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The Trauma Bond — 15 Comments

  1. Two words: cognitive dissonance.

    I believed the following things about Bob’s father:

    * I was the “only one” that understood Victor
    * I could help Victor reach his true potential
    * There was “good” in Victor that was simply hidden
    * I would make Victor feel safe and loved
    * I would provide Victor with the sense of “family” that I believed he desperately needed
    * Victor would love and appreciate me if I sacrificed enough to see all of the above come true

    Because of my OWN core-issues, I was a “perfect” victim, and remained so until this very day. I am working hard to EXIT that status of perpetual victim so that my vulnerabilities can never, ever be exploited, again. Now, that’s not to say that I won’t be exploited…..LOL…..but, sorting out my own issues will help me to prevent myself from making choices and decisions based upon fear and shame-core issues.

    GOOD article, Joyce! Thanks for posting this.

  2. Here’s wiki’s definition of cog/dis

    In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort experienced when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions. In a state of dissonance, people may sometimes feel “disequilibrium”: frustration, hunger, dread, guilt, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, etc.[1] The phrase was coined by Leon Festinger in his 1956 book When Prophecy Fails, which chronicled the followers of a UFO cult as reality clashed with their fervent belief in an impending apocalypse.[2][3] Festinger subsequently (1957) published a book called A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance in which he outlines the theory. Cognitive dissonance is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

    The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements.[1] Cognitive dissonance is the distressing mental state that people feel when they “find themselves doing things that don’t fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold.”[4] A key assumption is that people want their expectations to meet reality, creating a sense of equilibrium.[5] Likewise, another assumption is that a person will avoid situations or information sources that give rise to feelings of uneasiness, or dissonance.[1]

    Cognitive dissonance theory explains human behavior by positing that people have a bias to seek consonance between their expectations and reality. According to Festinger, people engage in a process he termed “dissonance reduction,” which can be achieved in one of three ways: lowering the importance of one of the discordant factors, adding consonant elements, or changing one of the dissonant factors.[6] This bias sheds light on otherwise puzzling, irrational, and even destructive behavior.

    for the full definition go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    Thanks for bringing up the cog dis Truthy…yea that Jennifer Martel gal had it all and paid for it with her life. With a little help from his parents protecting and enabling him. That guy is a HUGE BRUTE. I saw the photos of him and went OMG!!!

    • Joyce, having survived the first exspath, I can completely identify with all nuances of domestic violence.

      Then, there’s the “emotional investment” that most victims use as a convenient and handy excuse to AVOID the facts: it’s NEVER going to “get better.”

      There are so many facets to such situations that it’s a miracle (literally) that ANYONE gets out of an abusive or sociopathic entanglement, at all.

      What is skeery about this article is that the photograph of the murderer looks amazingly like Mike – huge, tattooed, and shaven-headed to present the most intimidating and imposing figure imaginable.

      There is something NOT right about men and women who feel the need to do this to their bodies JUST as much as the men and women who become 480 lbs. Something is “broken” within their psyches, and these uber-bodybuilders concern me.


  3. Truthy, especially when they use steroids which fark with their minds as well. If they are already high in psychopathic traits and you add in the “roid rage” along with the “superhuman strength” that the muscle building gives, then you are in for a big bad time.

    As for the tats, I personally don’t like them, but that’s my personal opinion. It is fad and fashion and I don’t think people realize how it makes them look, and many times they cover themselves so much that the chance of a job of any kind except manual labor is out of the questions. Yes, it is their right to decorate their skin anyway they want but you know, it isn’t attractive to me. Especially the ones who tat their face and every inch of skin.

    As for morbid obesity, that’s also a life style choice, and not an easy one to over come. It is only with dedication and hard work that it can be done. Just the few pounds I needed to lose and the change in diet (low sodium) that I had to make was difficult for me, so I can see that losing huge amounts of weight would be a daunting task. Being a nicotine addict and a salt-a-holic was bad enough. LOL

  4. Joyce, there is a terrific explanation of what trauma bonding is:

    The common theme to me is that most victims of domestic violence and abuse have experienced previous traumas – like being raised in a dysfunctional environment. This makes sense to me because the child raised in a dysfunction literally has no frame of reference to what “normal” dynamics are. This is true for me, personally.

