Relationship Recovery Podcast

Trauma Bonding and How We Can Heal

February 06, 2022 Jessica Knight Episode 4
Relationship Recovery Podcast
Trauma Bonding and How We Can Heal
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Show Notes Transcript

Traumatic bonding is a strong emotional attachment between an abused person and his or her abuser, formed as a result of the cycle of domestic violence. 

If you are in a trauma bond, I personally believe that you saw the absolute best and the absolute worst of your partner. I am also sure his best was really good. I am sure it was sweet, kind, and raw. When you say you know who they really are inside, I know you mean it. 

But when we are in trauma we are not completely in reality.

A trauma bond convinces you that you are in love with your abuser. You will feel like he is your soulmate. That the mistreatment is not that bad. That he really loves you despite this mistreatment. That he means his apologies. That when he says he is trying to change, he is, and you are actually not noticing any of the changes he’s made.

This episode focuses on what a Trauma Bond is and how you can start to heal from it.

Teal Swan video mentioned:

Cycle of Abuse in Domestic Partnership:

Contact me:

Support the show

Website: Emotional Abuse Coach
Instagram: @emotionalabusecoach

{Course} Identify Signs of Abuse and Begin to Heal
{Free Resource} Canned Responses for Engaging with an Abusive Partner

Episode 4

Jessica: [00:00:00] My name is Jessica night, and this is the relationship recovery podcast. This episode is on trauma bonding, and it's going to be a lot. I'll warn you about that now. Um, I might break this up into smaller digestible episodes, but this is long, and this is a lot just as trauma. And I wanted to start with a quote that I thought would be helpful.

And then I realized that there was a Kara key line in it that I hated. So I likely will go on a quick rant, but I think it's important before we dive into this stuff,

the quote goes, you take their mistreatment as a challenge and staying as a Testament of how much you love them with honesty. When with [00:01:00] I just butchered that you take their mistreatment as a challenge and staying as a Testament of how much you love them. When honestly, it's just proof that you don't love yourself enough to walk away from someone who has already abandoned you.

The part of that, that really resonates with a trauma bond is the. You take their mistreatment as a challenge and staying as a Testament of how much you love that. The second half is the part I have an issue with. Don't love yourself enough to walk away. That's not true. That's not the issue. I hate the rhetoric on cell phone.

I hate the narrative of you have to love yourself before you can have anything or do anything or heal anything or love anybody, children like me who grew up in a home where it was normal for a parent to [00:02:00] tell you that what you think or what you believe. It means nothing that you will be nothing or have nothing, or do nothing.

They don't know how to love themselves. Every time they had a moment of confidence, they were told they were.

This either resonates for you or you find this to be alien. There really is no, in between,

as a kid, I felt like I was taught that trusting. What I think was false almost as if my thoughts were not real, because it was so dominating to be told how crappy of a person.

My sense of self was based on information from the outside world while, you know, getting nothing but invalidation of positive feelings,[00:03:00] 

telling somebody that they should love themselves or that they're with somebody because they don't love themselves or they stay because they don't love them. It's like, it's really fucking abusive. And it's really traumatic to hear when you are that person,

you have to take a step back and believe that

while some people may have been brought up in nurturing and approving homes that allowed their children to express themselves in their emotions. Those kids grow up with internal sense of self worth and trust within themselves that was supported and validated by their caregivers. When our first instinct is to tell someone that they need more self-love it can be very shaming and damaging, especially if they hear it from everyone else.

Every Instagram post, every self-help book, every sign in the bathroom. The abused and abandoned [00:04:00] child, the child is sitting there screaming. How, explain how the fuck, how and what does that even fucking mean?

Most people don't know how to build up their own self worth. And I've certainly had my own battles with that. And I did resent all of the words associated when it came to. And so when I was going through my healing, all I knew that was, I wanted to be able to trust myself, that's it. I wanted to be able to trust myself

and rant felt like that's important. Yeah. I'm not going to say more about that. I felt like that was really. Before we talk about something that is very deep.

