Estimated reading time: 19 minutes
You may feel pretty crazy over there in your trauma bonded trance for someone who mistreated you, but know there are people actually eating dirt out there and making more sense than some of the well-meaning advice I heard while I was getting over various forms of heartbreak.
We are told to stop fixating, face the fear of moving on, focus on yourself, and that time heals all wounds. When in fact, the symptoms of a traumatic reaction to a trauma bond make these very things feel nearly impossible.
What’s more, when taken in the context of trauma bonding, prolonged grief over the loss of a relationship is far from irrational, even when that relationship was a toxic one. If you feel more stunned and immobilized as time wears on, this is the reaction of your organism actually working to protect you from a perceived, ongoing threat.
You are not crazy. Your body’s physiological state is just trying to communicate with you in a way that you may not quite understand yet.
There are people all over the world who experience cravings for dirt or clay. This is called geophagy and clearly sounds so insane that people feel ashamed to admit their cravings. Yet research has found that these cravings may indicate a lack in bodily mineral content or may function as the body’s protective response to pathogens in pregnant women or children. The content of dirt or clay may serve as a protective barrier in the stomach.
What may FEEL mentally and physiologically irrational, actually makes sense. This does not mean that anemic people should make themselves a nice dirt snack with their coffee this afternoon. It does mean that feeling estranged, ashamed, and ignoring the REALITY of the craving, without looking further into what it indicates, will never resolve their organism’s unmet need.
What is trauma bonding?
I only started to understand trauma bonding when I stopped feeling ashamed and started trusting my body’s own physiological messengers.
Breaking a trauma bond can feel agonizing. What’s the point of trying to accept the reality of a toxic relationship, go no contact, and try to move on with your life when you only feel worse as time wears on?
Breaking a trauma bond comes with intense withdrawal symptoms, flashbacks, cravings for the toxic person, compulsive thoughts about what happened, and an anxious state that may make you feel like you are going backward, without abate.
This is going to sound counterintuitive at first, but these very symptoms are confirmation that staying away from the toxic relationship is absolutely imperative to your health. This is because trauma resides as a physiological response to a perceived threat. Your organism knows and reacts, at the core, gut, and instinctual level, when a person or situation is harmful.
And while you may be fully consciously aware NOW that you are no longer in the relationship, your body is still registering an ongoing threat. This is manifesting in symptoms that certainly make you feel like you are going crazy — or maybe even make you feel as if you were never meant to stay away in the first place.
But all this DOES NOT mean that your body is trying to indicate to you that you are forever cosmically tied to that dirtbag who mistreated you, used you, and broke your heart. It means that the trauma that may have occurred before the relationship, during the relationship, and when the relationship ended, continues to live inside of you. It continues to live as a memory and echo that has no orientation to time and place.
You are feeling this way because, physiologically, you still don’t feel safe.
You will NOT be the person who longs for the person who mistreated you forever. But it’s going to be hard to get there if your strategy is to grit your teeth, brace yourself, and steel even more energy in trying to fight your body’s frantic physiological responses to the trauma in the trauma bond, through sheer will, when you are already frozen in emergency mode.
Stay with me. I’ll explain.
We look into trauma bonding as a way to explain, romanticize, and decode the characteristics of a relationship that feels or once felt so precious.
Here’s the gut punch that usually gets lost —when you’re in a trauma bond, and the bond “breaks,” the trauma remains.
If you’re a cookie in an Oreo and the other cookie leaves, guess who is stuck with what seems like even more trauma-filling than you started with?
This “trauma filling” can help to explain why your mind, body, and soul are registering a frenetic, obsessive, red level, emergency breaker craving for a toxic ex, toxic relationship, or situation.
The Trauma Bond
The reason for this hyper-aroused-anxiety-trance lies in some part to the nature of trauma bonding itself. Trauma bonds are formed when your organism registers that you are in danger.
According to “The Betrayal Bond,” a book written by Patrick Carnes, who developed this concept, “trauma bonds are the dysfunctional attachments that occur in the presence of danger, shame, or exploitation. Trauma bonds occur when we are bonding to the very person who is the source of danger, fear, and exploitation.” They involve seduction, betrayal, and high intensity.
They also involve a seemingly endless sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Carnes wrote, “This type of bonding does not facilitate recovery and resilience but rather undermines those very qualities within us.”
Throughout the relationship, your organism assessed the threat and continuously mobilized energy for you to fight or flee. Yet the trauma in trauma bonding creates a cyclical, repetitive cycle that contains your ability to protect yourself, trust yourself, feel your body’s physiological reactions or evolve out of your current state, even when your partner is gone.
Instead of fighting or fleeing, you remain frozen and clinging with an “insane level of loyalty, to an impossible, unresolvable, toxic, overwhelming, or cosmically doomed bond.” A person chained to this type of bond “disbelieves the obvious and accepts the impossible.”
The following are some signs of trauma bonding, which I’ve adapted from Carnes:
- When you continue to be fixated on people who hurt you and who are no longer in your life.
- When you crave contact with someone who has hurt you and who you know will cause you more pain.
