Trauma bonding in relationships is more common than we think.
If you dated someone with a narcissistic, borderline, histrionic or antisocial personality disorder or have been exposed to abuse, you will likely experience trauma bonding.
It’s a term thrown around but often with little understanding about what it means and how to treat it.
To recover from trauma bonding in relationships, we must understand what causes the trauma bond to use the right tools to break it.
Trauma bonding in relationships is the brain chemistry of addiction and obsession.
let’s look at what happens to cause trauma bonding
Trauma bonding in relationships happens when we are exposed to intermittent reinforcement.
It’s the Up/down – push/pull – reward/punishment that the abuser creates by using charm, high intensity, the compliments, and fun they create to give us a huge spike in dopamine, the reward hormone.
It feels great. It’s fast, intense, and feels fantastic.
High dopamine levels are also associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and we go into a temporary state of obsession where we can’t stop thinking about this person.
The abuser also tends to use sex to draw and keep us, releasing oxytocin, the trust, and bonding hormone, making you trust them more than you should and emotionally attached.
Now you are set up for the significant fall and their control.
Suddenly there will be a dramatic change where you get discarded, get the silent treatment, or get exposed to blame, guilt or attacks.
They are at random and come out of the blue. Intermittent and unpredictable.
Their responses are totally out of proportion to anything that happened, and you can’t make any sense of it.
So, you start to feel anxious and fearful of losing this person who gave you the feel excellent dopamine and oxytocin, and you now associate them with being your feel-good drug.
They are the only ones who can relieve the anxiety and fear, so you try to please them even more.
You start to neglect your boundaries and need to avoid the pain.
They continue to switch and go from the love-bombing and affection to sudden drama, rage, or silent treatment.
This causes the up and down in hormones like drug addiction, and the same parts of your brain become active.
You become addicted to them. They become your drug.
The fear and anxiety cause adrenalin and cortisol to flow more, which shuts down your logical thinking and disturbs memory integration. Hence, you become easier to manipulate and control.
They mix in a little gaslighting (We will cover this more in another video/post), so you doubt your perception and become even more receptible to them.
The narcissist is an expert at creating the trauma bond as they are so charming, fun, stimulating, and shower you with compliments (Love-bombing) and get intense very fast.
They often talk about future commitments very fast, too, as that gets you emotionally invested in this fantasy future that you later hold onto when they show their narcissistic abuse.
This all hooks you in before they turn abusive, and once they do something called cognitive dissonance, which means your brain struggles to hold two opposite and contradictive views of the same person, make you minimize and forget their abuse.
You hold onto the illusion of the fake kindness and affection they showed you initially, as your brain can’t comprehend that this lovely person is an abusive, self-absorbed person with no care or empathy for you.
It’s so hard to comprehend for a neurotypical.
They are not like us.
Part of letting go of the addiction is to accept that the person you want back and fell in love with is not real.
It was an act to use and abuse you. It’s so cruel that it’s hard for our brain to accept, but until you do, you will be stuck in the dangerous illusion that you can somehow get this great person back.
You can’t because they never existed.
Now the question is, what’s the road map for trauma bonding recovery.
The good news is we have a lot of research on how to deal with trauma, so we do have a framework for healing and rediscovering your joy, and I work with people all the time doing this in my coaching and through my online program.
Firstly, I want to say, SLOW DOWN to avoid this happening again. Don’t rush to sex because it floods your brain with oxytocin, so you can’t make sound judgments anymore.
Don’t rush to invest as they prey on speed and intensity. SLOW EVERYTHING DOWN.
You will see the warning signs I teach you in my online course if you do.
To recover from trauma bonding in relationships, we must treat it as an addiction.
You can expect up to 90 days of withdrawal where you feel rubbish, and in that time, you are likely to obsess about them and want to go back when you feel low.
You must block the narcissist.
Get a therapist or coach to support you. Get a support group where you can share and get support for others, and most importantly, have a support person you can call when you feel love and want to unblock the narcissist.
Then you need to replace the dopamine and oxytonic that have crashed upon the discard, and you can do this in many ways.
Some ideas for dopamine are setting tiny goals you want to achieve so you see little progress daily.
Meditation, supportive social contact, and doing some hobbies you enjoy are all good ways.
Oxytocin can be replaced by having eye contact with people you care about and hugs.
Get a massage weekly from a massage therapist.
Replace the narcissistic drug with a healthy prescription of natural stimulating dopamine and oxytocin without the abuse.
We also have to reduce adrenalin and cortisol stress hormones, and you can do this best through exercise.
Why not combine exercise and being social you reduce stress and get so dopamine and oxytocin in the perfect cocktail.
I have plenty of detailed ways to recover in the online course and my coaching.
These are just some quick and simple ideas.
Part of what makes us feel pain and lack of safety and the struggle to recover is that we doubt our perception because we have been gaslighted.
When we don’t trust our judgment, the world is a scary and painful place.
Learning to trust your own experience again is a critical part of trauma bonding recovery, and once you do, you will feel a sense of calm and peace.
The most significant part of trauma bonding recovery is integration, and it’s processing memory in a way that takes it out of trauma response and stores it correctly.
This is how we let go.
I explain this process in detail in my online course and coach people through this in my coaching, and the results are incredible.
Our brain is a beautiful organ that can cause us pain and incredible joy.
To learn more about how to recover, check out the online program here.
Individual support and being seen, heard, understood, and made sense of what happened can speed up the recovery significantly and get you back to your best self, feeling safe, confident, and joyful again. For individual support, you can book a free consultation here.