    An interesting line in this article says it in a nutshell:
    “Trauma bonding, a term developed by Patrick Carnes, is the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person.” It states that it is the MISUSE of every emotional and physical interaction to cement a relationsh*t. This also makes sense to me.

    How many of us were lured with the bait of pity? The toxic individual just can’t seem to get a break in life, right? With a romantic relationsh*t, it’s pity, then sex, then lovebombing, then devaluation, then the discard. The POWER that “bonding” has cannot be understated, IMHO.

    I was talking to someone a while back about how they missed an abusive partner – NOT the abuse, of course, but the way that the abuser was able to provide things to them that they needed, like attention or comfort. This individual’s history is fraught with absolute and unadulterated abuse, on every level, and the ATTENTION that this person perceived as genuine from their abuser is still pervasive, today. They honestly and truly believe that the abuser was genuine when the attention was given and the victim cannot wrap their head around this one Rule Of Stockholm:
    ***An absence of abuse is perceived as an ACT OF KINDNESS.”

    An abuser cannot maintain their devaluation, constantly – it requires a tremendous amount of energy and attention. Even an abuser has to take a break from their activities, right? So…………in every case of long-term abuse exposure, the victim was BOUND to their abuser via tragedies, emergencies, and in-general Life’s experiences, but that bond is so much more pronounced because of the childhood traumas that were never resolved and the false perception that there are “good things” about the abuser that cannot be ignored.

    This should be the mantra of EVERY human being that is in recovery:
    “An absence of abuse is NOT an act of kindness.”

    I can attest to this perception, personally, with regard to the second marriage. I was not hit or raped. It was a completely different type of setup, and the ABSENCE OF ABUSE was perceived as an ACT OF KINDNESS. I had no concept of what this truly meant until the discard process. I had never, under any circumstances, NOT lived in an abusive or dysfunctional environment during my entire life. So…….that was the wake up call, for me.

    Strict aside, here: I’m a nicotine addict, to be sure. Salt? To some degree. Sugar? Ohmigawd, you bet.

  5. In reading your other posts today I kind of flashed on “trauma bonding” being like the INTERMITTENT REWARDS that B. F. Skinner showed with animals. You start out with a “love bomb” with the animal, giving it a reward every time it performs the “trick” or behavior you want. Then you skip a reward once in a while, then you give it a reward, then skip two rewards, until you are giving it NO rewards, or just one every now and then. That works like a SLOT MACHINE rewarding the individual with a pay out every now and then, but on the whole, fewer pay outs…but the animal/human just keeps on with the BELIEF THAT THE NEXT TIME THERE WILL BE A PAY OFF. I have spoken before about the slices of bred and my donkeys.

    I think the “trauma bond” in humans is what Skinner was seeing in animals with intermittent food rewards. I think that is why slavery worked and most slaves didn’t try to escape. It was alternating rewards of food etc versus the periodic beatings…= trauma bonding.

    Of course there are those who do try to and succeed in escaping. But the majority don’t even try to escape, but try to appease the abuser, equating lack of abuse with kindness.

    I think, just my OPINION, that some of us are TRAINED to be trauma bonded, but there is also some BIOLOGICAL input as well, some of us are more succeptible to it than others. Just as dogs are more prone to trauma bonding than cats. Beat up on a cat and it is not going to be loyal to you, it will escape if it can. Beat up on a dog and it will come crawling back, loyal to the death.

    I’m still an easy mark for the love bomb, but the thing is that I realize that now and I watch out for it, see it as a red flag to avoid.

  6. Truthy, in rereading the article I noticed this sentence

    Moreover, experiencing together extreme situations and extreme feelings tends to bond people in a special way..

    I had noticed that living through a disaster brings people closer and keeps them closer than living through the “good times” together years ago. I didn’t at the time realize what it REALLY MEANT though until lately.

