Usually, we form bonds with our parents when we are infants because of our innate survival instincts. Human attachment is triggered by a need to escape trauma and hold on to safety by turning to our parents or caregivers, friends or partners.
When we feel comfortable, loved and cared for, our brain releases a hormone called oxytocin or the love hormone, which deepens our trust in the people who make us feel that way.
But the question is, what if the “caregiver” and the “trauma creator” are the same person?
What kind of bonds do we form with them?
These negative and potentially dangerous bonds are called “Trauma Bonds”
What are Trauma Bonds?
In psychological terms, trauma bonding is a state wherein an individual feels attached and connected to their abuser.
Trauma bonds are formed when the abuser starts a positive-negative cycle. At first they will appear as caring and loving to the victim, then they will abuse them physically, mentally, emotionally and even sexually, before the victim tries to retaliate or leave the abuser, the abuser once again draws them in and traps them psychologically by repeating this cycle.
Trauma bonds leave permanent mental and physical scars in the victim’s life, they feel helpless and hopeless and develop a dependency on their abuser. These bonds also pave the way for Stockholm Syndrome.
What are the Signs that you are in a Trauma Bond?
A common misconception held by people is that trauma bonds can only occur in relationships, but you should be cautious about your friends and family members.
Do you wonder if you are or were in a trauma bond before, if the below signs resonate with you, I am afraid you were/are in a trauma bond:
- When you try to express your feelings or try to communicate your partner shuts you down and does not listen to you.
- You still feel attached to the person who hurt you and try to reach out to them.
- You long for your abusers’ presence and feel restless without them. Your longing for them interferes with your ability to perform your day-to-day tasks.
- You know your partner/friend/family member is untrustworthy.Yet you believe that you cannot leave them and are stuck with them forever.
- You believe that you can stop your abuser or reform them and in the future they won’t hurt you.
- You hide the fact that they exploit your or hurt you from others/ You do not seek help from others when your abuser hurts you.
- Other people in your life do not like your abuser and constantly criticise your relationship with them.
- You find yourself defending your partner a lot.
- You trust them even if they have never fulfilled their promises.
How to get Out of a Trauma Bond?
Anyone can get trapped into a trauma bond , yet there are a few people who are more at risk of trauma bonding. People dealing with past trauma, facing financial issues, lacking a support system, having self-esteem issues and even a history of getting bullied are more susceptible to get attached to toxic people and narcissists.
If you believe that you might be in a trauma bond, here is how you can get out of one:
- Acknowledge and Accept: Most of the times people do not see and accept what is right in front of them. The sooner you accept that you are not in a healthy relationship and that your partner is abusive, the better will be your chances of getting out of this traumatic trap.
- Staying in denial is a coping mechanism that ensures your survival. The minute you recognise the threat you will gain the strength to let go of your toxic partner.
- Listen to What Others Say: While your instincts may push you to defend your partner, try listening to what other important people in your life are saying about them. Create a list of what adjectives people are using to describe your partner.
- Observe whether your partner is trying to isolate you from others.Abusers try to isolate their victim so that they have no one else to turn to.
- Get out of the Fantasy World: Your partner may promise you a lot of things and even apologize to you profusely once they have harmed you. However, learn to face the reality, see if your partner is keeping his/her promises. Chances are your partner may harm you again and your will to leave will get strengthened if you are vigilant of their behavioural patterns.
- Try to Distance Yourself from Them: A lot of people realise how horrible their relationship has been when they spend time away from their abusive partners. If you have this feeling that you cannot live without your partner try to indulge in something you love, for example, work more hours or take up hobby classes.
By doing something you love, you will feel more confident and hopeful. You will learn that there is always a way out, you just need to commit yourself to leaving. If you can stay with your family or at a friend’s place for a while, ask them to take your phone or anything which can help you contact your abuser again.
- Do not be Afraid to Ask for Help: If you reached a stage where you have accepted the fact that your partner is abusive, you need to seek help without any hesitation. People are a lot kinder than you can imagine. Reach out to your parents, your friends or a therapist and try to draw attention to yourself whenever you feel threatened.
- Do not seek or accept any apologies or comforting from your abuser, all it will do is strengthen the trauma bond.
If you feel that someone in your life is trapped in a trauma bond, please reach out to them. Remind them that they deserve healthy relationships and that their lives are worthy and should not be wasted on a toxic person.