If you are in a trauma bond, [00:05:00] I personally believe that you saw the absolute best and the absolute worst of your partner. I'm also sure that his best was really good. I'm sure it was sweet and kind and raw, even pure. And when you say you knew who they really are in the inside, I really fucking know you mean it, but I say this all the time that if somebody started off the relationship abusive, you never would have went out with them in the first place.

And so I will not be the one to tell you if you love them or not. Or if the love is real, I will tell you that if you continuously feel, you love the same person who is deeply hurting you, then it is very likely a trauma. A trauma bond convinces you, that you are in love with your abuser. You will feel like he's your soulmate.

You'll notice I'll use the word heal a lot. [00:06:00] And that is because I that's rather than saying he, she, they, the entire podcast, I choose to say he, but you can sub that out. What, whatever resonates with you,

but you will feel like he is your soulmate, that the mistreatment maybe isn't that bad. And you know, the real him that he really loves you, despite his Ms. Treatment, that he means his apologies and that when he says he's trying to change, he is, and you actually are not noticing any changes. And when I was in trauma bond, I could not separate reality from where things actually were.

It has been said that when you are in trauma, you are not in reality. And that is something that I really [00:07:00] struggled with understanding. I literally thought and felt this person was my person even went to psychics to have them affirm that. And it, it felt like an addiction. And I could not break it, no matter how much I hurt.

I just kept putting my hand on the stove and letting it burn over and over again. And when we would argue, or rather when he lashed out, I'd had this moment of clarity, even telling a friend, like, I feel like I saw this clearly for the first time and I would journal and be on my personal high horse for a day or so only to completely crumble when I didn't hear from him or when he was upset with me.

Honestly, usually due to my reaction to his abuse setting, boundaries just felt impossible for me. Not even for him, if he called and I didn't answer, I wondered what he think instead of what I felt or what I needed people would be like, why can't you just break [00:08:00] away? And I had no answer. The answer was, I don't know, but I can't right now it's so fucking.

I was so intertwined with his brain and what he thinks that I could not consider my feelings is valid

when I did set a boundary or boundaries. Finally, it didn't help that every boundary I did set was twisted or turned around. For example, I remember requesting time to sit with something, to think of something. He told me I was just being defensive and I was like, I'm not being defensive. Like this has been going on for a year and I just really need time to collect my thoughts and my brain.

And I will talk to you eventually soon. Probably like considering how fucking trauma bonded I am. I promote likely we'll talk to you within a day. And, uh, I was made to feel like that.[00:09:00] 

The term trauma bond was coined by a counselor by the name of Patrick Carnes. And it's defined as the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person. But in simple terms, it really means that traumatic bonding is a strong and emotional attachment between an abused person and his, or her abuse.

Formed as a result of the cycle of violence. And so before we go further, I want to take a second and address the cycle of violence for a domestic partnership, and just know I will cover more on this in another episode. And I also will post a link to a blog on the cycle of. In the show notes, because it is really complicated and this is just a very quick or view.[00:10:00] 

So it starts with the tension building phase and you feel like you are walking on eggshells and it just starts to feel like at any moment they may pop that's something that you could do something wrong. And then it goes to the incident face where the abuse actually has. Where you have a period of feeling all of the feelings that come with an abusive incident.

It could, you know, and most cases or most cases that I work with, and most cases that I've experienced in romantic relationships at least has been emotional. So there's, you're stuck in the confusion and you're stuck in all this shit. And then it's followed by the reconciliation period where they're apologies.

They love you. It didn't mean it. And then there's finally this little calm period, and that's what you become addicted to [00:11:00] because during this time you may feel, or due to things that happen in the relationship, you may think that you didn't remember the abuse correctly or that it wasn't, that. Or it's calm.

Now I can take a breath. I just can't, I can't handle it right now when it just gets worse and you just become accustomed to telling yourself it's not that bad

mixed with the signs of abuse that I discussed in episode three, especially gaslighting.

Um, Uh, question our own experience and our own sanity. And so just to back up a little bit, you know, and I, some of this was covered in episode three. Some of it was not, um, it will all be covered eventually, but like I said, [00:12:00] this is going to be a long one. There are seven stages to trauma bonding, one love, bond, love bombing, and that's when the.

