One of the things I’m the most proud in my work is helping clients heal from trauma bonds.
It’s something I experienced for myself and it almost broke me when going through it.
It gives me immense satisfaction to guide another human out of this hellish experience.
What is a trauma bond? You might have heard a term Stockholm syndrome and you also may or may not have heard that this phenomenon was debunked. However, a more known term, it’s as a good a place as any to start.
When we see our friend in much distress declare their husband/boyfriend/partner is toxic or abusive and they are done with them and next time you see them a week later and they declare their undying love for the same person – you may be looking at a trauma bond.
The friend may do 180-degree turn a few times before you realize you need to step away for your own sanity.
It’s not an easy thing to witness.
It can make us feel dizzy and like a punch in the gut being in the presence of it.
It’s a wound to the mind, and it’s natural to make us feel squeamish and want to withdraw – we’d probably have the same reaction if we saw lots of blood, a broken bone or another major physical injury.
It’s ok to observe our own reaction to it. We are not being a terrible friend. Staying regulated in our own nervous system, setting boundaries in place to take care of us can help us staying in empathetic relational place rather than judgement, which is too easy to do.
Our friend may need our help more than ever and chances are they are getting increasingly isolated, which potentially is putting them in real danger.
Most likely you will not be able to argue them into seeing error of their ways or how dysregulated they are acting.
We can share we are feeling very concerned and make ourselves available to support them, ask clarifying questions and share how confusing it is to see them go back and forth like so without judgement.
Trauma bonds are very possible to heal and one can’t out logic someone caught in the grip of a trauma bond.
It’s simply not possible.
A part of them is telling them their relationship is their means of survival or a variation of it and it’s like we are trying convincing someone with logical arguments when they KNOW they would die.
It’s not most likely to work.
However, people with trauma bonds can and will have a moment of clarity and they can get support to help guide them through it.
Sometimes, it’s after they’ve tried everything and went back and forth a few times.
Please don’t judge. Unless you’ve been through it yourself, it’s not easy to understand what it’s like. It’s like we have split personality. When we are in one – all we know is how much we love the person. We have no access to remembering how this person crossed our boundaries, harmed us, our own promises to ourselves to stay away, etc. etc.
When we are in another part of ourselves – all we see is danger and harm and we may leave and get away, we may be so sure we’d never go back until. . .
The other “super in love” part of us get triggered and we are right back in it.
Parts of us become split like this typically because of some trauma we experienced in the relationship.
It may be betrayal or abuse. We are fragmented. All loving memories and everything good becomes stored in one part and everything negative, scary and upsetting gets split off in another. We will need to integrate both parts to heal, but often need to connect to inner and outer resources and build enough safety to do so.
It’s truly an arduous journey.
It’s tough on other relationships.
Many of my relationships when I was going through this experience didn’t make it. It’s hard to watch someone you know and especially care about move through this. A person might push you away to protect a relationship that’s harming them and we may feel hurt and betrayed by it.
Relationships that do make it might feel strained and need repair for years to come.
Speaking to people that experienced major illness like cancer has similarities in a way. People share lots of relationships fall away.
Many humans go through dark times at some point of their life and it’s important to normalize it. It helps as well as learn to recognize things like trauma bonds.
We may push our friends away in the grip of it, but on the other side of it, when we are back to our authentic selves, we certainly appreciate humans that showed up and cared. We also can let go of humans that really didn’t. We don’t need everyone to love us. We just need someone who does.
Often our very life depends on it.
The beautiful thing about working with a coach or a therapist who gets it is this is a relationship we choose to grow and heal in. We don’t have to helplessly wait for the right relationship magic to fall into our lap, we can go and get it and make it happen. If you are interested in working together, direct message me or email at firstname.lastname@example.org