuse. Trauma bonding narcissists are not easy to recognize due to the manipulation and pretence. It becomes more and more difficult, and the person continues to suffer from the abusive behaviour of his partner.
Trauma bonding sociopath
One main reason leading to sociopath and narcissists style relationship’s is trauma bonding. A trauma bonding of children with his parent can change ultimately the abusers one’s behaviour as a sociopath. Trauma bonding sociopath is more common in children.
Continuous rejection of children by parents leaves drastic effects on children and trauma bonding is one of the main reasons in rising sociopath activities. Trauma bonding sociopath emerges to be lethal.
Trauma bonding the pull to the perpetrator
Trauma bonding the pull to the perpetrator, if one doesn’t get over his abusive and sociopath activities. The bond to the perpetrator is as a result of failure to overcome chronic abusers. Trauma bonding pulls to the perpetrator is bad for the person in the relationship.
Trauma bonding test
If you feel like you share a trauma bond with your partner or your partner is very abusive toward you, you need to take a Trauma bonding test. There is nothing like a proper clinical test for this; you can figure this out on your own with help online Trauma bonding tests. These online tests consist of a few questions in the form of quiz. Based on your answers, these quizzes analyse your relationship and will come up with the right answer analysing your individual circumstance. These tests are not an ideal solution; you just can have a little idea about your relationship. You still need to talk to a professional if you feel like you are in a toxic relationship or share a trauma bond with your partner.
Here are examples of questions you will be asked during the online trauma bonding test:
- Do you feel yourself alternating between hating and loving the abuser for their actions?
- Do you feel like you owe your abuser something? For instance, do you feel like you owe them because they paid for your lifestyle or helped in some other way?
- Are you worried about your abuser and what will they do without you?
- Do you think that you should help them in improving their behaviour?
- Do you feel like you deserve to be abused? Or do you try to justify their behaviour?
- Do you try to cover up for your abuser?
- Do you allow abuse to continue so that you keep the peace with your partner?
- Do you try to cover up your negative emotions about the behaviour of your partner?
- Do you wish that your partner would love you despite their abusive treatment?
- Did you ever try to break up but could not because your abuser apologises and promises to improve their behaviour?
Trauma bonding recovery
Trauma bonding recovery is not as easy as this bond is stronger than other human bonds. When people are involved in abusive intimate relationships, they are hooked on these abusive experiences brought up by their partner in their lives. It is like an addiction. And we all know how difficult it is to break a strong addiction. This addiction is not just like any other addiction but a stronger one involving emotions.
When the relationship is over, it feels even more painful. Handing trauma bonding, along with the pain of separation, is terrible. At this point, it becomes necessary to take help from professionals. Trauma bonding recovery is not possible on your own. Depending upon the situation of the relationship and condition of an abused person, it can take from months to even years, sometimes to recover from trauma bonding.
Trauma bonding how to break the tie
People, who have experienced abusive behaviours from parents and caregivers, are more likely to be drawn to the same type of relationships in their adult lives, as the brain is already familiar with the ups and downs of the cycle. It becomes even harder to break the trauma bond if a person already has a history of trauma. But one can learn to break this cycle. If you are wondering about “Trauma bonding how to break the tie” here are some tips for you:
Examine your relationship
In an abusive relationship, one person is constantly humiliating others, and one is trying to cope up with it. As mentioned above, a person is unable to accept and break this abusive bond. But examining your relationship can help you in understanding the pros and cons of your relationship. This way, you can have a better understanding of whether your relationship is healthy or not. Here is how you can do this:
Explain and write your relationship in the form of a story
Having a perspective on a dysfunctional or abusive relationship can prove helpful in breaking the trauma bond. One better way to do this is by writing a story on your relationship.
While writing the story about your relationship, consider yourself a third person and call yourself by your proper name. Start from the beginning of the relationship and move to end. Explain the ups and downs of your relationship. For instance, start like this, “at the start James and Sarah were a happy couple, but James started to hit her when he became angry or frustrated after a bad day”.
When you are done, share this story with your closest friend with your therapist if you are seeking professional help. Reading a story about your own relationship can help you in the understanding of what you have been through and talk about it.
Ask some questions about the nature of your relationship.
Another way to examine your relationship is by asking questions. Try having a concept of an ideal relationship, that you would want and compare it with your current relationship. Here are some examples of questions that you can ask yourself about your relationship:
- What do I expect from a relationship?
- What kind of person do I want to have in my life?
- How is my current relationship affecting me?
- Am I being valued enough? If not how is the other person devaluing me?
- How am I reacting in my relationship, am I under-reacting, or overreacting in certain situations?
Examine what you are doing to change the person
Another way to break the trauma bond is by making a commitment to stop trying to change the partner. You may feel like you can change the behaviour of your partner if you discuss your emotions with them, but let me tell you it is not a realistic thing to do.
