Recovery from Toxic Trauma Bonding

Trauma bonding occurs when a victim develops an emotional attachment to their abuser. The key element of a traumatic bond is repeated abuse reinforced through a cycle of rewards and punishments. Victims of this form of emotional bullying experience confusion and find it difficult to leave their aggressor.

Stockholm syndrome is one of the most well-known forms of a trauma bond. It occurs when a kidnapped victim develops a strong emotional bond with their abductor as a coping mechanism. This term was coined in 1973 following a bank heist in Stockholm, Sweden. The bank robbers held four (4) hostages for six (6) days. When the hostages were released, they tried to protect their kidnappers because they had developed a friendship with them.

When does trauma bonding happen?

Trauma bonding occurs when one person mistreats or manipulates someone else. This could involve situations such as:

  • Abuse and neglect of elderly people
  • Domestic abuse (emotional and physical)
  • Cults
  • Kidnap victims
  • Human trafficking
  • Sexual abuse
  • Employee harassment
  • Toxic caregiving

What are the warning signs of trauma bonding?

Abusers draw you into their deceptive ways by using a pattern of abuse. Occasionally they might ask for forgiveness, express their love for you, and make promises to change. These things contribute to the abuse cycle, which results in a wide range of mental health issues.

Exposure to abuse also creates confusion, which explains why victims often remain in bad relationships for a long time. Victims of trauma bonding often hope that their abusers will change and treat them with respect.

Unfortunately, thinking that your abuser will change will only keep you trapped in the cycle of violence.

If you’re unsure if you’re trauma bonded to an abusive person, look for these signs:

  • You start to believe the abuser’s excuses for the abuse
  • You try hide or deny the violent behavior of the abuser
  • Victims may withdraw from friends, relatives, and coworkers who are trying to help them escape the abusive relationship
  • You refuse to leave an abusive relationship
  • You refuse to acknowledge that you are being abused, and you make excuses for the abuser’s behavior
  • You can’t make any decisions on your own because you must always seek approval from your partner to avoid making them angry
  • Your character and behaviors are judged, controlled, and highly scrutinized
  • You may be experiencing physical and emotional abuse

How can you heal from trauma bond?

Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t always as simple as walking out the door. You may feel pressured to stay with your abuser for fear of not finding a safe place to live or not being allowed to see your children or loved ones.

Here are a few ideas to help you break free from harmful trauma bonds and reclaim your life.

Accept that you are dealing with an abusive person.

Have you ever wondered if you were a victim of abuse and then tried to convince yourself that you were not? You are not alone. Others who have been abused by someone they love, such as a spouse, romantic partner, or family member, share the same experience. Most abuse victims will have difficulty recognizing that a partner or family member mistreats them. Some of their stories you can find on TAR Tales.

Many people will not admit to being abused until they have escaped their abuser and come to grips with their experience. Admitting that you are being mistreated is the first step toward healing. Stop making excuses for your offender’s poor behavior and call it out for what it is: abuse.

Keep a journal of your experiences.

Daily journaling can help you identify red flags, patterns, and behavioral issues that may have gone previously unnoticed. Keep track of what happens when your abuser assaults, demeans, threatens, or disrespects you. Write down any and all excuses they’ll make later to justify their actions.

Journaling will help you see things more clearly. Include a record of how you felt after speaking with your abuser. Record keeping will also help you gauge how exposure to repeated abuse affects your mental health.

Don’t blame yourself!

It is more difficult to assert your right to fair treatment if you believe you caused the abuse.

You may feel powerless in your current relationship because of the overwhelming power imbalance you are experiencing, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to stop the abuse:

  • You deserve to be treated fairly.
  • Let go of self-criticism and instead focus on adopting empowering thoughts. As a result, your self-esteem will be rebuilt following significant damage caused by your continuous exposure to mistreatment.
  • Healthy relationships can only happen in a supportive and mutually respectful environment.
  • Being in a traumatic bond is never your fault. It is a natural reaction after being exposed to various forms of abuse over time.

How can we break the ties of trauma bonding?

Once you’ve left the abusive and controlling relationship, it’s best to completely cut off any contact with your abuser.

Keep in mind that your trauma bond to your aggressor will take some time to dissipate. If you stay in touch with an abuser after you leave them, they may convince you to take them back. To ensure your safety, find a secure place to stay. such as with a relative or a friend. Remember that your abuser lacks empathy. Keep yourself safe by taking every precaution.

Seek professional help to break free from a trauma bond.

While it’s possible to heal on your own, your recovery from trauma bonding will be faster if you seek professional help.

A professional like Dr. Jamie, a trauma-certified therapist can help you through the healing process, lessening the severity of the hurt and pain you’ve carried around for so long. Therapists can also shed light on abusive patterns that lead to trauma bonding so that you can better understand it.

Therapy can also help you:

  • Uncover what contributes to a strong trauma bond
  • Focus on establishing healthy boundaries
  • Learn how to form loving relationships
  • Face your self-criticism, whether deserved or not
  • Establish a routine that takes care of your well-being and helps you to cope with the long-term effects of trauma and abuse

Abuse is never acceptable nor deserved. While it may take time to regain your self-esteem and identity, with the proper support, you can learn to cope with the damaging effects of trauma bonding.

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