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Trauma Bonding – Break Free From The Chains

Written by: Jay Thalman, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Jay Thalman

Far too many relationships carry a weight that goes beyond the ordinary ups and downs. These relationships become entangled in a web of emotional attachment and psychological manipulation known as trauma bonding. This generally starts from a significant event of abuse or stress, and a cycle of toxic behaviors begins and the feeling of dependency on the partner starts to form. Recognizing the signs and understanding the effects is critical to break free from the damaging patterns and move forward with a healthier, more fulfilling life and relationship.

man in white shirt holding a mirror standing in front of a woman

An easy-to-understand example of a trauma bond is one that many children experience with dismissive, abusive, and or neglectful parents show. The children that claim to love their mothers, or fathers, all the time, try to please them every second, claim to be their best friend, believe they have an amazing family, and find almost no fault in the parent because they are trauma bonded. ‘Trauma’ because they are being rejected, abused, abandoned, etc. which is debilitating and scary since children depend on their parent(s)to survive, and ‘Bonded’because the bond is blocking awareness of the level of injury that the parent(s) behavior/attitude is causing. This often leads to the child believing there is something wrong with them rather than understanding the parent isn’t showing love or respect to them. Another example is when a wife or husband gets battered but never calls the police or asks for help. Rather, they believe their spouse takes these negative actions as a way to demonstrate some type of love. Jealousy is perceived as a demonstration of care and interest, and that bond then creates an illusion of a good marriage when the outbursts are absent. The most common scenario is a spouse of a narcissist. The spouse is deeply in love and feels their partner needs to be protected and saved and will devote themself to help the narcissist to become a better person because of the potential they see. This presents a false-positive of love and is often discovered to late, and by this time the trauma bond has been formed. There is often a deep level of denial in a trauma bond relationship, and a high level of dissociation. The abused person stops thinking about it and becomes numb to the abuse by not feeling, not seeing, and not registering what is happening. They can become convinced of a different reality. The adoration makes them vulnerable, gullible, manipulated, and weak but they believe the opposite since they are being ‘saved’.

The effects of trauma bonding in relationships

Patterns of Abuse: Trauma bonding reinforces a regular pattern of abuse, where the victim becomes trapped in a never-ending loop of harm, forgiveness, and manipulation. The intermittent reinforcement of positive experiences amidst the abusive ones creates an illusion of love and care, making it challenging for victims to break free from the toxic cycle.

Damage to Identity: Over time, trauma bonding erodes an individual's sense of self-worth and identity. The constant emotional turmoil and the abuser's gaslighting tactics lead the victim to doubt their perceptions, beliefs, and even their own sanity. This erosion of identity further strengthens the bonds, as the victim becomes more reliant on the abuser for validation and guidance.

Afraid to Seek Help: Trauma bonding instills a deep sense of isolation and shame, preventing victims from reaching out for support. They may fear judgment, retaliation, or that they are fully dependent on the abuser. Consequently, individuals caught in this mess often suffer in silence, unaware that they deserve better and that help is available.

Four steps towards healing and empowerment

1. Pattern Identification & Utilization: The first step towards setting yourself free is acknowledging the existence of trauma bonding in the relationship. Educate yourself about the dynamics of trauma bonding and how it affects your daily emotional well-being and decision-making. Reflect on the experiences, write down the patterns to understand when and how they are being used, and be honest with yourself about how these toxic patterns are impacting your life. And most importantly, make sure you aren’t becoming an abuser also — I’ve seen it happen where both parties play the role of abuser and victim which drives further confusion and damage to one's belief system.

2. Look Inward to Begin Healing: Engage in deep self-reflection to understand the root causes and triggers that contribute to your vulnerability in the relationship. Identify your own past traumas and work towards healing those wounds. This may involve practices such as journaling, meditation, therapy, or engaging in some type of creative outlet. Getting outside in nature alone with your thoughts is a great first step. By addressing your own emotional needs and developing a strong sense of self, you can build resilience and reduce the likelihood of entering into future toxic relationships.

3. Focus on Self-Care: Replace self-destructive coping mechanisms with healthy alternatives that promote emotional well-being. Engage in activities that bring you joy, fulfillment, and a sense of peace. Do something you once loved that you haven’t made a priority in years. This could include exercise, pursuing a new hobby, reading, practicing mindfulness, or finding a support group to connect with. When you improve your own emotional and physical health, you empower yourself to make better choices that align with your well-being.

4. Rebuild Trust: It's essential to approach new relationships with caution and allow trust to develop gradually over time. Be patient with yourself and others, and prioritize open communication and clear boundaries. Take time to establish a relationship, and observe how your needs and values align with a potential partner. Set expectations! Surround yourself with individuals who respect your boundaries, expectations and genuinely support you. Remember that healing and growth takes time, and it's important to give yourself the space and time to rebuild yourself and create healthy connections.

Being in a trauma-bonding relationship can leave deep scars on your emotional and psychological well-being. Breaking free from this destructive pattern requires self-awareness, support from loved ones, and often-times professional guidance.

If you are in a TraumaBond relationship and looking to break free, please connect with me here.

Follow me on Instagram, and visit my website for more info!

Jay Thalman Brainz Magazine

Jay Thalman, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jay Thalman founded The Bravery Experience to help people overcome life burdens derived from grief, anger, and relationship issues. After going through his own mental health challenges driven by poor business decisions and marriage issues over a 10-year period, he worked through various methods and personal experiments and reframed his heart, mind, soul, and physical health leading to a full breakthrough. Now, using a method he crafted from his own story, Jay helps his clients out of the dark so they can live a fulfilled life.



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