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Trauma Bonding what is it?

Human beings have an innate need to attach to others, we need to attach so we are not alone in the world, so we can survive, as children we have close emotional bonds to our caregivers otherwise we would not survive and would physically die within a few hours or days if left alone. Bonding is a natural process ensuring the human race go on, we are born with the ability to seek proximity to our caregivers so we survive. Typically bonding is about an interactive process which is more than liking another, as an infant we cry, coo and gurgle to attract our caregivers attention or to alert them that we needs something. Bonding  is characterised by our emotions, trust, affection, love, loyalty for example it involves our deep emotions and our innate need to belong; the strongest of bonds are formed in the parental bonds with babies.  


Trauma bonding is an intense emotional attachment to someone which feels more than love and affection, the emotions involved are very intense.  When I think about how the trauma bond feels its like an invisible umbilicus attaching bonding so we are unable to move very far away because the cord securing restricts movement.  Attached from the other to our  heart; the cord thick and strong with open fibre like tentacles spreading out as far as the inner eyes could see like a web so the flow of emotions moving to and fro with ease.  One way streets with both never really gaining any real intimacy never really gaining real closeness; one way for nurturance along the core of the cord and one way through the fibres slowly filling one with red hot bile. Like radio waves we hear the music, the chatter, the banter blaring out from the machine but we can't see how the music  gets to the player.


The trauma bond is  very resistant to change; the bond is traumatic because this type of bonding is the result of intermittent reward and punishment which is reinforced over time. The passive aggressive behaviour of a significant other i.e. lover, husband, wife, father, mother or anyone who we feel love for and rely on to meet our needs.  The intermittent positive rewards reinforcement interlaid and intermittent with aggression and abuse creates powerful emotional bonds. The behaviour is acted out to control and overpower  victims into submission enmeshing them, making them like a puppet on a set of strings which the puppet master has control over.  The bond is difficult to unattached from because of the intensity to belong and the need to love and be loved.  Un-attaching is difficult but not impossible; think of it like cutting the cord, cutting the strings so the puppet master is no longer able to control or have power over you.   

Attachment theory was created by the thoughts of  John Bowlby, observed infants going to any length to prevent separation from their parents when separation occurred the child would cry, scream, cling, endlessly search to maintain proximity to their caregiver.  Thus feel safe, secure, protected and nurtured with worth and value just because we exist!  Very similar in adults who have traumatically bonded with a Narcissist who has deliberately created fear and co-dependency in their targets.  The fear of separation, rejection and abandonment is loaded with anxiety, this type of bonding is very intense, seeps into the core of our being, is difficult to change, but not impossible.   


Our bonds are strengthened by interacting, doing things, and facing life events together with people both positive and negative; negative events intensify bonds.  Attachment and bonding is normal behaviour in the animal kingdom and in interpersonal human relationships, with nurturing caregivers who raise us to become interdependent.   That is raise us with a sound self-esteem and confidence, able to both ask for help and support when needed and also able to stand on our own two feet.  We are able to leave the rest and face whatever life throws at us.


When we grow up in a dysfunctional family however, caregivers who offer inconsistent behaviour, are abusive in some way for example father may have a mental illness he gives you presents sometimes and speaks nice to you and other times goes into himself in depression, angry silences and ignores the child altogether.  A mother who misuses alcohol and is both physically and emotionally unavailable and roles are reversed the child becomes the carer of the parent. Or a relative or friend of the family who visits and sexually abuses the child at each time.


For children living in inconsistent nurturing households the bond becomes more intense because one time they feel loved and another time they feel fear. To this child love is confusing and fearful, this fear for a child is intense and it can be so terrifying the child fears being annihilated. For these children it becomes difficult to discern what love is and what fear is, in time love become associated with fear, rejection and abandonment.  Hence the bond this child has with their caregivers becomes traumatic, attachment is given to the abusive caregiver, identify with the people who are also there to protect the child so the child can survive.   Some will detach from themselves in dissociative ways because the feelings of love and fear are both too intense to keep hold of and process.  As a  child our  cognitive abilities are not yet ready to cope with such inconsistencies, trauma and abuse.

