“Trauma Bonding, Relationships Built on Control and Abuse” is a conversation long overdue for most relationships today. Have you ever seen two people who you knew had absolutely no reason to be together? One person was constantly abusing the other and the other person was just too weak to simply do anything. That is what you call a trauma bond. A relationship where an abusive partner uses emotional and psychologically manipulative means to gain full control of their partner or target as we could refer to them.
What Pre-disposes you to a Trauma Bonding?
There are always a group of people who are a natural attraction for abusive partners. This attraction sometimes occurs with a level of intentionality but sometimes naturally. In therapy, there are situations where a seemingly quiet half gets a strong, self-motivated, educated and confident partner who they fully break down over a timeframe and establish dominance over.
Who Is More Susceptible to Trauma Bonding?
People with relational and emotional trauma are typically targeted by perpetrators in a trauma bond, intentionally or otherwise. It can be common for abusers to seek out strong, driven, educated, and independent thinkers so that they can make themselves feel superior when they finally break them down. People with any or a combination of the scenarios depicted below are more likely to be found in a trauma bond.
A) You get mauled by separation anxiety
B) You have an unhealthy attachment style
C) You have a history of childhood or relationship abuse
D) You are overtly dependent on your partner or spouse
E) You are intensely affected by rejection
F) You are suffering from anxiety, BPD or depression
When you are being abused but you struggle to break free, it’s time you made that call to any therapist near you. The earlier you seek out help, the lesser damage
you will get to experience. A full recovery is not an easy road but starting out on the recovery path is the first step.
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For clients who have been helped to exit trauma bound relationships, the first thing they usually notice in hindsight is the pattern their abusive relationship always took. Here are the 7 stages a trauma bond must negotiate in 90% of the cases.
- LOVEBOMBING: When you meet someone new and they start to flatter and praise their way into your heart, you may just be preparing yourself for a traumatic bond. This period moves quickly and is very inorganic. Everything moves fast and you sometimes aren’t contributing much to the pace because the other person is doing all the work. After some time you let down your guard and allow yourself get caught up in the mood. You suddenly begin to trust the partner and their constant validation.
- BUILDING TRUST WHILE POKING VICTIM EMOTIONALLY: When a partner has been able to demonstrate that they can be trusted, it’s indeed a beautiful thing. However, if you notice yourself feeling guilty or ungrateful whenever you want to question intent or motive, It’s not natural. A healthy relationship must navigate the phase where both individuals MUST ask themselves questions about the authenticity of the new person in their life. The answer to this question must come from what is consistently demonstrated by the partner and not from what your partner says about themselves.
- CRITICISM: The moment you give your trust, the next stage in this toxic cycle is a subtle attack to some of your qualities that were never issues in times past. You now trust what this person says to you because they invested time in that phase. You suddenly notice that during fights or disagreements, holes are constantly being poked at your credibility or personality. In cases where the victim has a low sense of self esteem they will constantly find themselves apologizing for things that aren’t even their fault. The victim suddenly starts to feel loved because despite how wrong they are, their partner always forgives them. The constant dynamic of criticism and apologies is the real binding agent in a trauma bond because it usually occurs over a long period of time in most relationships before the victim notices the pattern.
- MANIPULATING & GASLIGHTING THE VICTIM: This stage has the victim questioning their reality.A gaslighter never takes any form of responsibility for their actions or behaviours. Their ability to shift blame on other people is their oldest trick because next to them, you seem like the one who is out of control and a wreck. Most Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Narcissists express this trait. In some cases, the victims play out reactive abuse out of rage or a need to preserve themselves psychologically. This reaction is followed by intense guilt in most textbook trauma bond cases. The victim further questions their identity since the abuser must have separated the victim from anyone who provides them with balance and reassurance.
- THE GIVING UP STAGE: A trauma bond at this point usually hits a stable period because the victim has been programmed to accept abuse. This acceptance means they may have poor physical boundaries as they now strive to please people, become emotionally and financially dependent, may have had more children among many other situations that make it almost impossible to make clear decisions. For victims who start to recover and attempt to leave, this is the point the abuse moves from emotional/psychological to physical. This situation is triggered when an abusive partner suspects that they may be losing control.
- CHRONIC LOSS OF SELF: The aim of an abuser in a trauma bond is to gain control. Every action perpetrated on the victim is aimed at making them lose their sense of confidence. Due to the long periods of isolation, many victims lose close connections and opportunities because they may have lost their self-identity to a degree that people who used to know them cannot relate with them anymore. This damage to the victims confidence in 30-35 % of the cases result in suicidal ideation (This is a situation where an individual has thoughts of killing themselves as a likely option for exiting a discomforting situation). While many people around us (as much as 45%) may have thought of death as a sort of escape, almost 90% never carry it out. However the fact that this came up is a sign of poor mental health that needs to be checked out. Losing your self usually comes with feelings of shame, self-torture and regret which makes it more difficult to break the cycle of abuse and move forward.
- CYCLIC ADDICTION: Owing to the cyclic nature of abuse, many fights will be followed up by apologies and a period of peace. This peaceful period usually sees the abusive partner starting the entire process again by lovebombing the victim. A scenario that leaves the victim relaxed again after tense moments experienced. This (i.e. the false peace) becomes a form of positive reinforcement the victim constantly looks forward to. In some cases, the abuser now begins to withhold affection, love, care and attention forcing the victim to go extra lengths in a bid to regain favour.
HOW TO ESCAPE A TRAUMA BOND
- Your first step is to create a support system for yourself that can assist in providing objectivity as undue exposure to a trauma bond may leave you slightly imbalanced
- Speaking up within or to the support system about what you are going through is the next natural step to breaking free.
- Analyzing the situation with your support system to determine if leaving while your abuser is away, gathering proof or an agreed separation is best depending on the severity of issues faced
- After leaving an abusive relationship, you can either separate or file for a divorce
Many survivors of trauma bond relationships usually narrate how difficult it was to break free of the abuse due to the highs and lows. Therapy has helped many take the step towards the door and has also helped those who left rediscover their lives. Trauma Focused CBT is therapy specifically created for people who have survived abusive relationships.
Psychological abuse recovery is also one of the most important things to strive for with the help of a trained mental health expert. This will help you get back is mental shape while avoiding a meltdown in the future.
Is there anything i mentioned on this article that seems vaguely familiar? this is not the time to contemplate or persist in protecting an abusive spouse or partner. Most of the assault or murders of passion stories you hear about in the news all stemmed from this topic discussed today. Shine the light on abuse and begin your healing journey today by calling or sending an email to us.