People caught up in a trauma bond are like flies caught up in a spider web. Sorry for the not-so-nice analogy. I actually despise spiders and have a less than healthy fear of them. Actually they terrify me! But back to the subject. It can seem impossible to get out of a trauma bond, especially with one’s emotional health intact. But who gets caught up in a trauma bond? Is it only people who aren’t smart enough to avoid it?
The answer to this is a resounding no! Surprisingly, smart people, educated people, rich people, literally all kinds of people can get caught up in a trauma bond. But while nearly everyone can be susceptible to a trauma bonded relationship (professional, personal, casual, or intimate), most emotionally healthy people will recognize this and do what is necessary to remove themselves and keep themselves safe from harm. But when people are not as emotionally healthy as they should be, they can inadvertently get caught up in a trauma bond and find themselves unable to get out.
In this article I want to share with you talk who those people are that find themselves stuck in a trauma bonding relationship and how my experience lines up with that. Then I will share some resources that turned my life around in the best of ways. And with that, let’s begin!
Table of Contents
Codependents Can Get Caught up in a Trauma Bond
Interestingly enough, you may start out as an emotionally strong partner in the relationship, complete with healthy boundaries. That speaks to the insidious nature of abuse and trauma bonding, especially in the case of covert narcissism or abuse. The abuser secretly whittles away your confidence and ability to think clearly over a long enough period of time that you never saw it coming or what it was doing to you. And often, you don’t even realize that you have taken on codependent characteristics.
The big difference in what happens next is how well you can keep and maintain your boundaries. If you hold your ground in spite of being made to feel that everything is your fault or your misunderstanding, you will be able to see things for what they really are and adjust accordingly. But when you begin to internalize the blame shifted onto you and the doubts growing in yourself, you can become codependent and choose to excuse and prolong the abuse rather than deal with it in a healthy way.
If you think you may be involved in a trauma-bonded relationship, click here for an article that shows you 25 of the signs of trauma bonding. You can read it to see if there is any correlation in your relationships. You can also take this test to see if you have trauma bonding tendencies.
People Under Someone Else’s Authority Can Get Caught up in a Trauma Bond
It seems that almost everywhere you go there is someone that is placed in a position of authority and they are not able to use that position wisely or responsibly. They use it to exercise power over others and to declare their authority to everyone within earshot. They lord their authority over others rather than using it to lead and guide others appropriately.
While this tends to be a problem, a trauma bond formed by someone in authority will be so much more insidious. This is because the abuser will work very hard to give the victim a false sense of trust, security, and safety.
They will go out of their way to be kind, encouraging the victim to go deeper in relationship with them. Then, when the victim is drawn in, the trauma bond begins. Because the relationship started off in such a good way, the victim will excuse the behavior. And then over time, they are excusing and taking the blame for much of the relationship turning sour. The trauma bond is now fully formed.
How the Victim of Trauma Bonding Gets Further Entrenched
Because the abuser exercises authority over the victim, walking away proves difficult. (For an article on many reasons why walking away is so hard, click here.) So the victim continues to excuse away the behavior and get more deeply entrenched in the trauma bond. They can be stuck there for decades! And worse, they often don’t even understand what is happening to them or how their abuser has used their authority over them to accomplish this trauma bond that keeps them trapped under the abuser’s thumb indefinitely.
In my case, I sat under my husband’s spell for over 30 years. I thought I was being a godly, submissive wife. I was actually enabling him to treat me like a doormat. And every time I questioned him or didn’t feel right, he threw the submission card at me. And I would very quickly fall in line.
That is NOT what the Bible means by submission. The husband is not supposed to rule over the wife with an iron fist. They are to serve together in life. And they serve each other. Unfortunately, my ex husband thought it meant he was the king and everyone was to bow to him. When we did not, there was hell to pay.
Those on the Downside of an Imbalance of Power Can Get Caught up in a Trauma Bond
There are several kinds of relationships that have an imbalance of power by means of the nature of the relationship. Parent/child, employer/employee, teacher/student, and other such relationships will always have an imbalance of power. And unfortunately, some people will always take advantage of that imbalance. (For an article that speaks about the types of trauma bonds, click here.)
Trauma bond relationships with someone who has significant power over you is a difficult task. Children cannot just walk away from parents. An employee can get another job, but not without much difficulty. And sometimes, employees actually can’t just pick up and move to the next job. For instance, if they have been on the job for many years already and retirement is on the horizon, they can’t just start over. And students can’t just declare that they are going to start working with another teacher.
It is the very issue of the inability to extricate oneself from the trauma bonded relationship that allows the abuser to keep on abusing their victim, knowing the victim cannot just leave when they’ve had enough.
What to do When You are on the Downside of a Power Struggle in a Trauma Bond
There are some things that they can do. Students as well as children of abusive parents can go to the school counselor or nurse or even a trusted teacher for help. Children of abusive parents can go to a trusted neighbor, although often they don’t because they honestly just don’t know who to trust. Sadly, not being able to trust your own parents tends to put a damper on trusting anyone.
And finally, an employee who is having issues with an abusive employer or supervisor can go to human resources IF the human resources department can be trusted to do the right thing. Often the chatter in the office will help the victim to know if they will get the help they need. But many places don’t have a human resources department.
If getting out of a trauma bond was easy, people wouldn’t be trapped. It will be hard. But pursuing healing in the adversity will be the one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. And when you get to the other side, you will be a new person!
To read more about how to break a trauma bond, click here.
People Who Have Been Previously Abused Can Get Caught up in a Trauma Bond
If you have been previously abused in any relationship and have not gotten the help you need to heal, the chance of getting caught up in a trauma bond increases dramatically. This makes healing critical to all of your future relationships (for more on how trauma bonds affect future relationships, click here). Often, women will go from one husband to the next, not understanding why they keep on attracting narcissists. They don’t understand why their kindness isn’t reciprocated with kindness, but instead, they are used, victimized, and thrown away time and again.
Without the proper healing, this pattern can repeat itself forever. Children who are raised in abusive homes often grow up to be abused spouses in their adult homes. The only way to emerge from this pattern is to learn how you are making yourself a target of abusers and how to protect yourself from future harm.
Getting the counseling you need, leaning on healthy friends, reading the right books and materials, and setting healthy boundaries will all help you to gain the strength and wisdom you need to make sure your relationships are healthy going forward.
A Realistic Look at Healing From a Trauma Bond
Doing all of these things won’t guarantee you perfect relationships. We are all flawed people, no matter how much we learn about how to relate to others in healthy ways. But it will assure you overall healthy relationships. You will find peace, satisfaction, and even better physcial health when you embrace appropriate ways to relate to others.
It is also a bit of a long-haul type of healing. It doesn’t happen overnight. And it is different for everyone in scope and time frame. Often, withdrawal symptoms of the trauma bond rear their ugly head. Those must be dealt with as soon as they pop up. To learn how to recognize and deal with trauma bonding withdrawal symptoms, click here.
Nearly two years into my healing process, my pastor and several friends told me that I was a totally different person. I stood taller, my face had an aura of peace and relaxation about it and had more color, and I looked rested for the first time in years! Just know, it may take some time to come out of it, but you will be so glad when you do!
Have you emerged from a trauma bond? How did it go? How long did it take? Are you still struggling? Do you know someone who has been through all of this? I would love for you to share in the comments below. As always, if you don’t feel safe commenting publicly, feel free to share by contacting me here.
Love and hugs!
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