That's when you're just showered with affection. You're told that there you're their soulmate. They might say, I love you very quickly. You're the best woman I've ever met. Nobody's ever been like you, I've never felt this way before. All of those things too, is trust independency. When you learn to trust and depend on them for things, maybe you didn't depend on them before or depend on anybody before.

Like feeling safe with your anxiety. They may tell you, you can talk to me about that. I'll be here for you being able to share intimate details of your life, or ask for help for things that you probably did by yourself.

Devaluing is when your emotions and your feelings [00:13:00] and your thoughts matter less than theirs. This is usually a really slow and painful process. It's almost like the slow drip coffee of just slowly over time. Things that matter to you start to be devalued, I'd pay special attention to how you actually feel about things.

Gaslighting is number four, which is discussed pretty in-depth in the last episode, I do believe my next episode will be out gaslighting. It's the being told that your memory and your thoughts. That's the most simplest version of it. It usually leads to self gaslighting where you two are telling yourself that your thoughts and memories are wrong.

And then control is number five. And this can be very overt in the ways in which that somebody could tell you what to do and where you should be and who you can hang out with and why you shouldn't hang out with them and consequences. If you do any of [00:14:00] those things, it also could be very cold. In which you don't even realize sometimes that you are doing things to keep the peace in the relationship.

Maybe you don't talk to somebody cause you know, they're going to be upset. You possibly don't bring something up that upsets you because you know, what's going to have a reaction. You may edit your behavior severely to prevent a lash out from the other. There's a lot of ways in which control takes place, which leads to number six, the loss of self, the loss of you, the loss of who you are, your friends may tell you something like, I don't even know who you are anymore.

You may feel like I don't even know who I am anymore. So the loss of who you are as you know, it. This is usually pretty painful because as you reach this [00:15:00] loss of self, you feel like I just want to feel like a person again, but I can't. And I, I can't in this relationship and I can't imagine not being in this relationship, but it's killing me.

And I'm still here,

which is seven leads to seven, which is the addiction. And this. This, I mean, this was very painful. It's extremely painful to be addicted to the hot and cold cycle to be addicted to these small breadcrumbs of love that you may receive or a text that you may receive, or he finally listened. You know, he finally heard you, you finally had a conversation, you felt like you made some ground you're addicted to.

You're addicted to the feeling of, of calm because you're caught in the cycle and that [00:16:00] like that brush, you know, that hormonal rush that you get when you can finally breathe, it is addicting. And that's why they say a trauma bond is an addiction. There is a one book I read, I don't remember the name of it, but, um, they mentioned that it could be as addictive as hell.

Because of the rush that you get as a result.

And so in order to kind of understand this a bit more, and right-size what this feels like for you. I was thinking back to what helped me understand that and what helped me feel good. Well, not good may made me, I guess, like rightsize my situation and TEALS won. Um, actually talks about this very clearly in a video.

And I will [00:17:00] post the video in the show notes. You can watch it, but before we start, I would like you to just keep in mind. Trauma bond is an addiction. The purpose of an addiction is to self sooth, a dysregulation within yourself. Discomfort. Dysregulation can mean a lot of things you can think discomfort, you could think unease, whatever that means for you.

So I'm going to paraphrase what she says. I want you to imagine that there's a laboratory and in the laboratory, there was a rat in the cage. The scientists in the lab are studying the behavior in one corner. Of the rat cage. There's a little lever. Every time that rat pushes on the lever, appellate a food comes out needless to say, the rat is preoccupied with pushing the lever and getting the pellets that come out every time he pushes the [00:18:00] lever.

So the scientists wonder what will happen if they remove the pellets, the rat pushes on the lever and eventually realizes it's not going to yield any pellets. So he soon loses interest with the lever and Priyanka preoccupies himself with other things. What these experiments had in common is that there was a predictable pattern in terms of expectation.