- When you continue to revolve around people who you know are taking advantage of you or exploiting you.
- When you are committed to remaining loyal to someone who has betrayed you, even though their actions indicate few signs of change.
- When you are desperate to be understood, validated, or needed by those who have indicated they do not care about you.
- When you go to great lengths to continue to help, caretake, or consider people who have been destructive to you.
These types of relationships capitalize on old wounds and previous traumas.
As a bigger and separate topic, there are a lot of reasons for why we may be vulnerable to trauma bonding, to begin with, including a deep desire to heal a prior hurt. We do this by subconsciously recreating the prior situation, down to the very exploitative, dangerous, or shameful elements that existed in the prior trauma. Down to the type of toxic, emotionally unavailable, or developmentally stunted person in the prior situation.
The reasons why we get into these types of bonds, the reasons we stay, and the reasons why we can’t let them go are interrelated, and at least one thing remains the same: our body stores these memories physiologically, without a time or date stamp. The memories can make us feel like we are in an endless cycle of trauma and pain, with or without the relationship.
Trauma is a big concept, that lives on much developing academic ground. I’m no expert, and what I’m saying is informed by the work of trauma researchers Peter Levine, Bessel van der Kolk, and Patrick Carnes, but this is simply my interpretation.
Viewing your seemingly irrational reactions to heartbreak through a trauma-informed lens will reduce some part of the shame that comes with continuing to live in a body that is suspended in a hyper-aroused and frenetic state long after we are told that we should be over a relationship or situation.
There are different kinds of trauma. Some are the types of trauma we are typically aware of —responses to natural disasters, war, abuse, genocide, and other atrocities. We associate those traumas with the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has helped to explain how victims survive in dire circumstances, including why the victims end up turning against themselves and becoming loyal to the abuser, as in the case of Stockholm Syndrome.
Understanding trauma begins when you remove judgment from the equation about the degree of atrocity that must exist in order to define trauma as trauma. There are other aspects of trauma, such as those that involve the body’s response to betrayal, childhood experiences, and interpersonal relationship trauma. A traumatic reaction is a completely subjective thing. There are more possible situations/origins of trauma than there are people.
Trauma lives inside the body as a physiological state. It will be easier to become aware of the manifestation of this state and to give it credibility if you realize that trauma can occur in the absence of abusers, victimizers, and overtly dire situations. You can have a traumatic reaction to anything or anyone that your body perceives as a threat, including a break in attachment with even the most well-meaning, non-intentionally insidious, but emotionally empty people.
Peter Levine has defined trauma as “Any experience which stuns us like a bolt out of the blue; it overwhelms us, leaving us altered and disconnected from our bodies.” It is difficult to access coping mechanisms while in this overwhelmed state. This reaction can become more intense when the relational trauma occurs for long periods of time, with intermittent reinforcement, and when it is layered on top of relational trauma that occurred in childhood.
The stunned shock of anything that your body perceives as a threat, including a betrayal or a breakup, can live inside of us as a physiological state, even when we are not in present danger — when we are out of the breakup, moved out, and presumably moved on. Our bodies are engaged in a survival response even when out of the danger — which manifests itself as a freeze state that makes all the negative emotions you felt while in the relationship freeze within you as well.
What is this? Why does this happen?
The Freeze State.
It happens as a result of a completely natural human reaction to a potentially threatening situation. Peter Levine has explained how trauma develops in his book, “Waking the Tiger.” When faced with perceived danger or challenge, we become energetically aroused, mobilized, and poised to pounce, respond, and defend. This is the reason why weaklings are able to lift cars in order to rescue children. Our bodies were built to generate tremendous energy and appropriately constrict it so that it can be released. So we can fight or flee from threats for our very survival. When the energy is released, there is a tremendous sense of relief and somatic calm. There is no trauma. The situation makes sense to us because we witnessed our bodies working with us to resolve a threat.
So what happens to this tremendous, do-or-die energy isn’t released? When we feel we cannot fight or flee, as in the case of a trauma bond, there isn’t a discharge of this energy.
Instead, we hard stop freeze. Unlike other animals, our more highly evolved neocortex prevents an instinctual response of releasing this energy anyway, when the freeze state ends. Without the release, our body constricts this incredible bundle of energy and contains it in our nervous system. We are suspended in a highly mobilized emergency alert state, hypervigilant, and brimming with energy that our body now has to shift around, negotiate, and safety-valve slowly expel through adaptations that make us feel like we are experiencing an anxiety reaction. This too, is our body working for us, to prevent a nervous system meltdown.
This is trauma.
An example of this is when you brace yourself during the impact of a car accident and later find yourself completely motionless, your knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel, adrenaline coursing through you, heart rate is racing, breathing heavily, with almost no memory of the event.
Why won’t our “smarter” brain allow us to discharge this energy during the freeze state? Again, your body is trying its best to protect you. When that tremendous force of arousal energy is first triggered, it makes us feel up to the task, positive, and intensely alive. When the release is thwarted and is instead subsumed inwardly, we associate the energy with intensely negative emotions.
