What is trauma bonding? Imagine you have a friend who sometimes hurts your feelings. And then, after that, is extremely nice to you.
The area you might see more of this behavior could be in your personal relationships, such as with your spouse or partner.
It can also be with someone you work with. After all, you spend almost as much time with people you work with as you do with family and friends.
This can be confusing. You might feel sad, confused or scared when they hurt you. Then, you feel happy and loved when they are nice. This mix of bad and good emotions can create a strong bond, or connection between you and the other person.
This is what is called “trauma bonding.”
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Remember when you were young. You were playing with a friend, and they took your toy away. You reacted by being sad and upset. But then, they gave it back and said they are sorry. You were then happy and loved them again as your best friend. This can create a trauma bond between you and your friend.
Maybe this is continuing in your adult relationships also. You have the person at work you rely on and who appears to rely on you. Then, something comes up that makes you feel betrayed and you try to disengage. Your work friend comes back with apologies and your favorite treat, or other things you two share. This creates a trauma bond and you feel you can’t make a change.
With your counselor, you will have a safe and supportive environment. You can explore the underlying cause of your anger. With this information, you will develop coping strategies. And learn new skills for expressing anger, in a constructive manner. It’s about learning how to deal with anger so it doesn’t cause problems. Once you have identified the root of the issue, you become more aware of what you are really feeling.
Have you every thought – “why is my wife yelling at me?” Or it can be “why is my husband yelling at me?”
It can escalate to unhealthy and dangerous actions such as throwing things. Or in some cases, “why is my girlfriend acting like she wants to hit me?” even if you feel she is not going to physically hurt you.
Let’s discuss why partners might yell at each other. Yelling is a form of emotional pain. Why would one of you be yelling? It might be a way to show being upset or something else.
Some possible reasons include feeling upset, angry, or frustrated.
It could be one or the other partner doesn’t seem to be listening. Or maybe understanding the feelings expressed. One of you may be overwhelmed with stress. You or your partnermay not know how to handle her emotions.
People express themselves and attempt to be heard by yelling. Triggers for the yelling can be because they feel upset, angry, or frustrated.
Yelling is a form of emotional pain. It might be a way to show if a person is upset or needs something. Sometimes, in relationships, one person might yell or be mean to cause emotional pain. Right after that, can then become really nice and loving. This can create a trauma bond.
In the case of one partner yelling at the other, it might be due to feeling sad, or angry. Or could be frustrated about something. It might be your partner had a tough day at work, and couldn’t react there.
It could be there is something upsetting in your relationship. People overreact to something by yelling. The puzzling part is, it is in response to something that doesn’t seem to be that significant. Yelling might be to show the other person they feel. It just might not be the reason for the frustration.
Then, the roller coaster of emotions and reactions continues. Whoever has been yelling might feel bad about yelling and be extra nice to make up for it.
This can create a trauma bond between partners. Deep down, you know you love each other, but neither partner knows what is at the heart of the issue. And then, rather than figuring it out, it seems to disappear.
When there is a trauma bond, the person who is being mean can have a lot of control over the other person’s feelings. There is a reaction that gives the person yelling a response. It then becomes a power play of sorts in the relationship. This is not fair or healthy.
In a healthy relationship, both people should feel safe and loved all the time, not some of the time. No one can live in a situation that is like walking on eggshells, or waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Also, trauma bonding can make it hard for the person who is being hurt to leave the relationship. They might feel like they need the person who is hurting them because they also make them feel good. This brings extreme highs and lows into the relationship.
Everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. If you are in a relationship where you feel hurt and then loved, it might be a trauma bond.
It’s okay to talk to someone you trust about how you feel. You don’t have to go through this alone. Talking to a friend, family member, or counselor can help you understand your feelings. You can make a plan to feel safe and loved all the time.
Good Times and Bad Times: LIke in the examples given, trauma bonding often has moments of kindness. Unfortunately, they are mixed with moments of pain. The good moments can make someone hope that things will get better.
Fear and Safety: Sometimes, the person causing the hurt is also the one providing safety. This can be confusing. Imagine if the friend who sometimes yells also protects you from bullies. You might feel like you need them, even if they aren’t always nice.
Believing It’s Normal: If someone has been in a trauma bond for a long time, it seems like it’s normal. They might start to think it’s just how things are. They might believe that all friendships or relationships have good and bad moments.
Yes it can. You are able to identify and address issues and the best options and approach.
* Introduction & Understanding: You and your counselor will talk about the strong emotional ties that can be harmful. You’ll learn about what trauma bonding is, how it happens, and why it’s important to address.
* Building Trust: A safe and trusting place is created where you can share your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement.
* Assessment: You and your counselor will talk about your experiences, feelings and the relationship where trauma bonding has occurred.
* Psychoeducation and Identifying Patterns: Your counselor will teach you about trauma bonding, and how it can affect you and your relationships. You’ll start to recognize patterns of behavior that contribute to trauma bonding.
* Self-Exploration: You’ll have the opportunity to explore your own emotions, history and your personal triggers.
* Communication Skills & Coping Strategies: Together, you and your counselor will work on improving how you express yourself and listen to others in a healthier way. You’ll learn techniques to manage stress and handle difficult emotions.
* Types of Therapy: You may have one-on-one sessions to delve deeper into your personal experiences and healing. If the trauma bonding involves others, there might be sessions with all involved to improve communications and understanding. Ongoing couples therapy may be recommended to address the trauma bonding in the relationship. This would be outside your personal trauma bonding therapy.
* Support System & Safety Planning: Your counselor will encourage you to seek support from friends and family on this healing journey. If needed, a safety plan will be created to ensure your well-being.
* Breaking the Bond: You and your counselor will work together to break the trauma bond by setting boundaries and addressing the abusive behavior.
* Homework & Practice: You might have homework or practicing exercises to reinforce what you learn in counseling.
* Progress Evaluation: Your counselor will regularly check your progress and adjust the approach, as needed. Remember, healing takes time. Self-care is one of the most important parts of the process.
As you continue on, you and your counselor will celebrate the successes as you work with through the trauma bonding. You’ll develop the tools and understanding needed to lead a happier, healthier life.
`The skilled therapists at Pathways Counseling Services are here and read to assist in your mental health journey. We are available weekdays, evenings and Saturdays to work with your schedule. Don’t wait and live with trauma bonding – there is hope!
For more information on trauma bonding, here are some links to articles with more insight.
Cleveland Clinic offers informations on How To Recognize the Signs
PsychCentral shares relationship information on 6 Signs of Trauma Bonding
MedicalNewsToday discusses trauma bonding and Stockholm syndrome.
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Patients who work with us report improvements in a few sessions. More difficult issues may take longer. People come to therapy for different reasons but universally people don’t initiate counseling unless they are in some type of emotional pain. Our attitude is to try to make every session count.
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