4th July 2021 at 3:20 pm #128233
I left an abusive relationship in (detail removed by Moderator) with no contact – unfortunately there’s been some unwanted communication sporadically since that lead to me changing my number and social media handles. There has been a few occasions where he has managed to manipulate me into conversation, and it’s made me aware that the trauma bond is still quiet strong.
I’ve found a lot of information about trauma bond while in the relationship but not after you’ve left. I guess my heart and brain aren’t in sync yet – my heart still seems to completely believe that our relationship was love, that bond was love even though logically I know it wasn’t – it was the result of a very physically and emotionally abuse relationship and the cycle of abuse.
I know I’m still at risk if I’m struggling to come to terms that our relationship wasn’t a reality and was a fantasy. I can’t really speak to my friends / family about this – how can you say “I’m still having strong confusing feelings towards this person that abused me?”. I don’t feel I can break down in tears in front of my family / friends and say how I’m feeling truthfully because they just don’t understand. They don’t understand how my heart still cares for someone who put me through literal hell.
I am looking at therapists, but any conversation with other women who understand / know how this feels would be really really amazing. I guess I feel a bit crazy / stupid?
Thank you for reading, any support is welcome – compassionate or brutal.
Lots of love to you survivors and victims of abuse xo
4th July 2021 at 4:28 pm #128234EmptybutfreeParticipant
I can relate to everything you’re saying, one of the ladies suggested I watched Dr. Armani on YouTube, this has opened my eyes but these bonds are difficult to shift.
You’re a good person, and when you’re a good person, it’s difficult to try and understand how someone you thought once loved you wasn’t and isn’t the person you thought they were, they never have been and never will be.
It’s all part of their abuse.
We love these people because of the good traits that we have, it’s absolutely no reflection of them. We search for the good, we forgive, we try to understand, it’s never enough, nothing would of been.
Dr. Ramani explains it perfectly in one of her videos…
‘It’s like having a hot mug of tea, the mug that you’re using is serving you a purpose, your happy with your mug of tea, it’s got you interested and you want it… as soon as you have finished the tea, what purpose does it have for you? None, you don’t care about that mug anymore’
The reason they can be so amazing, loving, kind etc is all part of it, to keep us there, to keep us hooked.
You’re definitely not on your own, you’re doing amazing.
Something I’ve been doing also is telling myself that it is ok for my heart to care, because again, that’s a reflection of the person I am and the same goes to you.
Sending big hugs to you xx
4th July 2021 at 7:22 pm #128238
I wrote a response quite in-depth but it deleted when I tried to submit it.
Thank you for your kind words, I often forget I am a good person, and it is very difficult to understand how the ‘love’ I felt towards them isn’t / wasn’t real. It’s very complicated and it’s hard to process. I am starting to learn I just need to accept that he is abusive and that is just who is and that is that.
Would you mind sharing how you discovered / learnt about loving someone because of our good traits and how it isn’t a reflection of them.
Thank you for sharing Dr Romani, I’ve heard she is really good to look at from a few other survivors aswell – I am hoping I can wrap my head around the trauma bond.
I carry a lot of shame which is hard to let go, it’s very hard to show myself compassion but I am trying through yoga, bubble baths, journalling and allowing myself the space to heal.
I guess I feel I’m not doing amazingly as I have chosen to respond and communicate with him, which I did. It made me very unwell and I found it so hard to break away from conversation and hit that block button again. The silver-lining is although I have communicated, I am still free and I am away from him. I need to remember that and find that strength to not return or be in a situation where it could be open to being lured in again.
Thank you for your solidarity, you are clearly a very compassion and understanding person to reach out to me today and I really appreciate you taking the time. I hope you are able to show yourself the compassion you have shown me today because you deserve it.
Sending you big love – xx
4th July 2021 at 6:19 pm #128236WaterspriteParticipant
I also can relate and I imagine slowly taking the hooks out one at a time. Education helps read up on trauma bonds cognitive dissonance write down what he did when he was bad. Remind yourself the nice him was a lie to keep you hooked and where he wanted you. I think the biggest freedoms comes from pouring that love into yourself he doesn’t deserve your thoughts or time or anything more. Having said all that I’m long out and still can’t always do that myself but it does get easier. I also smile every single night I get into my own bed safe at last. X*x
4th July 2021 at 7:31 pm #128239
Hey Waterspirte, thanks for responding to me.
Would you mind sharing how have you taken the hooks out? Please can you give an example of a slow hook?