All those feelings and all the energy that you might have expelled during the relationship in a fight or flight response — all the anger, the shame, and the fear — now reside within you and may feel like are directed TOWARD you.
Our “smarter” brain attempts to protect us by negotiating these emotions within our circuitry because it believes that this work will protect us from experiencing the sheer terror of the release. We fear releasing them because the energy itself is so strongly associated with danger, betrayal, and fear. You are now the home of negative energy that was never meant to be yours.
What does this have to do with your inability to let go of a toxic relationship?
Why does all of this slow you down when it comes to commonplace advice like “stop fixating, face the fear of moving on, and focus on yourself?”
Breaking trauma bonds.
The reason it feels like you can’t “break” a traumatic bond is because you are still suffering from your body’s adaptations to all of this chaotic, negative energy that is now stored inside. These very adaptations cause you to constantly review what happened, to fixate, to refrain from feeling fear and grief, and to obsess about the relationship.
The nervous system experiences trauma as a body feeling. In other words, your hyper-alert state lives on as symptoms that can be perceived as anxiety: increased heart rate, tension, agitation, flashbacks, shudders, muscle soreness, and racing thoughts.
All of this anxiety can feel unfair. We know it’s normal to feel grief over the loss of a relationship, but the hope is that we will feel some sense of relief once we get the courage to let go of someone we loved, but who we know is toxic, narcissistic, or emotionally unavailable. Hang on. Your body is communicating to you that internally, you still feel as if you are in danger. Because this anxiety state is so closely associated with the trauma bond, this may feel like a craving for your ex and the trauma bond, when it is in fact, a frantic message to stay away.
When exposed to personal trauma, the part of the brain that processes information, puts things into context, and communicates to you in narrative form shuts down. You are suspended in emergency activation mode, but without an ability to cope with the stress.
This is why no contact is so important. When exposed to anything that reminds you of your former partner, your nervous system triggers energy to communicate the presence of a threat but prevents you from consciously putting that threat into the context of what is occurring here and now. In this state, it can feel hard to learn new things or assimilate information.
This is why it can feel like such a gut punch to see your ex or hear about his or her life, even after time has passed and you are sure “you got this.” It can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless.
Trauma bonds don’t “heal with time” because trauma doesn’t have a sense of time. Don’t expect to never feel triggered. Feeling triggered does not mean that you are “back to square one” when it comes to processing the breakup. It means that you are experiencing traumatic anxiety, which once again makes you feel like you are frozen and immobilized. This can lead you to feel depressed even though the current stressor is no longer around. Don’t lose hope. Even the smallest bit of awareness of what is actually occurring will help you to unfreeze out of this state, and this will get more automatic and manageable the more you increase this awareness.
Because you are not able to put your physiological distress into a time and place context, you are not able to consciously recognize that the traumatic event happened in the past. This causes confusion between past trauma and current stressors. Your body, behind the scenes, may be experiencing today’s stressful day as a flashback to the past, as if the trauma has returned.
Life goes on after a trauma bond. Other people and situations will stress you out and trigger anxious feelings that you will subconsciously associate with the trauma bond. This is why stressful days and subsequent disappointments make you feel like you are missing the trauma bond more intensely.
Trauma is like a trance. It makes you less aware of your current state, your bodily sensations, and your feelings. When you start to feel safer, grounded, and present, you will slowly become more aware of when these flashbacks occur. You will feel less entranced and more able to untangle your prior distress from what is currently happening in your life.
After an animal goes into fight, flight, or freeze and releases all the energy its nervous system conjured to get out of a dangerous situation, the animal goes into a review state. The point of this is to figure out what happened and to learn from the experience. Trauma bonded humans also go into this state, except the review occurs in a highly aroused and anxious state, because the energy from the experience has not been released.
This is why it is so difficult to stop fixating on what occurred, why you are experiencing obsessive thoughts, replaying old scripts, and why you feel abandoned and rejected long after a traumatic break has occurred. You are processing the trauma bond while you are still in a stressed and hyperaroused state.
This is why talking about trauma, rehashing the situation with your friends, and recycling anger doesn’t make you feel better and only further retraumatizes you. It may feel like you lost something important because you can’t let go of compulsively thinking about the trauma bond. This repetitive rehashing is healthy and normal, but only when conducted when you are out of an anxiety state and feeling grounded, safe, and present.
The antidote to compulsive rehashing is to remember that trauma lives inside the body, as a physiological state. Once activated, it shuts down your ability to process information. There’s nothing wrong with trying to figure out what happened, but know that doing so in this triggered state may make you feel like you need to return to the trauma bond.
Hypervigilance is the inevitable result of all of this hyperarousal. In trying to make sense of how you are feeling, your body actively searches for the source of the threat, even when one cannot be found. This drive can feel like a fixation to scan for the source, even though what you may just be reacting to is your own internal arousal. This gets repetitive and compulsive.
