trauma bonding

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#1 October 13, 2010 - 4:02pm

trauma bonding

This article is so interesting, that I copied and pasted it:

Traumatic bonding is “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” (Dutton & Painter, 1981). Several conditions have been identified that must be present for a traumatic bond to occur.

–(1). There must be an imbalance of power, with one person more in control of key aspects of the relationship, such as setting themselves up as the “authority” through such things as controlling the finances, or making most of the relationship decisions, or using threats and intimidations, so the relationship has become lopsided.

–(2). The abusive behavior is sporadic in nature. It is characterized by intermittent reinforcement, which means there is the alternating of highly intense positives (such as intense kindness or affection) and the negatives of the abusive behavior.

–(3). The victim engages in denial of the abuse for emotional self- protection. In severe abuse (this can be psychological or physical), one form of psychological protection strategy is dissociation, where the victim experiences the abuse as if it is not happening to them, but as if they are outside their body watching the scene unfold (like watching a movie). Dissociative states allow the victim to compartmentalize the abusive aspects of the relationship in order to focus on the positive aspects.

The use of denial and distancing oneself from the abuse are forms of what is called cognitive dissonance. In abusive relationships this means that what is happening to the victim is so horrible, so far removed from their thoughts and expectations of the world, that it is “dissonant” or “out of tune” or “at odds” with their pre-existing expectations and reality. Since the victim feels powerless to change the situation, they rely on emotional strategies to try to make it less dissonant, to try to somehow make it fit. To cope with the contradicting behaviors of the abuser, and to survive the abuse, the person literally has to change how they perceive reality. Studies also show a person is more loyal and committed to a person or situation that is difficult, uncomfortable, or even humiliating, and the more the victim has invested in the relationship, the more they need to justify their position. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful “self-preservation” mechanism which can completely distort and override the truth, with the victim developing a tolerance for the abuse and “normalizing” the abusers behavior, despite evidence to the contrary.

–(4). The victim masks that the abuse is happening, may not have admitted it to anyone, not even themselves.

Trauma bonding makes it easier for a victim to survive within the relationship, but it severely undermines the victims self-structures, undermining their ability to accurately evaluate danger, and impairs their ability to perceive of alternatives to the situation.

Once a trauma bond is established it becomes extremely difficult for the victim to break free of the relationship. The way humans respond to trauma is thought to have a biological basis and reactions to trauma was first described a century ago, with the term “railroad spine” being used. Another term used has been “shell shocked”.

Victims overwhelmed with terror suffer from an overload of their system, and to be able to function they must distort reality. They often shut down emotionally, and sometimes later describe themselves as having felt “robotic”, intellectually knowing what happened, but feeling frozen or numb and unable to take action. A victim must feel safe and out of “survival mode” before they will be able to make cognitive changes.

Many victims feel the compulsion to tell and retell the events of the trauma in an attempt to come to terms with what happened to them and to try to integrate it, reaching out to others for contact, safety, and stability. Other victims react in an opposite manner, withdrawing into a shell of self-imposed isolation. The trauma bond can persist even after the victim leaves the relationship, with it sometimes taking months, or even years, for them to completely break the bond.

October 13, 2010 - 5:33pm

I totally get now why this traumatisized me

I wondered why a relationship with someone I just saw 3 times could have caused such a trauma within me.

But after reading about dissociation and trauma bonding I totally understand what has happened to me.

(1) imbalance of power

he was the one with money and he decided when we saw each other, or not. I was the one flying over to him and then was stuck with him for days, and couldnt escape

(2)abusive beahviour is sporadic in nature

We all know that one, he is charming the hell out of us, and then abuses us one second later.

(3)dissociation/denial of the abuse

When I was in Van, I had a terrible jetlag, 9 hours timezone difference, I read derealisation and depersonalisation often occurs while being exhasuted or extreme tiredness. It feels like wathcing a movie, totally unreal. Yes, I already felt that way from the jetlag and being on another continent the first time in my life.

Then the abuse started and everything was like in a movie.
But I was stuck with him for days, so tried to cope with it, trying to pretend as if this did not happen actually.
I felt so out of alignement with myself.

After I came back, he emotionally abused me as well, started to demand creepy sexual things...I totally forgot that, total amnesia

Tehn third date, same thing, we met in halifax, Novia scotia...I found out about all the other women there. Same thing as in Van, like wathcing a movie.

(4) I started to mask the abuse.

I knew intellectually what has happened, but couldnt do anything to change my behaviour, the bond was created...

And the abuse didnt stop, the denial from his side of my feelings, the hope he gave, then abuse again, then hope again, then abuse again....