I’ve signed up to an online course to learn, and also the Freedom Programme to try to understand. I’ve written a list of some of the bad things he’s done to me, I wish I had done that throughout the relationship as I’m struggling to remember the nasty things he has done, I still remember many of course but not all of them. I guess that’s my brain protecting me.
Yes, the nice version he portrayed isn’t real. He is a very unmoral, nasty person. I need to remember this. We have no shared values or beliefs, it completely blows my mind we ended up together. I can’t actually say anything nice about him other than our bond, which was a result of trauma. On paper it’s so clear to see he is a naracasitic abusive person but when he speaks to me or communicates, within moments we can be in a normal conversation. It’s terrifying.
I’m giving myself time to heal, yoga and walks daily and now looking at therapy options. I really want to heal, I have been too scared to take the next step but it is time.
He doesn’t deserve my time or thoughts, yet he still takes up so much. I guess the longer we have no communication that hold will lessen, he has before so I know it will again. I have to be strong and resilient.
I will smile tonight knowing he cannot communicate with me, and I am free. Although I’ve had this wobble, I am free, I am not in the relationship anymore and I am still away from him.
I’m very proud of you leaving, and being long out of the relationship. What an incredible powerful woman you are. It takes a lot of resilience, which you clearly have.
Thank you so much for sharing with me xx
4th July 2021 at 10:53 pm #128247WaterspriteParticipant
I think it is easier to free yourself with no contact and I think you are doing lots of amazing things that will really pay off. So I suppose I just want to say you are on a journey freeing yourself is a process you are doing everything right. It sounds like you want it all to be over and done and who doesn’t but I also think it can’t be forced it will take time and that’s normal keep doing what you are feel proud of every step remind yourself just how far you have come. I have no contact and court orders. Every time I assert a boundary put myself first or do something kind for me I know how far I have come another hook gone. Every day he is not in my head I know another hook is gone start with seconds minutes hours notice your progress x*x
5th July 2021 at 12:13 pm #128258ISOPeaceParticipant
Hi there, I think this brings up a really important point about the lack of helpful support in breaking the trauma bond. I’m not an expert, but from fairly extensive reading, this is my take on it. It’s a long one and there are repeats of what others have said, which I see as a good thing that we’re on the same page.
Educating yourself on the trauma bond can be really helpful, which you’ve already done. It allowed me to stop wasting energy wondering what was wrong with me. I think the most useful thing I learnt was that a trauma bond is a totally normal human response to abuse. Not to ‘weak people’ who experience abuse, but pretty much every human. This is evident from the fact that it happens to people who are kidnapped (Stockholm Syndrome, which is basically the same as trauma bonding) and soldiers subjected to the same tactics (look up Biderman’s chart of coercion if you’re interested). You are no different from all those people who don’t understand. You were just more unlucky.
Education can take you a long way. But, the psychiatrist who wrote a key book on trauma, the Body Keeps the Score, says that no amount of insight will help unless you feel safe enough. The trauma bond convinced you that you need him to be safe. So it makes sense that to break it you need to teach your mind that you are safer without him. I don’t have an easy answer to this as I’m not a therapist but I think it’s helpful to think about it in the context of what the abuse took away from you, because your ex took chunks out of you and convinced you that only he could fill the gap left behind. Finding new ways to fill those gaps will teach your mind that you don’t need him. Here are some examples, which you’ll probably notice have a lot of overlap. If you still have to have contact with your ex, you can use them in that contact, and you can use them in your life in general:
o Connection with others – abusers usually isolate us. Even if it’s not explicit, we often feel isolated because we feel like others don’t understand us. So it is really important to spend time with other people who make you feel good and of course connect on this forum.
o Attention on ourselves – abusers want us to focus all our attention on them and their needs so we lose touch with our own wants and needs and feel guilty for looking after ourselves. If we can try to make sure he takes up as little space in our heads (I’ve heard people describe it as real estate) as possible, we take away a lot of the power. If we also focus our attention on doing kind things for ourselves, we teach our minds that we are worth looking after.
o Our sense of identity – abuser’s use threats, manipulation etc to force us to be who they want us to be. We forget who we are. We see ourselves as having worth only as the person they want us to be, because if we are anything different, we are punished. Taking time to learn what our values are, what we think is right and wrong and what we like doing is really helpful. It’s good to try new things that our ex’s wouldn’t have let us do and find a new hobby. I really value being able to just go out for a walk in the countryside without needing permission or worrying about being berated for not doing what my ex thought I should be doing instead.