Your body remembers the trauma bond. It remembers how it felt and who was around. Even out of the relationship, a trauma bonded person may still feel threatened by either a memory of the past when dealing with a current stressor. Your brain scans for a source of the threat. Your brain lands on the emotionally charged memory and image of someone associated with the trauma bond. You may feel plagued by images of your ex-partner, but this is only because your body remembers this person as a source of threat, not because you need to run back to this person.
All of these symptoms occur because your nervous system is suspended in a hyper-aroused state, searching for new danger, and attempting to protect you. The key to releasing the trauma bond is to remind yourself, carefully, with compassion, and with consistency that you are no longer in danger and that you are now safe.
– This, first and foremost, has to be true. If you are still in any way involved in a trauma bond, then you are not safe. It may feel like you’ve hacked it and you are over it and you are ready for contact or another round, but your physiological systems will likely tell you otherwise.
– When you start to feel triggered, remind yourself of where you are in time and space. You may be experiencing a physiological memory of the past that makes you feel as if you are re-experiencing the trauma. Trauma robs you of your ability to stay in the present. It drops you in a trance and prevents you from recognizing what you are feeling — both emotionally and physiologically. There are many ways of grounding, including yoga, breath work, meditation, journaling, spending time in nature, among so many others. Once you get committed to healing, you will seek and find endless sources of information and relief in these. The key is to begin. Yoga will not release your trauma bond. Going for a hike will not make flashbacks and obsessive thoughts go away. These things may, however, bring you more awareness to your sensations and feelings, which will help you stay in the present when you feel yourself becoming taken over in a trauma bonded trance.
– Become emotionally available to yourself. The way to release a trauma bond is to very slowly and compassionately separate the amount of fear, that you may not even know you feel, about your negative emotions from the negative emotions themselves. These negative emotions are stored inside of you because your body internalized them, instead of using the energy of these emotions to flee or fight. They are not yours. These emotions are not your anger or your shame. You are safe now. You no longer need them. But you need a really safe base in yourself, your enviornment, and others in order to slowly release these. Be kind to yourself. It’s not easy to let go.
– A symptom of being trauma bonded is an intense desire to inform the person who hurt you about your healing. Don’t do that. It will only entrench you further. Your stored negative energy is not your own, but it’s not your ex’s either. It may feel like you have to “place” it somewhere, but this will not get rid of it, and you will only re-traumatize yourself. You can’t put it somewhere else. You can replace it with the knowledge this energy is no longer necessary to protect you, because you are safe now.
Trauma-bonded people are usually the foremost experts on their exes. In order to survive, they can discern mood changes from small facial movements, sideways grunts, or the way a person is standing. Start becoming this aware of yourself.
Start noticing what triggers you, when you are feeling hyper-vigilant, when you are reviewing or processing the relationship in a stressed out state. Start noticing when your flashbacks occur. You may find that they are actually occurring in response to current life stressors.
In becoming aware of this, you may find that there are other toxic people and situations in your current life that you can let go of in order to feel more safe. When other toxic bonds fall away, you may feel more ready to be yourself. When you feel more ready to be yourself, you may become even less ashamed and more emotionally aware. You can start to recognize which thoughts and emotions aren’t yours.
When you separate these, you will feel even more safe. Becoming more self-aware is work with a huge payoff, and you’re already so good doing it with everyone but yourself.
When you separate the past from the present, you will start to have more fun in the present. You will solve the present problems better. You will start to feel more like yourself again. You are safe now, and soon…
You will be free.
This post was written by Natasha Adamo Team Member, Irena.
Are you done with toxic relationships and ready to attract (and be attracted to) healthy relationships? Do you want to connect with others on a deeper level than the comments below? Click here to become an Emotional Mastery Member and learn more. If you’re looking for more personalized, one-on-one help, you can work directly with Natasha Adamo here.
This is so high caliber. I love it. It’s powerfully soothing and oh so practical. Trauma bonds can hold us the most unholy places. And we all deserve to be free of that. Thank you ???
Thank you, Lorelle. Your support means so much to me. Love you, sister.
Hello Irena, this is truelly a masterpiece. Thank you for writing it. It is gold. As many others, I have read soooo much on this topic, but this one stands out so much.
And also all the comments from readers, and the replies….so worthful and recognisable and empowering.
I am in a very toxic relationship and am extremely trauma bonded. With a narcissistic, delusional, paranoid husband. Together for about 18 years since I was 15, my first real relationship. I was coming from a family in which my brother had extreme OCD, which was directed to a lot of things but especially to me as the biggest “threat”and the most dirty “thing”. For example when I was a teenager, I literally had to wake up from a chair, walk to a different place, to let him pass to go to his chair. Because I was too dirty to pass. I would wake up, like I did not even care, let him pass, and sit down again…later I would go to my room and cry about this hurtful, humiliating situation, and also I would feeling angry, towards him, and towards my parents for letting it come this far and accepting this and not stepping up for me. But I would hide these feelings, and I would feel them alone by myself in my room.When the situations itself occured, I would accept it, act along, not to create more tention…that is how extreme the situation at home was. My parents were trying their best but they were in their battle with dealing with this disorder just not able to protect me. So I never learned how to stand up for myself, and how to establish healthy boundaries..I have always been the understanding person, the person who does not play difficult, who will prevent the situation from escalating, the caring and empathic person…and that is how it has continued in the relationship with my husband.
