TAR Vocabulary

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). For example: experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect.


The term is often colloquially used to indicate a lack of desire to be around other people, but it actually refers to a personality disorder associated with repeatedly disregarding and violating the rights of others. It’s marked by criminal behavior, impulsivity, lack of empathy, and a lack of awareness about how you impact other people.

Attachment Disorder

Attachment disorder is a broad term intended to describe disorders of mood, behavior, and social relationships arising from the unavailability of normal socializing care and attention from primary caregiving figures in early childhood.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that severely impacts a person’s ability to manage their emotions. This loss of emotional control can increase impulsivity, affect how a person feels about themselves, and negatively impact their relationships with others.


Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD, C-PTSD or cPTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop if you experience chronic (long-term) trauma. It involves stress responses, such as: Anxiety. Having flashbacks or nightmares. Avoiding situations, places and other things related to the traumatic event. In other words, according to Dr. Jamie CPTSD is when the last 10 years of your life trigger the first 10 years of your life.

Double bind

A no-win situation where one is manipulated into having to choose between two bad options.


A false “apology” that deflects guilt or responsibility from the guilty party onto the person who was wronged.

Flying monkeys

Friends, family members, or acquaintances who are recruited to do someone else’s dirty work. They will (often unknowingly) try to pull you back into a negative cycle if you begin to pull away. A reference to the classic movie The Wizard of Oz.


An emotional/mental manipulation strategy to make the victim question their experiences, perceptions, and beliefs. The phrase comes from a 1944 movie called Gaslight.

Golden Child

In families with multiple children, one may be favored above the others. The golden child is singled out for love and approval, and others are often compared to them unfavorably.


True grooming occurs when someone develops a relationship with a younger person, potentially a minor, with the intention of sexually abusing them.

Histrionic Disorder

A histrionic personality disorder, commonly known as a dramatic personality disorder, is a psychiatric disorder distinguished by a pattern of exaggerated emotionality and attention-seeking behaviors. A histrionic personality disorder is categorized within the “Cluster B” of personality disorders.


a technique to pull someone back into the patterns and cycles of a toxic relationship. This is often accomplished by the abusive person showing temporarily improved behaviors – “turning over a new leaf” – to convince their victim that they have changed. When the victim returns, the abusive behavior resumes.

Lost child

In families with more than one child in particular, a child may be lost within the family. They learn to lie low to avoid being noticed negatively and are rarely noticed for anything positive.


Love-bombing is inundating somebody with love and affection, either to make up for abusive behavior or to control or manipulate somebody.

Narcissistic personality traits

a set of persistent character traits including an inflated sense of self-importance and superiority; excessive need for praise, admiration, or reassurance; lack of personal boundaries in close relationships; manipulative and/or emotionally abusive behavior designed to control others; lack of insight into how their actions affect those around them; difficulty accepting criticism; lack of empathy; and envy of others’ success.People with NPD are usually described as:

  • arrogant
  • self-centered
  • demanding

They often have high self-esteem and may believe they’re special or superior to others. However, they seem to need excessive praise and admiration and may react poorly to perceived criticism.

Narcissists also tend to exaggerate their talents and accomplishments while downplaying those of others. They’re usually preoccupied with power, success, and beauty. They might even engage in impulsive behaviors, such as gambling or certain sexual behaviors.

Some traits of NPD may appear similar to confidence, but healthy confidence and NPD aren’t the same. People with healthy self-esteem are usually humble, while people with NPD seldom are. They tend to put themselves on a pedestal and perceive themselves as better than everyone else.

NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition in which people have an unreasonably high sense of their own importance. They need and seek too much attention and want people to admire them. People with this disorder may lack the ability to understand or care about the feelings of others.


When a child is thrust into adult responsibilities at an early age due to their parent(s) inability to maintain healthy boundaries. Parentified children may be expected to take care of their parents rather than the other way around.


When a narcissistic or emotionally immature person cannot acknowledge their own feelings and tries to paint them onto someone else.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.


a family member designated as the black sheep or loser of the family. Scapegoats often bear the emotional brunt of family stressors.


characterized by a party with a lack of empathy, lack of accountability, and a Machiavellian approach in a relationship.

TAR pit

a situation or experience that is highly toxic and lacks a healthy solution.


This term refers to a party that has experienced TAR and is wounded by the excruciating experience.


Trauma is a pervasive problem. It results from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.


trauma-bonding actually refers to the connection or attachment between an abuser and his or her victim.


The actual definition of this trendy term is “sharing specific details about a traumatic experience with somebody who isn’t ready or doesn’t want to hear it”.


Trauma-informed practice is an approach to health and care interventions that is grounded in the understanding that trauma exposure can impact an individual’s neurological, biological, psychological and social development.


Trauma is a serious, often chronic physiological disruption of the nervous system. People with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, can experience intense distress that makes them feel like they’re reliving the horrible emotions of earlier traumatic experiences. Many PTSD sufferers have died by suicide to escape the pain. When we hear the use of the word ‘traumatized’ in this very casual sense, it trivializes what trauma and being traumatized actually is.


When two members of a relationship draw a third party into their conflicts, placing unfair expectations and burdens on the third party to resolve their problems. In narcissistic or emotionally immature families, the third party is often a child.


In its truest sense, however, being triggered means encountering a reminder of a traumatic experience, followed by a response like flashbacks, self-harming thoughts, or a panic attack. It often feels like the trauma is happening again—or that it will at any second.

Term index