This is called conscious reinforcement in the first experiment. The pattern was I pushed the lever and expect a pellet to come out in. The second, the pattern was I'll push the lever and expect nothing to come out. So the scientists start to wonder what will happen if they make the pattern unpredictable, what happens?

If sometimes, but unpredictably, when the rat pushes the lever, appellate comes out and sometimes it doesn't. They imagined that the rat would become frustrated and eventually lose interest in the lover. [00:19:00] In fact, the opposite happened and this experiment again and again, each rat became absolutely anxiously obsessed with the lover and neglected all of its other grooming habits and started to deteriorate.

The rat was engaged in intermittent reinforcement experiment. And the intermittent reinforcement had created an addiction when the scientist first gave the rat intermittent reinforcement and then later gave him the continuous reinforcement of no pellets in response, and then pressing the lever. The rat stayed obsessed with the lover despite receiving.

The rod had grown accustomed to periods of time where no reinforcement was given. The intermittent reinforcement had created persistence in the face of resistance. Intermittent reinforcement applies to much more than just rewards and wanted things. [00:20:00] And so for the sake of the episode that TILs Swan did on this, she said, we are going to assume.

Intermittent reinforcement applies to things you want that are only granted, inconsistently unpredictably and occasionally, but conversely enforced inconsistently

unpredictably, and occasionally this causes people to become. And either become terrified about how to interact with the person, setting the rule or boundary or conversely, to push the limits until they get what they want from the person setting the rule or boundary intermittent reinforcement creates addiction.

If you are trauma bonded, you are likely in a relationship with intermittent reinforcement and this kind of relationship, the [00:21:00] things we need, like love are only granted in conditions. But the fact that they are granted occasionally keeps us really freaking hooked. We build up so much despair and starvation that when we get a single scrap, the relief experience by getting that scrap feels like the best thing.

And we chase that feeling and do everything we can do to get it. If you are in an intermittent reinforcement relationship, you are in an abusive relation. Whether or not the other person is consciously doing it. It is abuse.

The person in control often intermittently reinforces the partner only to a draw that reinforcement, like for example, they occasionally give their partner closeness in the beginning only to later deny them closeness completely. Despite the. Pleat withdrawal of reinforcement. The partner stays [00:22:00] and persistently tries to get closeness because they've already grown accustomed to periods of starvation.

And I've been trained that occasionally they do in fact, get the closest they want. So they're hooked on the hope that they will, and they push harder than ever for the closeness that occasionally got that they occasionally got in the past and that they may in fact, never actually got.

And this is what creates starvation within a person.

And you almost always, okay. I think you always see intervention and reinforcement in an abusive relationship. These relationships are so hard to walk away because it is not an, a relationship. This is in fact, like mostly.

It is an addictive relationship. And by walking away, the body is actually forced to go into [00:23:00] a draw, which I'm going to talk through a bit later, the person who is on the opposite end of the reinforcement will stay in the relationship, the Gerry eating desperately trying to figure out the pattern of reinforcement so that they can control the conditions of the relationship so that they can.

The thing they need or want from the partner to come out consistently mixing the analogies. For example, till Swan says, if I notice that I don't get any pellets, when the certain friend is around, then I will get rid of the friends so I can get pellets from my partner. The person on the receiving end may change everything about themselves and lose themselves completely.

Even if this doesn't feel like you, I imagine that you have all that everyone listening to this can think of one person that they know in their life. They get into a relationship, [00:24:00] they start to deteriorate. You rarely see them. And they adhere to the wishes of their partner. They do the things that they do.

They start to like new things and they start to mirror their part.

This is because on the other side of addiction, there is something you are desperate to avoid.

And I use the word dysregulation before to describe what addiction keeps us safe from. But on the other side,

Of the, of the addiction is basically is it could be abandonment. It could be fear could be financial worries. Chaim

actually being here.[00:25:00] 

You stay addicted and you can't let go because letting go means falling back into what you are desperate to avoid.

And if you're wondering, like why. The person on the other end would do this consciously or unconsciously that it's a desire to control, which also has roots in trauma. Um, when I was growing up, I had an eating disorder. I was anorexic. I was bulimic. I would overwork out overly work out. There's a lot of ways in which I used eating fitness and skinniness to control my reality.