My husband has always been very narcissistic with paranoia included. For example whenever something happens which is disturbing or strange to my husband or goes against his plans or expectations, he would turn it against me, always thinking I did something “with bad intentions, to bully him, disturb him, see his reaction, or to control him”, as he would say. Very painful and mind bending and flabbergasting for me, but instead of not accepting that kind of hurtful behaviour and ridiculous accusations, and standing up for myself, it always made me want to try harder to please him, to convince him I am a good person, to be even more careful not to make a mistake, explaining myself over and over, even begging him, to make sure he would believe there are no bad intentions from my side. Just love and support and care. Through time I would get so scared for his reaction to something, so scared to loose him, for him to stop loving me, and for him not to like me anymore. Because I have always felt like (and I know it is like that for narcissistic people) the only way he could really love me was very connected to how I would do things for him, and for me to behave perfectly. Like an extention of and for him. So I was always managing him and situations, trying to prevend, foresee, be prepared, always on guard, always sensing him and his mood, feeling tentioned or scared for how he would react to something or what he would think about a certain thing…I was just not able to stand up against it, and so it turned into a relationship in which I have never been able to establish any healthy boundaries, too scared to displease him, and it has always been all around him..Since last year september he also became psychotic and completely delusional, accusing me of the most terrible things. Cheating, with the kids even knowing about it, turning the kids against him, trying to kill him, setting up the police against him, doing drugs, having people monitoring him. Saying that i am an evil, wicked person, saying I am talking bad about him and laughing about him with his friends, etc etc. So completely the opposite of the truth and allll the things I have done for him, and the loyalty I have always had towards him, the support I have given him in every way, and simply of who I am. It was alll just wiped away and turned around completely. And it was/is not just thinking this about me. It is being absolutely convinced I am doing these things, including the believe of having proof. Which I begged to see so many times, because I know there cannot be any proof because I did not do any of those things, so I could sooo easily proove my innocence… The proof never came. And although I am totally sure this must be some type of serious mental disorder, the fact that someome who I gave my all and more to (which was very unhealthy, I know, and this is definitely one of my issues) is thinking this about me, and does absolutely not see the huge damage and pain he has caused, has hurt me so so deeply. (We never had this psychosis thing checked by a doctor because “of course there is nothing wrong with him and i am trying to let him believe he is crazy”).
The situation and accusations kept on going and going, and at some point, when I was totally broken by his accusations and behaviour,I told him I wanted to divorce, but Iust could not pull it through. I was too weak, and panicked about really loosing him.…
From february on things calmed down a little bit..as in: the accusations do not come on a daily basis anymore and we oftentimes go through the day normally, but still every now and then he will say something which makes me to know he still thinks all these things about me, and he is terribly paranoid, which shines through in his behaviour (a little example of this: when our kids and neighbour kids were playing indoors and were laughing, I see him watching them, and just know he thinks they laugh about him. And indeed, later this came up in a conversation between him and me, and he accused me of being the cause of the kids laughing at him and disrespecting him, “because I talk bad about him to them”)…and still his narcissistic behaviour is present all the time ofcourse, leading to abnormal and unacceptable and hurtful situations over and over again. And of course there is still so much and deep hurt and trauma of all the things his delusional mind thinks.
And still, after all he put me through, and despite not contributing any single positive thing to my life, and being the one and only reason for so many stress throughout so many years, I am not able to walk away. I hate it about myself. Like, I really really know what I am in, and all the pain and depression I feel, and the terrible behaviour I am accepting, over and over again. But I am just not able to get out, I am mentally not able to step out…. the circumstances we are in, are also, for my feeling, making it impossible to break this; having 3 kids together and him being here in this country all alone (he is originally from another country, and all his family is still there) plus he lost both parents in previous years ,so i feel so obliged keeping the fam together and not letting him end up all alone, and to let the kids have their father around….
I get so incredibly sad realizing this is my life: stuck in a trauma bond with a person who has hurt me so so so much.
I am trying my best to emotionally distance myself from him, as that is oftentimes the only thing i feel like i am capable of doing. And hoping some day I will reach enough emotional distance which will then finally enable me to end it…But sometimes i feel/know i am just fooling myself with this, because the bond contains…And every once in a while, when he is acting sweet and gentle, I sense a little bit of hope for change (although I know he will never be able to change), or I feel so pity for him, or I just panic when i realize that he is becoming more and more a stranger, and that feeling always makes me trying to pull him a little bit closer back to me again… also because i am so scared for more pain of him getting close to other girls when we really grow apart, and me having to witness that. That is why, out of safety, i try to keep him somewhat close, so i will at least not experience the devestating pain from witnessing that type of behaviour. Because from the way he is, not having that same type of normal, decent behavioural codes and feeling free to behave in whatever way he likes, i expect him to do that….