    Those people that I have lived through the greatest trauma with are those that I am closest to rather than those that I’ve been friends with during the good times of my life.

    I think the aircraft crash and the trauma from Patrick is why my son Michael and I are so bonded together, we have lived through all the trauma together.

    It has been noted by researchers that children from abusive and dysfunctional families tend to be closer to each other than children from functional families. The trauma bond is there for them, and I see it in the 3 children (now all over 50) of my uncle monster. They were bonded by the trauma of their father.

    Interesting concepts and worth ruminating over some more. Thanks again for that link, Truthy. I think I will put it up as a link on FA.

    • Joyce, the interesting thing about the trauma-bond is that, no matter who the people are to one another PRIOR to the trauma, they are aligned, forever, BY those shared experiences. Those people are the only ones who actually “share” the experience on a visceral level. Other people might sympathize, empathize, and present compassion, but they do not have that personal frame of reference that the other people have with one another.

      In my situation with Victor, there were injuries, accidents, and ongoing illnesses that kept the level of drama high, at all times. Regardless of what a pr*ck he was, he was “there” when I broke bones, etc. Combine that with a crippling shame-core, and I felt GUILTY and ASHAMED for even thinking that his behaviors were “wrong” or abusive!

      Trauma-bonding is powerful business and can have a self-sustaining energy all it’s own. Like the hostages in the Stockholm bank robbery, they all shared the same experiences and – all associations with the criminals, aside – each one could only identify with the other hostages. Survivors of mass shootings like the one at Sandy Hook cannot find others who can identify with their trauma. LCSW and psychologists “understand” the mechanisms of trauma and the trauma-bond, but they cannot “identify” with it on a personal, individual level unless they’ve experienced their own trauma.

      Crazy stuff, right?

  7. One of the reasons combat veterans are so close is the shared trauma, or hostages, or survivors of something like Sandy Hook, or a storm, it is the shared experience of the trauma.

    My son Michael and I are trauma bonded due to all we have been through together. In a way I’m very grateful for that bond. I’ve often said that “we are like two one-legged men, as long as we hold on to each other, we can stand upright.”

  8. Joyce, I wanted to bring this article back up because I believe that understanding trauma bonding and the dynamics of it might be of some help to anyone who’s lurking and wondering how they can take the first step to save themselves.

    Trauma is a relative term – everyone experiences it, and most people are able to survive it and recover. Individuals who experience extreme trauma (train collision, combat, etc.) experience a sudden alteration of everything that they are and believed. Those who were raised in a family of dysfunction were never taught how to process trauma, but to expect it as a “normal” daily event.

    In situations of domestic violence and/or abuse, the trauma bond is insidious and involves a persistent and continuous barrage of crazy-making behaviors, passive/aggressive behaviors, and physical violence. Even when the victim recognizes that their situation is toxic and even dangerous, they have been dismantled and reconstructed by their abuser to believe that they are NOT WORTHY of anything better. For those of us who came from childhood dysfunction, we already believed this to be true, and the abuser only manages to solidify that faulty belief into a false truth.

    I remained with Victor for over 14 years. His abuse began even before we agreed on a legal, binding contract of marriage. I SO wanted to “Be The One” that could “help” this broken man reach his true potential, that I chose to believe his words over that of anyone else’s. I became entirely dependent upon him for my personal validation, approval, and acceptance. This is how the childhood trauma served to make me into the “perfect victim” for him, and any other disordered person that came across my path.

    Before I had recovered from my relationsh*t with Victor, I jumped into another abusive relationsh*t that was insidious and a very long-con, as I’ve typed about countless times. Once that situation was done, I actually began my personal journey of healing and recovery.

    The most important thing for any survivor of domestic violence and/or abuse to understand, acknowledge, and accept is that we MUST recover, first, before even considering another companion or partner. We MUST teach ourselves sound and solid facts, rewired our methods of thinking, and reconstruct our boundaries and systems of beliefs to reflect facts, truths, and self-protection/preservation, FIRST, before allowing anyone into our inner circles.