Trauma bonding is also a dynamic set up between people where one is passive rather than assertive and the other is dominant or aggressive relationships; where one of the couple wants all the power and control over the other; this is also true for any relationship where there is a power imbalance for example  work colleagues, authority figures or anyone who can have power over another. 

"Healing  is like a jigsaw puzzle.  We need to find all the pieces, to empower us to see

 a beautiful  picture which is whole"

"The bigger picture emerges once we have clarity, insight, awareness  and thus Understand what we are viewing is our unique picture"

The bond is set up by the Jeckle & Hyde personality types one minute complementing you and the next pulling you down, passive aggressive behaviour confuses and other tactic are deployed at the same time to manipulate and control.  For example the abuser uses gaslighting to confuse and make you question and doubt self for something they did or said and which they deny ever doing or saying. Under constant confusion one is likely to be spending more time tying to work out what they did wrong to have the time and energy to see what is really going on i.e manipulation and abuse!

This is the same dynamic in romantic relationships, if the adult has already experienced traumatic bonding in childhood then it will be easier to attach to another deploying passive aggressive traits. If you haven't been bonded traumatically previously the process will be the same when the partner deploys such behaviour as passive aggressors rewarding, punishing and reinforcing over time the none aggressive person will become traumatically bonded in the same way the child did.  Trauma bond is ingrained in the child's developing psyche and is plumped ready to be activated from its repressed depths.  what better way to 'bond' then through sex?   The longer a relationship goes on the harder it is for the victim to leave the abuser, what toxic bonding does is attaches the victim intensely to the abuser and disconnects them from others and Self, it creates fear and anxiety lowering self-esteem, confidence and blurs the victims sense of self, weakening it along with the victims ability to make decisions.  It strips the victim of their identity therefore with a weak sense of self, little confidence, co-dependency, dependency on the abuser remains strong for survival value.  Until the adult (victim) finds insight and awareness into their patterns of relating the pattern will repeat itself over and over with different partners. 

Patrick Carnes PH.D. called the trauma bond a 'BETRAYAL' bond because that is exactly what it is the person you love betrays you over and over again, he called it 'betrayal bond' to illustrate the relational aspect to gain clarity about our experiences and the abuse we experience and suffer within our loving relationships.   We misplace our loyalty, trust, affection and love over and over again, the abuser offers false hope of a loving relationship, which is never going to develop.

Betrayal cuts us to the core of our Being because we can only be betrayed by someone we first trust and love. 


Betrayal makes us feel raw, empty, fearful and mistrusting. 


BUT betrayal is about the person who betrays, it is unlikely to be about the betrayed.  We can begin to heal once we embrace this fact"!

Trauma bonding is toxic - it is what abusers set-up to keep control and power over their victims; bonding is the reason why you may find it very difficult to leave someone who is abusive and the reason why people in domestic violence relationships just  can't, not 'won't, leave and/or return to abusive partners.   When asked why didn't you just leave they will say because I love that person,  their love may have become confused and enmeshed in fear, rejection and abandonment.   It is the reason behind 'why' those abused as children set up home with abusers in adulthood, the toxic bond is ingrained in their very being.


The Stockholm syndrome is the classic event which offers insight into how the trauma bond is set up and is kept up by abusers in order to have power over and control their victims


Trauma bonds may be experienced after one terrorizing event or from prolonged abuse if you have experienced childhood abuse, physical, emotional or sexual, neglect, or been seen as 'special' child by your care givers.  If you are  living with someone who is passive aggressive in a toxic coupledom, having or had an affair with someone who is married or in a long term relationship, engaging in sex with a professional who you went to for help and support,   Been involved in an event which was life threatening or you feared for your life.  If you have been bullied repeatedly or prolonged over time, experience PTSD, CPTSD or  if you keep repeating the same relationship patterns i.e. choosing the same 'type' of partner then you may be experiencing traumatic bonding. 


If your relationships are causing you distress and you feel you are going over and over the same things. If you feel you would like to gain deeper insight and awareness into what makes you really tick.  If you would like freedom from the bonds which chain and hold you back.

Please contact me for an appointment to discuss your needs.

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