Think about how many times you have tried to explain your side of the story to the other person. You may have tried writing letters to explain your emotions. These are normal things to do in trauma bonded relationships, chances of these behaviours to be effective are very rare.
You need to accept that you cannot control how another person thinks, feels or behaves. You only have control over your own words and actions.
Commit to change your behaviour
Now you know what the issue is and where is the issue. You understand that it is not about you. If someone is abusive or toxic, it is not your fault, and you should not stay in an abusive relationship at all. But what should you do next? Trauma bonding how to break the tie? Here is what you can do next:
Be honest with yourself.
It is very important if you really want to experience change and break this cycle of trauma bonding. You need to practice recognizing when you are honest and when you are lying to yourself or overlooking something. It is imperative to face uncomfortable truths
Facing the truth can be difficult, but it is totally worth it. Identifying how toxic your relationship is very important. Keep telling yourself, “I should be honest with myself”.
Make a list of behaviours you will not be engaged in
Your abusive partner may know you well and will use this knowledge to control your behaviour. To break this cycle try to identify the behaviours that turn your buttons pushed. For instance, you may get a response with anger when he gives poor comment on your behaviour or appearance, include this in your list and stop this response to their mean comments.
You may need to figure out some other way to deal with this situation. This might include ignoring the person, changing the subject or just leaving the room.
Identify behaviours that are self-defeating.
Self-defeating behaviours are those that you know are not good for you and you should not behave this way as it will not help the situation at all. Try making a list of all these behaviours. For instance, when your partner says that they will change and you start believing it, dealing with the verbal abuse, or using drugs and alcohols to deal with a toxic relationship.
You might need to take help from professionals. For instance, if you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, you may need to go to a rehabilitation centre.
Do not ignore your feelings.
Ignoring your own emotions is the worst thing you can do to yourself. So try to acknowledge your emotions. It will help you in understanding, and you will be able to work through them. For instance, if you are sad, allow yourself to feel sad, cry if you want.
If you notice how you feel, and accept those emotions, you will be able to process them, instead of repressing them. You may also feel like writing your emotions down. Journaling is an excellent way to express your feelings.
Self-care is very important.
Practising self-care is the best thing you can do for yourself. It is very helpful in breaking the trauma bond. During dealing with this abusive behaviour, you may have neglected your own well-being and health in favour of your abusive partner. So now it is time to shift focus back to yourself. Here are a few things that you try:
Exercising: regular exercise is the best way to balance the level of adrenaline from trauma bonding and increase levels of endorphins in the body which are natural pain relievers.
Rest well: If you get adequate rest, you can work at your best. So make a promise to get at least seven hours sleep daily.
Healthy food: eating healthy food will improve your health, and you will feel better. It is an excellent way to show care to yourself.
Feel relaxed: Relaxation techniques can help in reducing anxiety and stress try yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation or mediation.
Get support for yourself.
Dealing with trauma bonding on your own is not easy, and to some extent, it is impossible because you are totally under the influence of the abuser. So it is better to get support so that you can deal with it in a better way. Here is how you can do it.
Take help from family and friends.
Your family and friend include people who are sincere with you and care about you. Talking about your feelings and sharing your thoughts can simply bring positive effects. It will bring relief. You will feel comfortable knowing that you have people who love you and care about you.
Try meeting a close family member or friend once a week, or talk to them on call. Thanks to remarkable inventions in the field of technology, everything is easy these days, including connecting with your loved ones. Always stay connected it is imperative.
Seek professional help
If your efforts to get rid of this trauma bond feel useless do not lose hope. We all know how difficult it can be to get rid of this feeling. There are plenty of professional therapists who can help you in improving your mental health. A professional therapist will design special strategies to help you in dealing with trauma bond and other mental health issues.
Join support groups
There are plenty of support groups available that help survivors. It can be an excellent way to meet people who will be able to relate to your situation. You won’t have to explain yourself. Try to find a support group of abuse survivors in your area. For this, you can ask your doctor or therapist to help out. Looking into online discussion forums can also prove helpful in this regard.
Trauma bonding is not easy to handle; it makes your life miserable, and you cannot break the destructive cycle. It is like the worst addiction; you know that your partner is toxic and being abusive towards you; still, you don’t want to get rid of them. Even if you think that you need to be separated, it is not easy for you. You keep on recalling good times you spent with your partner. Whenever you try to break up, they come up with an excuse or a promise that they will not behave this way in future. But whenever they get an opportunity to humiliate you, they don’t waste it and surely will.
With the help of professionals and support of your loved ones, you can deal with this situation. But all you need is to be strong and share your issues with the ones who really care about you, or a professional. This article was all about trauma bonding, and I have tried my best to provide you with useful information regarding it so that you get rid of toxic relationships and abusive partners. Hope this has helped you if you need support book in with one of our life coaches or therapists today. Call 03333443853 today and have a free consultation.