    When we learn to rely upon ourselves, our own judgement, our instinct, our resourcefulness, and our personal boundaries, we will then have the savvy to see a potentially toxic situation and walk away from it without guilt, shame, anger, and/or resentment. This is the ultimate goal: to live our lives under our own power with beliefs and views that are based upon FACTS and not FEELINGS. We learn to keep our mouths shut and not give any personal information or history away that could give someone an in-road beyond our boundaries. We learn to say, “No,” without feeling shame or guilt that we are “bad people” for putting our own best interests, FIRST. We learn that it’s “okay” to walk away from any toxic situation, without guilt or shame, regardless of what the “potential” of the association might mean. We learn how to feel empathy without allowing ourselves to base our actions and decisions upon that empathy.

    You’ve typed this over, and over, but it can never be repeated enough: we start our healing and recovery learning about THEM and what THEY did, and enter into a realm of who WE are, what WE allowed, and how to recover ourselves.

    • Just to clarify about starting a “new” relationship after ending one with a spath, TIME is required to heal and recover. There is no other way to slice or dice this fact: 2 years, minimum, before beginning a new relationship with someone after ending a toxic relationship.

      “But, Truthspeak, I’m lonely and he/she is so NICE to me,” I’ve actually heard more than a few people say in defense of their decision to begin intimate relationships before they’ve healed and recovered. My answer to that is simple: one doesn’t sustain a compound fracture to their femur (thigh bone), and just start running up a mountainside. When we escape from a traumatic relationship, it is similar to sustaining a compound fracture – bone is shattered and pierces through the skin, leaving the wound open to infection and the possibility that the site will never heal, properly.

      Surviving and recovering from an abusive relationship is the same thing – the abuser has broken (literally, and figuratively) their victim down on every level: sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, psychological. There is no SUDDEN recovery from just leaving such a situation – it takes time and patience to rebuild and recover.

      Subsequently, starting relationships with anyone who is just out of their own toxic relationship is a VERY unwise choice. I will not date, period. It’s that simple. However, if I were going to consider dating, I would not date someone who was separated, EVER. Nor, would I date someone who was recently divorced, either. I’m confident enough, at this point in my healing and recovery, to say, “No, thank you. I’m fine on my own.”

      I will never, again, allow myself to be used, abused, discarded, and destroyed as I have in the past. And, this includes non-romantic associations, as well. If someone presents that they are toxic, needy, or manipulative, I’m out.

  9. A recent media swarm about a football player knocking his then fiance unconscious was found on video and published all over the net and print media…resulting in the man being fired. An article today surfaced showing the now wife defending her husband’s behavior and blaming the media for making a “big deal” out of it.

    This is so sad and is a perfect example I think of trauma bonding. Here is part of the headlines and the link to this story.

    ‘This is OUR life and we will show the world what real love is’: Ray Rice’s wife DEFENDS the man who knocked her out cold and blames the media for ’embarrassing’ them

    The wife of ex-NFL star Ray Rice has released a statement the day after her husband was sensationally fired for beating her unconscious
    Previously unseen security video footage was leaked on Monday which showed Rice punch his wife in an Atlantic City elevator in February
    Janay Rice, 26, called the renewed attention and her husband’s sacking as a ‘horrible nightmare’
    She defended her husband and professed her love for him, calling Rice ‘the man I love’
    Also attacked the media for ‘taking our happiness away’
    Nike has cut ties with Rice and computer game developer EA Sports is removing him from Madden NFL 15
    Baltimore Ravens tweeted on Tuesday that fans will be able to exchange Rice jerseys at stadium stores

    By David Mccormack for MailOnline

    Published: 08:12 EST, 9 September 2014 | Updated: 12:02 EST, 9 September 2014



    View comments

    The wife of Ray Rice, the Ravens running back sensationally fired on Monday after new video evidence emerged of him beating her unconscious in February, has broken her silence to speak out in support of her husband.

    Janay Rice, 26, posted a statement on her (now-private) Instagram account on Tuesday morning in which she professed her love for her husband and then condemned the media for their coverage of the whole incident which she called a ‘horrible nightmare’.

