Coping with past trauma, managing substance use and dealing with forms of neglect or physical abuse can perpetuate behaviors that tolerate negative relationships. Such relationships are very complex, and therefore, your behaviors might go unnoticed. Recovery is essential in showing you the difference between healthy relationships and toxic ones. However, challenges will still lie between you and those who you think have your best interests in mind. Understand you could be forming a trauma bond and preventing yourself from the care, appreciation, empowerment and self-confidence that you deserve. Let’s look at some examples of a trauma bond (or attachment trauma) and how you can form healthier relationships with yourself and others.
What Is a Trauma Bond?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a trauma bond describes how feelings of fear, excitement and sexual feelings can manipulate, trap or entangle another person. These are periods where you might experience intense love and excitement followed by episodes of abuse, neglect and mistreatment. The patterns of being devalued and then rewarded repeatedly create a strong hormonal bond between the victim and their abuser (NCBI). Furthermore, experiencing trauma as a child could make you more prone to developing such relationships because you associate this kind of behavior with the caregivers from your childhood. Therefore, your nervous system might already be primed to continue these patterns and cycles.
Signs of a Trauma Bond
There are signs that indicate you are developing a trauma bond with another person. For example, you want to leave someone, but you can’t bring yourself to cut them out of your life. Having a thought like this is a warning sign that you are in a trauma bond. You might even decide it best for your overall health to leave this person; however, the drawback to them is so powerful that you lose resolve. Further, thoughts and feelings of being away might cause anxiety and panic. The panic might become so strong that it clouds your judgment and focus, and you might mistake these feelings for a strong sense of love for this person. Some ways to bring clarity and understanding to the relationship is by asking yourself questions that help you see the relationship from another perspective:
- Would you ever want your friends, family or peers to be in the same kind of relationship?
- Does your situation look toxic when you visualize another in the same predicament?
- Do you have to keep repeating that others don’t understand your relationship?
- Does this person have characteristics that remind you of a toxic parent or caregiver?
Asking these questions could lend insight and the reality of how you are living in this relationship. If you cannot justify or see another friend, family member or peer going through what you are, then not only are you developing a trauma bond, but you would benefit from seeking help and support from professionals. New Hope Ranch provides many effective therapies, including our acceptance and commitment therapy programs, which can help you cope, manage and identify trauma bonds in your life.
Trying to Get Back to the Past
Most trauma bonds begin with the abuser showering their victim with love. However, once this stage ends, your weaknesses and vulnerabilities could become used against you and you might feel as though you need to work harder for this person’s love and attention. After periods of neglect and abuse, you might find yourself trying to return to the joy you experienced early on in the relationship when showered with love and affection.
Understand that you will likely never get back to this place when you are in a toxic relationship. The person governing your relationship will often use your feelings against you by manipulating you into thinking something is your fault and that you need to change for them to fix it. If you find yourself working hard to try and get back to the way things were during the beginning of your relationship, you may be in a trauma bond.
You Justify Negative Behavior
When you justify abusive behavior, you are likely in a trauma bond. For example, the person in your relationship might verbally abuse you. Instead of thinking that you deserve better, you justify their behavior and excuse them because they had a difficult childhood or were involved in another toxic relationship. When you subscribe to this belief, you create a skewed narrative of the situation that not only encourages this kind of behavior but causes you to build a wall around the root of the problem because of fear of what might happen. Understand that you never need to stand for or justify such unacceptable behavior.
Focus on Healthy Bonds
Overcoming attachment trauma requires learning how to rebuild healthy relationships with people that support and respect your needs. Creating safe bonds and boundaries is essential in recovery. You might seek help with a support group and therapist to help you build the foundations of what trust and appreciation mean in a healthy relationship. If you have trouble bonding with others, it is okay to start small. Attending therapy, getting a pet or volunteering are great ways to help you form healthy bonds. However hard, disconnecting yourself from a toxic person will help break the thought patterns, cycles and perceptions about relationships. However difficult, allowing yourself and your hormones the opportunity to disconnect will, in time, start to balance you out to feel more stable, calm and in control of your choices.
Overcoming challenges in recovery, whether substance use, trauma or learning how to rebuild healthy relationships, you will likely encounter difficult thoughts and temptations that affect your motivation and progress. Seeking professional help is crucial to the equation. If you feel overwhelmed in how and where to begin, then the time to seek help is now. At New Hope Ranch in Manor, Texas, we offer various effective treatments and therapies that will help you rebuild your sobriety, relationships and overall quality of life at your pace and on your terms. Not only do we provide settings where you can meet individually or in groups, but we offer an array of other activities to incite creative inspiration and growth. Our mission is to help you leave treatment with confidence. To learn more, contact New Hope Ranch today at (737) 600-8565.