Damn, I feel so lucky now, to feel better now!

June 28, 2011 - 2:43am (Reply to #5)

I needed to hear that!

I took the last of my N's stuff to him today.

Our last "meeting" he kept me out while I was doing swingshifts and working 11 days in a row and I was up for 20 hrs straight.

He told me I looked tired, too.

He wanted to see a movie. I kept saying how tired I was, and I only got 4 hrs sleep and probably a total of 12 in three days.

He pushed and pushed and got to see that stupid movie, then emails me the next day telling me to "get some rest, that is the most tired you have ever looked"

Hello McFly! I didn't wanna stay out.

So, I give him his bag. And I tell him, that he never hears me when I say, "Hey, I'm tired, I need to rest"

He says..."You coulda slept in the movie!"



Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow.' --Mary Anne Radmache

October 13, 2010 - 4:03pm

thats the link

October 13, 2010 - 5:20pm (Reply to #3)

Understanding "trauma

Understanding "trauma bonding" as why I stayed and put up with it as long as I did has helped me to forgive myself.

We human beings are subject to certain ways of responding to pain and fear. Deep down in our more primitive brains, I mean. We respond in ways that are "programmed" into the operating system, and we can't NOT respond in those ways.

They are like automatic overrides.

They make no logical sense because . . . they aren't based on logic or reason. They are based upon survival. As long as you keep breathing in and out, that's all these mechanisms like trauma bonding need to do. Keep you breathing, keep you alive in an awful situation.

So trying to figure out the big WHY with our logical, rational brain is just going to be an endless loop going nowhere. Trauma bonding just IS.

A child with an abusive parent is basically stuck, can't get up and leave, so the child distorts their perceptions to maintain some semblance of life sustaining relationship.

An abused woman (or man) believes implicitely that the abuser is more powerful. Getting away from the abuser is not possible for millions of reasons, usually financial, but sometimes fear of real death.

Financial worries or real death are about the same thing to your primitive instinctual brain. No money? You're homeless and you're gonna starve, if someone doesn't come along a rape you and kill you first.

I didn't have EITHER real financial or real death worries. But I believed I did, and that's all you have to do is have that fear of death breathing down your neck, whether it is logically real or not. Your brain just goes into survival mode :(

So you have the "authority" of the abuser, and the lack of any way out. Bang. What are you going to do??? You gotta keep breathing in and out. And the cognitive dissonance is so unbearable that you have to twist and distort your perceptions until you can tell yourself some feasable lie that keeps you from going insane.

That's why we stay.

And getting unstuck from that trauma bonding with an abuser is as difficult as can be, because the bonding is not happening in your normal, rational "self". It's happening deep down in your primitive brain, it's become a reflex as strong as not touching a hot stove.

Our brains will do just about anything to keep us alive and breathing. It's the downside of how amazingly adaptive human beings are. We can survive just about ANYTHING that doesn't chop our heads off :D .

So for those of you (and me a couple of years ago) who are beating yourself up . . . you were just trying to survive. Somehow, some way . . . your survival mode was triggered and it took over your common sense. It is SUPPOSED to take over like that . . . but damn when it does in a Narc relationship :(

For me, having a Narc assclown for a father, I experienced this trauma bonding a LONG time ago. My exNarc was not my first rodeo.

I often feared my father would kill me. He would go into rages and throw me across a room, beat the shit out of me, terrorize us.

As I grew up, when someone who came across as "authority" got mad, I dissociated. I left the building. I went straight into survival mode. I started appeasing, self effacing, self denying . . . and somehow that twisted itself into admiring and bonding. Life is happier when you admire and bond with others, isn't it? Sometimes it is just as simple as that.

I still go numb when someone in "authority" gets angry. I probably always will. It's too deep in my brain, but it's not the end of the world, I don't let it ruin my life.

I pick and choose CAREFULLY who I subject myself to. In all circumstances that I can possibly have any power to do so. I have a wound that probably won't heal, and it's smart to protect myself, yes?

So far, so good :D . I don't live in fear, but merely a mild state of paranoia :D LOL!! I used to live in fear. This is better :D` AND, it works. If someone comes along and I get that gut thump about them . . . I back the hell up. I tag them. And then I steer clear of the rocks. I don't challenge them or try to appease them. Pffft. Or try to defeat them. Nothing I can do about such an obviously screwed up person but keep myself out of their line of fire :)

The big thing . . . is to understand how I myself tick, and then with that understanding, TAKE CARE OF MYSELF.

October 13, 2010 - 5:02pm (Reply to #2)

Thanks for the link, Jen.

Thanks for the link, Jen.

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