1st September 2021 at 12:56 pm #130846ISOPeaceParticipant
A question that unsurprisingly comes up on here a lot is how to break trauma bonds but there’s not a lot of help out there. I read that a trauma bonds is like an addiction and in my experience it certainly feels like it – an intensely strong ‘need’ for something that actually does you harm and the belief that you won’t be ok without it.
I was lucky that the trauma bond seemed to break before I left my ex so I didn’t have that awful pull towards him after I left. But my experience with anxiety has lots of similarities to addiction and trauma bonds. I learnt from doing CBT that anxiety tries to compel me to do/not do things with the aim of making me feel safer, but in reality the anxiety is trying to eliminate all risks, which is impossible and crazy making. If I follow what the anxiety says, I just reinforce the belief that the anxiety is right and the anxiety gets stronger. So like with a drug/alcohol addiction, it’s really important to not take the drug, it’s really important to not do what the anxiety says, because it strengthens the addiction/compulsion. I had to keep telling myself that even though the anxiety was saying that I would be completely irresponsible to not eliminate whatever risk I was worrying about, in reality the cost of taking the risk was outweighed by the benefit to my mental health. One of the ways I managed this was that every time I felt compelled to follow the anxiety I’d ask someone close to me for reassurance that the benefit to my mental health outweighed the risk I was worrying about. I often said that person was like my AA sponsor 😊
Iliketea posted about a 12 step programme, which made me wonder whether a similar process would be helpful for trauma bonds. I don’t know what all the 12 steps are, but I know it involves having a sponsor and I think having a trauma bond sponsor could be really helpful – someone you contact whenever you feel at risk of wanting to go back, who you know understands what’s going on and can tell you: “I know this is really tough but this is the trauma bond talking and even though it’s trying to help you, it’s actually trying to lead you back into danger. Going back might feel like it will quell the intense feelings but it’s like an alcoholic wanting a drink, there’s very short term relief but then there’s the hangover when the abuse starts again and there’s the long term cost of having strengthened the trauma bond. Ultimately, you cannot live a happy and healthy life with an addiction and unfortunately it is painful to break the addiction, but you can do it.”
Does anyone have any experience with 12 step programmes and/or any thoughts on this? xxxx
1st September 2021 at 1:53 pm #130854Wants To HelpParticipant
This is a very interesting subject. Prior to joining this forum I was not aware of trauma bonding so I read up on it. I now understand it in some way, however, I was not trauma bonded to my abuser so did not have to deal with these issues.
I do think that leaving an abuser for good is similar to other addictions though, which is why the Recovery stage is called Recovery and not Recovered. Just like an alcoholic can never have one more drink, we cannot have ‘one last night’ or ‘one last meal/drink’ with our abuser once we have left them because then we would get hoovered back in with their pleas and false promises and end up back in the abusive relationship we’d worked so hard on putting behind us.
Sometimes addictions are overcome by going cold turkey, and the zero contact and trying to occupy ourselves with new interests will be the diversion we need. I think this may be easier when there are no children involved as you really can cut ties with an ex when you don’t have children with them.
The one thing we need to remember is that emotions change. The way we feel about our abuser this week will not necessarily be the same we feel about them next week, next month, next year.
1st September 2021 at 2:03 pm #130857
Thanks for starting this Isopeace. I think trauma bonds are such an important topic. This is why the average amount of times people try to leave is 7. The trauma bonds take you back and they keep you stuck.
I knew about them, but actually experiencing them is another matter. I have learnt I cannot trust my mind. It’s so true, the only way i have gotten through each panful day is by being able to talk to someone, and for them to reassure me that I did the right thing.
I had some contact at the beginning, and I haven’t now for a while, contact is too panful even if i wanted contact, but even my dreams will trigger these feelings or by accident seeing a picture of him, or being in a setting like a restaurant which just reminds me of him – it takes me straight back to being desperate and thinking I was wrong. Which then means I need that support from someone again.
So number one for me right now in getting through this is by having support.
I would be interested to hear about this 12 step program, i am on a waiting list for therapy, but i will ask my outreach worker about the freedom program aswell.
1st September 2021 at 11:28 pm #130887Grey RockParticipant
There are lots of 12-step programs and lots of people go to more than one (double- or treble-winners haha).
Alanon for people affected by other people’s addictions
ACOA for adults whose parents / family were alcohol or otherwise disfunctional
CODA for codependent types.
Lots of others besides such as AA (alcoholics), GA, OEA (overeaters).
Most of these fellowships have great online resources to find out more. No waiting lists or fees. You just turn up to most and take a seat (or log on if it’s a zoom one).
2nd September 2021 at 9:23 am #130900soxyParticipant
ISOPeace – thanks for starting this, I agree it is such an interesting topic. I had heard of trauma bonds before and how they are typical, especially in narcissistic relationships. However, I hadn’t realised just how they worked or the reason for me being stuck until I’m pretty sure it was you who kindly pointed it out. I appreciated that so much, it’s one thing to know about something, but quite another to look at yourself. I love the idea of a sponsor and someone you can call and who can remind you of why not to go back, but putting it like that is so good. I’ve written it down.
I haven’t watched any YouTube videos for a while and I watched this one earlier about why you are stuck. They talked about how over the years they erode your self esteem so you don’t feel good enough and how that can be in the back of your mind without you realising. How you need to fix yourself otherwise you just end up in the same cycle. That hit home because I realise I still have a very negative internal dialogue, or think that being with someone else would make me happy.
Your post has made me think, I’m going to do some research and see what I can find xx
2nd September 2021 at 9:29 am #130902
Another thing that really strikes me. People ask whether its abuse, but to others its so obviously abuse!
But the person in it cannot see, they are blinded.