    ‘I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I’m mourning the death of my closest friend. But to have to accept the fact that it’s reality is a nightmare in itself,’ she wrote.


    • Joyce, I remember seeing this on the news a while back, and I was just dumbstruck that the woman-in-question who had been knocked unconscious in that elevator and dragged out by her abuser like some kind of refuse actually married that man.

      They apparently engaged in counseling, together, and she was “confident” that he had made changes. The problem is this: abuse is not only at an epidemic proportion, but it is being excused, encouraged, and even made a status of celebrity.

      I recently discontinued my satellite service for a number of reasons, with one of the main ones being that there is absolutely no acceptable programming, of note. What were once networks that were centered around history, learning, and science have dissolved into airing programs that literally espouse stupidity, horrid behaviors, and some of the most unseemly behaviors recorded as “entertainment.” It’s no wonder that violence has become acceptable with programs like “Jersey Shore” and “Bad Girls Club” airing.

      Additionally, our culture has elevated sports personalities to the level of gods. They are adored, overpaid, and worshiped as if they were immortals, and they are “allowed” and forgiven to behave in the most depraved, debauched, and violent manners imaginable. And, their consequences consist of sitting out games.

      This story made me literally sick to my stomach, and I cannot understand WHY this jackass was given any attention, whatsoever. We should all be outraged. Eugh….

  10. Truthy, I DC’d my cable 10 years ago, I get broadcast TV about 6 channels and there are a FEW (about 5 or 6 hours a week) that I watch plus news sometimes and weather. That’s about it. When my kids were pre teen I did not have TV on purpose for 7 years and it was great. We read and played games etc. instead of vegging out.

    Yea, I also read where a boxer’s wife/GF has charged that he abused her at gun point and other ways, literally held her hostage. I agree with you that sports figures are like “gods” in the minds of too many people. Reminds me of the gladiators in the Circus in Rome who were lavished with all kinds of perks (until they died) and like the NFL players who are damaging their bodies and brains as they play, they too will die or lose their minds because of their time in the “circus” Ii guess this aspect of sports stars being “gods” (ior a t least thinking that the rules don’t apply to them) isn’t anything new. I agree with you about the LACK of uplifting entertainment on the tube or even the good dramas, there is too, WAY TOO MUCH, gore, violence and smut and like “Jerry Springer Show” it is glamorized and normalized and accepted.

    I see evidence of much abuse by sports, music and media stars even up to and including murders. There is also plenty of evidence that political “stars” are corrupt…look at the Mayor of New Orleans, going to prison this week for 10 years for corruption after Katrina, governors and their wives on trial for being bribed…and I think that is just the tip of the ice berg. I think 99% of the corruption is not even widely known much less prosecuted.

    But hey, when Cain killed Abel there was no twinky defense, no TV no media and n o peer pressure….I think people just have a tendency to violence, so maybe that is “normal” and the rest of us are the ABBYNORMAL ones (reference to movie Young Frankenstein) LOL

  11. You know the “maligiant” hope I was talking about earlier goes along with the trauma bonds we form to our abusers where we cannot bear to think of life if we are separated from this abuser.

    Watch SVI Law and Order, and this week’s show was ab out a little girl kidnapped at age 10 and kept in a dungan for 10 years by her abuductor as a sex slave killed him and escaped when she was 20…the main detective Olivia found her and in the interview the girl said the reason she killed him was that he had told her she was now too old and that she needed too go find a little girl for him. She was IN LOVE with this man, a TRAUMA BOND and she was ashamed of herself, like it was all her own fault she was kidnapped at age 10.

    Of course some “kidnappings” that result in trauma bonds are not strangers or even family members grabbing a child or person and hiding them in a dungeon, My kidnapping happened when I opened my eyes and the doctor told me I had gtiven birth to another baby boy. I was hooked right from the start! It took me nearly 35 years to escape and it wasn’t easy because I did hang on to the false hope and became trauma bonded to him and thought I couldn’t live without him.

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