Trauma Bonding

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    Trauma bonding was a term first used by Patrick Carnes. Also referred to sometimes as Stockholm Syndrome, it is commonly associated with the submissive and loyal relationship that can sometimes develop between a hostage and their kidnapper. However the term actually refers to a wide range of emotions and reactions in any relationship where there has been some form of trauma through abuse or neglect over a period of time. It can be a form of learned helplessness, where there is a belief on the part of the victim that nothing will lead to positive change or freedom. It can be found in in a wide range of situations such as child abuse, domestic violence, spiritual abuse, human trafficking and so on.

    The actual term ‘trauma bonding’ refers to the attachment the victim of abuse forms towards the abuser and it comes in many shapes or forms. For example a child who was loved conditionally, who had to rely on a controlling parent for shelter, survival and safety as an adult may still submit their autonomy to that parent just to avoid feeling hurt by a negative reaction. For someone who was raised in such an environment it can be difficult to recognise the parent as being neglectful or abusive as they aren’t always so.  The same parent could buy nice gifts, is fun and charming, protective and at times generous.

    When trauma bonding occurs it’s usually due to a threat, whether perceived or real, of harsh treatment interspersed with periods of kindness and positive regard, ‘It’s for your own good’, ‘You know it makes sense’ and various forms of emotional blackmail. It can lead to a false sense of powerlessness over the situation, being dependent on the abuser for everything. Victims form negative perceptions of themselves and are uncertain of their own opinions and feelings. They may even a develop a belief that personal boundaries are selfish so it is impossible to say no or disagree.

    The bonding can be what causes the strong feelings of loyalty towards the abuser, to the point where the person feels dependent on and will choose to stay with them and even actively defend them. In some cases it could be that the abuse or neglect is perceived as normal, or is their own fault. One way or another they are unable to view the situation in any way other than how they’ve been taught to.

    Although it can happen to someone at any age in any unhealthy relationship, in cases where a child has grown up and left a home where there were abusive, neglectful or controlling parenting they may find themselves wanting to return, unable to free themselves from the negative experiences, especially if faced with autonomy and positive regard in a loving relationship with another person. Trauma bonding often results in a victim being unwilling to seek or accept outside help from others, often as this might involve having to disclose or highlight an abusers behaviour. Some will go to great lengths to avoid doing or saying anything that may hurt the abusers reputation.

    It can be difficult being in a relationship with someone who has trauma bonded with another. More information on this next week.

    #traumabonding #co-dependency

    This article was written by sentientcounselling

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