o Boundaries – abuser’s don’t respect our rights as a separate person and our boundaries. We forget who we are and our right to be separate. I would recommend reading the book, Boundaries After a Pathological Relationship by Adelyn Birch. It’s quite a short book but has an exercise on working out what you want your boundaries to be and lots of helpful advice.
o Validation of thoughts/feelings/experiences – abusers usually invalidate our experiences to make us feel weak and confused. Sharing your experiences with people who will listen with empathy can be so helpful. I read somewhere that survivors often have to have their experiences validated many times to benefit. Lundy Bancroft (in the Joyous Recovery) recommends finding different ways to express your experiences, e.g. writing, art, dance etc. Counselling/therapy can also really help with this.
o Choices and preferences – most of us became so used to basing all our decisions on what would keep our abuser happy that we forget we have the right to make choices and even what our preferences are. My therapist gave me some really helpful advice, which was to always try to remember that I have a choice. It doesn’t even matter what choice I make, it just matters that I remember I have a choice. Maybe I’ll choose to do something that is based on pleasing others, maybe I’ll do what’s best for me and respects my boundaries. But the key thing is to know that I have the right to make the choice, and whatever choice I make is ok.
o The right to privacy – I guess this gets taken away in lots of different ways and is very similar to the boundaries point . One example would be having to defend and explain yourself. But it is absolutely ok to say no to things without having to explain why or convince the other person. I find if I say I can’t say yes to an invitation I find myself explaining why I can’t make it, and that’s fine. But it’s also find to just say you can’t make it or even that you just don’t want to!
o Only needing your own permission/approval – this is related to a lot of the points above. I was very aware that I was always seeking my ex’s permission, even sometimes after I left. Or I was still trying to get him to see my point of view. I would also ask other people’s opinions a lot, because I didn’t trust my own judgement. When we stop seeking permission and approval we start to trust our own judgement and feel less dependent on others.
o Our belief that we are ok as we are – our abusers want us to focus on what’s wrong with us and make us feel at fault for everything. That way we stay feeling stuck and useless and don’t look at what they’ve done. If we can find ways to accept that we’re doing the best we can, just like everyone else, that we didn’t deserve the abuse and we deserve love and freedom, we take our power back. Darcy has written some great posts on self love.
I’ve got a bit carried away, even though I’m sure it’s not a complete list, so apologies for the long post! I’m reading the Joyous Recovery by Lundy Bancroft at the moment, and I think it’s good. One of the main things he recommends is finding someone who can regularly commit to listening to each other’s experiences, which I haven’t managed yet, but I still think it’s worth a read. He has a really empathetic approach, which I think is so helpful for those of us who lived without empathy from our abusers. Sending lots of love and support on your journey xxxx
5th July 2021 at 5:30 pm #128286Belle250Participant
Such amazing responses that I think we can all relate to in one way or another.
From my situation, where my separation was forced because the Police intervened I’d just like to say well done to you for doing this on your own, that’s something that I didn’t have the realisation to do for myself. But one thing that I will say, is that the separation has made me reassess. And because were separated and because it’s by law, he can’t communicate with me in anyway shape or form, it has allowed me to take a step back and live for myself again and “breathe”.
You’re most certainly on the right path for you, you’re doing things for yourself and you’re finding answers and trying to understand how and why you feel this way.
I think it’s so important to know that there is no right or wrong way to feel, it’s just about recognising what feels good and what doesn’t in yourself.
And as cliche as it sounds, time really does make the difference. Allow yourself the time to heal and be ok which to me, sounds like you’re already doing and you’re doing it amazingly.
Sending so much love to the amazing women out there xx xx
5th July 2021 at 6:26 pm #128288Grey RockParticipant
Once I’d changed my number and effectively blocked on social media the silence was a relief most of the time. Other times it felt desolate because those trauma bonds were still there. But time has stood me in good stead (I don’t think that we can expect them to go straight away). I filled that time studying. Watching Dr Ramani and taking notes; reading books that were recommended to me; working with a women’s aid counselor. I also made contact with friends who I hadn’t been able to see for some time (I think we all cone here with some of those) and drank tea and ate cakes with them without having to worry about the time or answering to me, got used to doing those things I’d once enjoyed but had lost along the way, etc. I suppose I showed myself what I’d been missing. I watched myself getting stressed in queues about being late and feeling the relief when I realized there was no need to worry any more. Noone to make bike accusations if I was ten minutes behind schedule. I noticed how I had no idea of what TV programs or books I prefer, because I’d lost those choices for some time. And I spent time being my own best friend and giving myself all that love and care that I’d been squandering on my abuser. And gradually I broke those trauma bonds.
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