And. It was because I felt so out of control of everything else. [00:26:00] And so that is rooted in my own trauma, desire to control is rooted in their trauma.

I've seen a lot of people who are trauma bonded fall into a codependent pattern, thinking that they can heal the other people. But it's, that's not your job. You will not be able to go to episode two and listen to that. And you'll start to understand why

controlling you is how they avoid their own shit is how they avoid looking at their own life. And they are the only person who. Figure out that they need healing and seek whatever that is to heal themselves.[00:27:00] 

And they may actually tell you that they're going to work on themselves, but this is just another way of reconciliation, which would be intermittent reinforcement to get you to the com. They have no actual intention of facing their issues. It's just promising. We'll make it seem like they are, it serves the relationship for you to stay hooked.

And if you are in this kind of relationship, and if all of this is resonating with you, you really need to ask yourself, is this person taking steps to change? Does this person. Care at all. When I tell them their behavior is abusive, if I've done that. And is this worth my time, [00:28:00] if it's going to take years for them to change for this to stop, is it worth the time

is really, really normal to miss the abuser. If we choose to. Everyone around. You may expect you to feel like angry or pissed off at them, but there's a really good chance. You're just going to miss them. And that you're going to need time to grieve. And I encourage you to only speak with friends who are supportive of where you are, the people who get frustrated you for missing him or not your people.

Right. You don't have to push them away, but I do encourage you to take a break from discussing this topic with them. And I encourage you to get a coach or a therapist that specifically works with this issue. It really helps when [00:29:00] somebody can understand what you're going through

and you will know. To carve out space to do that.

So how do you heal or how do you start to heal?

The first answer I'm going to give you is time. Time is the answer that nobody wants to hear. And certainly the answer I didn't want to hear. But the truth is that it's going to take time for you to deactivate. It's going to take time for you to calm down. It's going to take time for your body to regulate.

It's likely going to feel like you're going through a drug withdrawal. Um, when I was going through this, I remember feeling really, really fucking tired. I also got sick. Um, like I had like flu like symptoms [00:30:00] for three weeks. I lost my voice more than one. Um, I had no energy and I felt super depressed and I had actually forgotten that.

I learned that I would feel that way months before. And then when I finally like went through it, I, I also realized I was, I wasn't working less during this time to take care of myself. I was working more and I had to just pause. I had to be with myself with where I was. You are going to need to release.

You are going to need to cry it out, which is why I also recommend you get support, which is number two. Not all your friends are going to be helpful. I know. I just mentioned that it is important to say that again. I encourage you to treat it like an addiction and find friends that are going to meet you with no judgment, compassion and understanding.[00:31:00] 

With my clients. I like to set up a tea container to set up a time period that feels safe for them. So it could be a day or three days a week until their birthday, whatever it is. And I go based on what you want to try, not what I think and just to create a space in which we are trying on some new feelings we're trying on some new habits.

I will not tell you to block them if you're not. I will not give you any non-negotiables. My goal will be to help keep you safe emotionally. And it makes suggestions based on where you are. And based on what I know of emotional abuse and narcissism in, you may spend a few sessions with me or with somebody else feeling like you're rambling or that you're not processing.

But you are, you are a hundred percent processings. And I truly believe that [00:32:00] sometimes we need to talk out what happened to us to set ourselves free. And if you work with me, I also allow people to send me messages in between. You can even send me screenshots, um, if needed so I can help you respond in a way that protects you

three. Are going to need support in some way, and I encourage you to lean on social media. There are some really good groups out there that can help you on Facebook. And I can, if you email or go to Jessica Knight, and use the contact form and just say, can you send me the Facebook group link?

I'll send it back to you. Um, it's a private group, so you won't be able to find it, but there are a few out there. And if I have enough interest, I'll make one for just, my people are people that listen to [00:33:00] this podcast, but there are groups out there and I can make a few suggestions. It could it's sometimes it's really validating to see somebody saying the exact words.

