Trauma bonding, also known as Stockholm Syndrome, happens in abusive relationships. It is when a person has an unnatural attachment to someone who abuses them. It sounds far fetched to many people, but it can happen. When a person suffers abuse yet that abuser periodically does acts of kindness for them, that can create a trauma bond. An example could be someone whose narcissistic parents were abusive his entire life, yet also bought him his first car, put him through college & gave him money without question any time he asked. Their generosity caused him to feel a bond to his parents in spite of the fact they abused him during childhood then continued to abuse not only him but also his wife & children.
Just because a person does something nice for you periodically doesn’t negate their abusive ways! Abuse is abuse, no matter what perks may come along with it, & anyone in an abusive relationship needs to keep this in mind.
There are some signs of trauma bonding that can help you to recognize if this is happening or has happened to you.
When in a relationship with someone you are trauma bonded to, that person comes first, period. If the abuser is a romantic partner, you feel addicted to them. If the abuser is a parent, they come first in your life, even above your friends, spouse, children, yourself & yes, even God. The trauma bond keeps that person the top focus of your life.
On those rare occasions they do something good or nice for you, you doubt yourself. You think you are just overreacting to the abuse. After all, they did this great thing, so they’re not all bad, right?!
When the abuser hurts you, you make excuses for their behavior rather than confront them. He had a bad day at work, or she just didn’t realize that saying that would be upsetting.
The abuser hurts you over & over, yet you continually try to please this person. No sacrifice is too great on your part, either. You will do anything for this person, no matter the personal cost or the cost to those who love you.
You become very self destructive. The abuser has trained you to think you’re a failure & you don’t deserve anything good, so you sabotage yourself in every way imaginable to meet their expectations. An example is you take jobs that you aren’t qualified for so when you get fired, the abuser can say, “I told you so.” Or, you become romantically involved with someone the abuser doesn’t approve of, so they tell you that person is awful, unfaithful, dragging you down, after your money, or other nonsense.
You have very damaged or even no self esteem because of this person’s abuse. You don’t believe you deserve respect or love. You believe you don’t have any value, & therefore will tolerate any manner of abuse & depravity this person wants to inflict on you. You are willing to compromise your morals & standards to please them.
If you see yourself in these signs, chances are you are in a trauma bond with an abuser. No matter who the abuser is, if at all possible, end the relationship immediately. You don’t deserve to be treated this way by anyone. You DO have worth & value! You matter! Protect yourself & end this relationship. Break the trauma bond, focus on your healing & live the good life that you deserve!
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