I hate all of these feelings. I am proud of myself for still standing, for going through all of the stress without alcohol, drugs or any other form of unhealthy escape… but on the other hand….I am still in this…and there is always overthinking, high alertness, tention in me, and a sense of build up stress, in my chest and brains, from going through this, and staying in it…and just so much hurt of all the things he is thinking about me.
I guess with all of this writing…all I want say…is help…
I hope you’ve found help? Just to calm down the central nervous system can you try tapping? (EFT). Lots of you tube. XXX
You just have to get brave and leave. Fight the urge to stay. Fight the withdrawal symptoms. Fight hard and eventually you will not care anymore about him. If you stay tow will get sick which will just make things even worse for you. He will never change. Get back your freedom. Just fight like how a drug addict fights his/her addiction. Think u you are in rehab. You will win this. Stay very strong.
YES YES YES!!! Thank you *so much* Jane! xo
I hope you are ok. My husband also developed paranoid delusions a couple years ago, very similar to what you describe and I don’t know why. And if course there’s “nothing wrong with him” I’m just trying to make him think there is. I understand your pain. After all we’ve been through, how could he think I’d hurt him? Sometimes wonder if it’s another game if his and always exhausted. Take care of yourself and your kids.
Breaking. earth shattering soul retching displacement. You are in no man’s land anyway. Let go . Break. Find help in the safe place you didn’t know existed, the womens shelter, ‘the farm’, somewhere. The thing is you are speaking poorly of him. You are feeling retched and staying. You do not trust him to have your best interest. You do not love him. You hate him. And to open the door to that hate would be all consuming- so no better to say there is love, obsession, grace, “forgiveness” , kindness on your part…… kindness to who? Why does one person get everything you have to offer mean while your family and friends suffer your pain. He is your pain. Remove it. And remove it again. And again and again. Every time a little flame is stoked. Every time is closer to the final time. It’s him or death. That is the reality,
And you haven’t even lived yet. For you.
And the truth is if u leave… in a year or 2 , and it’s horrible without him you know u can always go back. He will take u . You know this because who could better serve him then you. You are his master peice.
Give it a go. Choose to run just to see. Choose sanity
Agreed. Love you both 🙂 xx
I have read so many articles on this bonding but the information you provided is most helpful. Much needed advice. Thank you so much ?
Glad that you love this post as much as I do! Thanks for taking the time to reach out, Eshika! 🙂 xox
I’ve read this article several times over the last few months; it’s really helpful and each time I’ve taken something slightly different from it. Thank you 😊
I’m so happy it helped! Thank you, S.
I live to give what I wish I would have had.
Stunning article which gave me the best advice I’ve read or received. Thank you.
Agreed! So happy that it served you; glad that you love this post as much as I do. Thanks for being a part of this tribe, Jennifer. xox
Wow. I thank you so much for this! My eyes are open, I am aware of myself. I feel like I can finally start to live again now that I understand what is actually going on. Cannot wait to read this again, re-read, and feel alive a little more each time. Can’t thank you enough. Much love!
Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me to know that this has been helpful to you. Please take care. You make complete sense, and you are so not alone. Much love to you.
I have read hundreds of articles on this subject in order to better understand what I am going through in this is by far the best and resonated with me at an incredible level. I sincerely appreciate the care that you put into this and I can only imagine how many people it has helped. Thank you so much for your time and consideration and doing this for us!
Jack, I agree!
Irena did such a fantastic job on this piece. Happy that you are here and that this post helped.
ive jave read this and its something i need to show the person that i am having a healthy relationship with now. because i made a mistake and contacted the person i have a trauma bond with and i really didnt mean to at all and now bc of my Compulsion it has made it difficult between us . honestly i dont know what to do i try and i try and i try to stay as far away from my abuser but some times i give in to this feeling that overwhelms me. i dont know what to do. and now bc of this mistake my abuser is winning again . ik that for some people they say well just dont just forget just move forward and im trying so hard to but some times i just cant. and bc of that i hurt some one that actually loves me.
This article explains my world…. I’m so glad I came across this article!
I’m so happy it helped! Thanks for being a part of this tribe Wendy 🙂 xo
I feel you, as it also explains my current life situation and what I am stuck in. Much strength to you!
Excellent and very unique and original. Thank you.
Irena, wow, wow, wow. This is the most comprehensive, relatable, empowering and truthful article I have ever read on trauma bonds.
It took me a long time to finally understand that my true healing was being hampered because I thought I was going through just a break up…..yes, from an unhealthy relationship, but I couldn’t understand why this was so damn difficult to deal with…My searching eventually led to the concept of trauma bonds, and it made me realise I needed professional help…. There were too many layers to deal with this on my own… but it made oh, so much sense.
My constant hyper-vigilance, my anxiety which manifested in physical symptoms….. major digestive issues! Adrenal fatigue, brain fog, flashbacks, triggers….. my body was really saying “Warning! Warning!”
I am in awe of this Irena….. thank you so much for writing this…. it is SO important that we understand the impact of the trauma bond and how to break it.