You'd say there's also tons of resources on YouTube, like Dr. And. Um, and Tik TOK that can help immensely sometimes even just seeing others commenting that they've been through the same things will make you feel so much less alone. And so, so much less ashamed. I remember feeling like I carried so much shame for how long I stayed and understanding that others felt the exact same that I did allowed me to help set myself free.

Cause it didn't feel like I was alone. I felt incoming.

The social media groups can also be really good for realizing that abusers are not special. Um, they did not have something unique and irreplaceable your relationship. Wasn't unique and [00:34:00] irreplaceable. Like they're all the same. They all use the same Mo they all display the same patterns of behavior. They all have the same deficiencies and you can like knock them off the pedestal that they're on, especially at the peak of the addiction and remind yourself of reality.

I remember feeling like I needed to remind myself that it was never a matter of not being good enough for somebody. Nobody would ever be able to fill that void for him. And that came from reading comments on Facebook, number five, journal and unpack the journaling would support thinking alone can not get you through this.

You have to feel it. [00:35:00] You have to process. And you have to process what got you here. Remember when you are in trauma, you are not in reality, and it's important to have somebody that helps you get there. It's important to have somebody that reminds you of the pattern. You can write it out, you can use bullet points, you can scribble down, you can write down thoughts.

I don't care how you journal. I think it's really important that it just gets. Uh, view and onto paper, which brings me to the next one of writing out the abuse. You need to do this when you're ready. I could say that 16 times, you need to do this. When you feel ready. My suggestion to you is write out the first time that you felt abused and then make a title.

And then you're probably going to notice that there were [00:36:00] times before that time and just put them before, just write it down. When I did this, I had to create the scene for myself. So I had to set up, um, I remember like I completely cleaned my living room area. I moved all my daughter's toys out of the way.

And I sat down, I lit a candle that I had, like sitting around for awhile and I had all my stuff in front of me. All my books on abuse. I don't know why I felt like I needed to have them there, but I was like, I just felt supported by them. And then I wrote, literally wrote it out. I wrote out everything. It took a long time, but it felt really cathartic.

And almost as if I couldn't hide from it,

number seven, write out what a healthy person would do when you find yourself ruminating a healthy person. Would have been appalled to hear that they had abusive [00:37:00] behavior, healthy person would have listened to my feelings when I told them that I was upset,

a healthy person wouldn't have wanted me to be activated. They would have done anything to make me not as activated healthy person would have talked through my insecurity when I express. Things like that. It can go as far as a healthy person. Wouldn't speed. When they're pissed off healthy person, wouldn't lay their hand on me.

You got the jest. And if you don't, you can email me for that to eight.

Once we get through a lot of the feelings and we start to feel. You need to work on the thinking that you don't end up [00:38:00] back in abusive relationship, you'll have to reframe what you think on relationship. This is especially helpful to do in a coaching relationship. It's obviously helpful for therapy too.

You can do some of this work on your own if you're committed, but it's really healthy to write out what is, what do you even need? In a healthy relationship. What does out the relationship look like? You may find that you don't even know what a healthy relationship looks like.

And so I'm actually going to leave this there. I know that this was a longer one. It thank you for sticking. I hope this explains a bit more about what a trauma bond is and what you could be feeling.[00:39:00] 

I'll be honest and say that this feels incomplete to me. I don't know what about it feels incomplete exactly, but I'm sure I'm sure it will come to me and I'll be able to do another episode on it. Um, but if you need resources on anything. You can feel free to reach out to me. You are not alone. Like, I think you can probably tell listening to this one that I've definitely experienced this.

And I actually said to a friend yesterday that if I, if, if I didn't go through what I went through, I wouldn't have understood this. I wouldn't have been able to understand it. Like you really have to feel it to get it. Like other people just don't fucking get it. Like. I think this is one of those things that you really need to feel to really understand, to really show up with compassion and understanding to thank you.

You can reach out to me on [00:40:00] Instagram at Jessica Knight coaching. My website is Jessica and I And you can email me Jessica at Jessica net. Thank you.