I read posts that ask whether its abuse, I can see it’s abuse, but in my own situation I could not, it took me so so long to see it and needing so much reinforcement.
I think this is the cognitive dissonance.
2nd September 2021 at 12:06 pm #130911Brunette3Participant
It has been suggested googling trauma bonding.. anyone new to this topic? and wanting to go through it? help each other? message me please if you do xx
2nd September 2021 at 6:43 pm #130939Bubblegum.Participant
Hello this is such an interesting topic!
What I question is how do you know you’re going through trauma bonding? Maybe we genuinely think they have changed and want to give our marriage another go? Especially when they are not getting in contact with you after, makes you wonder that they are sane people and that maybe I’ve built it up bigger in my head??
3rd September 2021 at 7:27 am #130969
Its a good question Bubblegum.
I think for me, I knew I was in a trauma bond by the fact that my whole body craved him like a drug, he was my fix, if we argued(he shouted at me) I felt terrible until it was resolved. He would be my consoler, my abuser was the person who consoled me and made everything better. Which lays the ground for trauma bonding. The feeling of being stuck even though you want to leave is a big indicator. Aswell as going back after leaving multiple times.
After leaving I felt physically ill, I wasn’t getting that high anymore, I have lost (removed by moderator)kilos, my stomach is in a terrible state. It’s alot of hard work to break a trauma bond. But I think I see light at the end of the tunnel.
But you probably also go through the mourning stages when a long term relationship breaks up also. So this has made me wonder what the differences here are.
This may help :
The 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding
1. Love Bombing: They shower you with excess love, flattery and appreciation in order to gain your affection.
2. Trust and Dependency: Try do everything to win your trust and make you depend on them heavily for love and validation.
3. Criticism: They gradually start criticizing you. They blame you for things and become more demanding.
4. Gaslighting: When things go wrong they tell you that is your fault. They make you doubt your own perceptions and manipulate you into believing their narrative.
5. Resigning to Control: You no longer know what to believe but your only way of experiencing the good feelings of Stage I is by giving in and doing things their way.
6. Loss of Self: When you fight back, things get worse. You settle for anything to have some peace and make the fights stop. You lose all your confidence.
7. Addiction: You get addicted to the highs and lows. Your body is on a constant cortisol high (stress) and craves dopamine (pleasure). This creates a cycle of dependency that feels a lot like a drug addiction.
Signs of Being in a Trauma Bond With Someone
— A pattern of non-performance: the person constantly promises you things and constantly lets you down.
— You feel that you don’t even like or trust the person anymore but you cannot leave.
— Your friends and family have advised against the relationships but you stay.
— Others seem disturbed by things that happen to you but you brush it off.
— You have tried to leave, but it makes you feel physically ill, like you will die or your life will be destroyed if you do.
— You know the person is “sometimes” abusive and destructive, but you focus on the “good” in them.
— You feel protective about the person because of their “difficult past” or “childhood” and find yourself caring for them despite their abusive behavior.
— You know you are being manipulated, but you’re often in denial and block out or quickly forget bad things.
— The relationship is intense and inconsistent. You do everything to please them and are unconditionally loyal while getting nothing but heartbreak in return.
— They say things you want to hear to resolve issues temporality — “I have learnt my lesson,” “I will prove my love for you everyday,” “Life is impossible without you.”
— You are driven to the point of self-destruction and often harbor thoughts of self-harm.
12th September 2021 at 3:19 pm #131384ScapegoatParticipant
Thanks Eyesopening, what you have written completely makes sense and certainly resonate with my life/relationship. Can’t leave but can’t stay. Am in limbo
12th September 2021 at 10:35 pm #131411Grey RockParticipant
Wow Eyesopening. Your description of how you’re feeling and all those points described what I went through exactly.
Thanks. A lot of clarity for me.
13th September 2021 at 8:15 am #131413
I’m glad it helped, the points where just from online somewhere I can’t remember but I felt they were really were spot on.
This trauma bond, this is what makes it all so hard. This is what makes us feel crazy and alone, because the abuser is the only person who can make us feel better.
But we can get through it, it’s tough, but I think having a strong resolution before tackling it helped, this time I left I was thinking to myself: ‘thats it, no more, i cannot do this anymore and i am leaving 100% for good’. Then hold onto that, don’t falter. My brother likes to say ‘remember your on a war footing’ – have a good routine of self care, eating well, sleeping well’ ect.
After leaving It really helped to see it like sailing through a storm, you would be ok for a couple of days of calm-ish water, then the rough seas would come and you would just miss them and the trauma bond will be pulling you back, at those times you need to reach out to the people that love you and will validate you, to your support worker and to this forum. I needed so much validation, because you can’t trust your your emotions during this time. So after getting that validation, your seas will start to calm again. Then after a couple of days the whole process will start again, and again you need to reach out for that support.. but each time you go through it, you come out stronger. I have no idea how far out i am but I’m feeling a little bit stronger and more independent and its such a great feeling and i feel so much hope for the future. It’s such early days for me.
It’s important also to have no contact with that old world – the abuser and all that support him, i feel this is a new world and new life, that old world is a past life now, even with old friends that may only mention anything about the abuser. We have to protect ourselves from invalidating people who do not understand and may make you doubt yourself. I’m trying to only stick with my family, my support worker and here. Because no matter what, they support me and validate my experience. Other people may want to help, but i found even well meaning people can make me feel terrible if they do not understand abuse.
For example my friend the other day was invalidating my experience by telling me: but he says he never treated a women so well. This really set me back down those old paths of wondering if it was me. And again i needed that support. So for now i will distance myself from that person and actually, I’m kind of off the grid a bit. I had 4 days not looking at my phone and i made such great improvements over that time.
Long post but hopefully it may helpful
Lots of love x*x
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