P.S. While l was with him, I ended up going on anti anxiety meds…… I thought my anxiety stemmed from our situation (LDR, constant stress from trying to work out a solution to our situation)….. my blood pressure also was through the roof, when I had never had high blood pressure in my life…..my Dr wanted me to wear a monitor and possibly go on blood pressure medication (I eat well, am fit and am a healthy weight)
4 months after the break up, I had no need for medication, and my blood pressure was back to my previously healthy levels.
Though I was still dealing with the trauma bond, I think my body instinctively knew I was finally out of danger. I was safe again.
Our bodies are amazing.
Agree. Our bodies are so amazing. The minute I started to work WITH my body and to realize that it was trying to protect me, was when a world of healing started taking place. But you’re right — when we’re in any relationship, much less a toxic one, it can be easy to think that our body is reacting to the normal stress and problems surrounding the relationship — instead of a much deeper issue. I’m so glad to hear that you are feeling better!
I just got out of a relationship, the first week was the hardest. I felt regret and guilty to the point I questioned my sanity . This is the second week got better, I read these articles and I feel better. I have gone no contact. I feel better but part of me is scared I want him to come back and other part of me doesn’t. I am still coping on that. I am proud of my two week progress.
Thank you for your comment. I know it’s tough to feel those feelings of fear and regret – hang in there and please take care. You are not crazy and you are never alone. Much love to you. xo, Irena
Mai hi, just read your comment, I too suffer from digestive issues as a result of bad relationships ( friends, family,guys) how did you deal with it/get rid of it. Cos it’s bern an issue for me. ? thank you.
Hi Denise! Hope you’re well…. I’ve been thinking of you….
My digestive issues (I had diarrhoea and malabsorption for 10 months PLUS would regularly be throwing up from stress when I was around him)
miraculously disappeared when he discarded me….. no joke…. even though I was in so much pain, and so hurt, my body instinctively knew I was safe from the abuse. Crazy, huh?
However, during the time of the issues, I just made sure I continued to eat well, I’m pretty passionate about healthy, clean food…. so I made sure I maintained a good diet.
Funnily enough, I went to France for a month with good friends whilst I was still with him….. just being away from the source of my trauma and around positive people giving me pure and healthy energy, caused my body to naturally heal….. of course, as soon as I returned to him, the somatic symptoms reappeared instantly…… having constant “butterflies” around someone is NOT love lol! It’s trauma manifesting as anxiety.
Thank you so much for your comment,(I love them), I am definitely gonna try to create more distance, especially emotional distance from all my triggers. Thanks so much Mai.
Thank you so much for your comment. I think our reactions to trauma bonding can be so confusing, and I’m so happy to hear that you recognized them as messages of danger and that you are feeling relief now.I think there are so many people out there who are stuck in a cycle of toxic relationships and feel so badly, physically, spiritually, and emotionally that they can’t even conceive of leaving. Thank you so much for sharing. I know it makes everyone feels less alone and provides a window into a better world. It takes SO much courage to be as self aware as you were — to even notice that you felt better in France, away from the source of the stress and to connect those two things together. You are an inspiration. Thank you for being part of this community and for being you! So much love to you. xo, Irena
Mai, this is pretty much exactly what’s been going on with me.
I couldn’t understand why I was having suuuuch a hard time dealing with “just a breakup”, hah, so I thought okay, I am completely broken as a person, what is this?!
I had major digestive issues in the last months of the relationship, but I didn’t know it was from stress and anxiety, until after dissolving the bond.
After months of reading tons of articles, hating the cliché ones and finding some important info, I can say this is the most comprehensive and descriptive piece I have found.
Thank you so much, Irena.
Thank you so much for writing and being part of this tribe. Really crazy how our gut issues speak to us in times of stress! I’ve found that often doesn’t completely go away (or comes back in bouts) as we continue to experience aftershocks. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that. I hope you are taking care. Much love to you.
Your reply Mai! Completely described my situation. Our bodies were always trying to warn us of the danger, the source, that we were so in love with at the time. In my case, in the last few weeks of our relationship, my fibromyalgia kept flaring up and I just couldn’t sleep whenever I was next to him. I never quite understood at the time why this was happening. I would do everything in my power, bring my pillow, by my flares up were getting worse. But in reality my body, my intuition, my gut knew deep down I was sleeping with the ‘devil’, someone who a few weeks down the line just discarded me out of the blue, with such coward and coldness.
I thank Natasha for giving such a fantastic insight into this post on trauma bonds. Although it has been just over a year, and I am continuing on my healing journey, this post really clarified and helped justify the traumatic experience we have all been through here. I am definitely more in awe of my body and thankful that my body was always trying to protect me all along instead of self-sabotaging
Beautifully written Irena. I didn’t know about trauma bonds till now. I can definitely identify with a lot of the things you wrote; the flashbacks, talking about the situation with people, anxiety , helplessness and being hypervigilant. I love this post??. I’ll definitely read in any time I feel the need to reach out or seek crumbs.
Thank you, Denise. Your comment means so much to me. Thank you for being part of this community. You are loved and never alone. xo, Irena
This article was so informative, well written and insightful. I honestly have been thinking something is seriously wrong with me. I had never heard of trauma bonds and suddenly so many things are making sense. Thank you so much for laying this out and clearly explaining a complicated emotional state. Very well done.
Thank you Natasha for finding and sharing this gem with us.
Thank you so much for your kind comment. It means so much to me that this resonated with you. Trust me — there is nothing wrong with you. Your body is amazing and is working to protect you. <3 Thank you for being part of this community, and please know you are never alone. Much love to you! xo, Irena
Mai- Reading your comments gave me chills. I experienced almost the same exact thing with my ex. Anxiety that would not quit and was relentless. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t keep food down. Whenever he would lie to me, I would get horrible nausea and panic attacks. It was also a LDR. Just like you, I realised that my body was trying to warn me of the danger. NEVER again will I ignore those signs. The physical symptoms were intense. My anxiety completely left my body after the breakup.
Olivia, how crazy is it? I was so accustomed to the intense physical reality of being around him…. it’s only now that I can appreciate the calm and stillness that envelopes my life and see it as a positive thing. We get so used to the “crazy”…. they condition us to accept that as our new normality….. it’s so fucked up. And I would be in his bed and feel blessed?! Knowing my body was rejecting everything about our situation….. urghhhh.
I’m so glad your anxiety has left as well. As Irene says…. we’re safe. Embrace this.
This article is so on point.
I so feel you. It is so incredibly f*cked up KNOWING you are in this toxic relationship and extremely trauma bonded (in my case with my narcissistic, delusional, paranoid husband), but still not being able to change it…i hate it about myself. Like, i really really know what i am in, and all the pain and depression I feel, but i am just not able to get out, i am mentally not able to step out…. the circumstances we are in, are also, for my feeling, making it impossible to break this; having 3 kids together and him being here in this country all alone (he is originally from another country, and all his family is still there) plus he lost both parents in previous years ,so i feel so obliged keeping the fam together and not letting him end up all alone, and to let the kids have their father around….i get so incredibly sad realizing this is my life: stuck in a trauma bond with a person who has hurt me so so so much, and me mentally not being able to break it…
I never even knew such a thing existed. I did not know ther was even a definition for all the things I did and still experience. I did wonder if I experienced a trauma and now I see it’s possible. I agree that we are not very conscious of ourselves. We can be the expert on others but really we need to be more concerned with our emotional health instead of those who care less about us.
This was an education for me. I read it twice and I’m sure I will again. Thank you for this in depth and detailed description of the experiences one can have. It was a bright light for me.
Be well Irena.
Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me to know that this resonated with you in some way. I think we can get really down on ourselves for the way that we feel. It’s sad to know that we can feel ashamed of these types of feelings when it is totally normal to feel this way after going through a traumatic experience. Thank you for sharing and for being part of this community. You are loved and never alone. xo, Irena
Wow, I’m speechless reading this…I’m going to re-read it again later. This completely describes how I feel and why it’s so hard for me to let go of a toxic ex. I still find myself romanticizing the situation, missing him, and feeling pain contractions so frequently even though I’ve implemented no contact. I’ve felt so discouraged to still be holding on to a lot of hurt and bitterness about his actions and betrayal, despite me moving forward in other relationships. I feel like I still fixate on him and have so much anxiety and depression relating to it. I’ve even been tempted on numerous occasions to run right back to him despite knowing nothing has changed. This post gives me hope by showing me what I’m experiencing is a physiological reaction. That it’s natural and it’s my body’s way of protecting myself. I’m going to keep working towards letting go, acceptance, and indifference. But I’m going to be patient with myself and give myself a lot of love, especially during the moments of experiencing symptoms from the trauma bond.
Thank you for this post, Irena. It was well researched and presented to help all of us deal with trauma bonds.
And thank you, Natasha for providing an environment we can all heal together.
Thank you for this post, Irena! This spoke to my experiences so much – not just relationships, but other trauma as well. Our bodies are for us at all times, we just do not want to heed what its telling us. American society is so much about not feeling, band-aiding problems, numbing yourself, compartmentalizing and so on. To heal, you need to sit with and listen to yourself. And you laid that out so perfectly. Again, THANK YOU!
Thank you so much for your kind comment. It means so much to me that this was helpful to someone. I totally agree that so much of our society is about avoiding feelings. We get gold stars for being busy, accomplishing tasks, and leading with our egos. It’s incredibly hard to start listening to yourself in that kind of environment. Especially when healing and integrating trauma doesn’t fit into a neat timeline. Thank you for sharing and for being part of this community. Much love to you. xo, Irena.
What an amazing, practical post! I love how you made clear points and shared very straightforward information on what it actually is and how we’re supposed to read our reactions.
It’s been over 2 years since I’ve had my heart badly broken and I can say I’ve reached indifference and nothing about the person bothers me anymore. What’s really surprising though, I got a very official message from him last month just to inform me of a death in the family – I physically started to SHAKE. In my head, I was ok, not tormented, not surprised, not emotional. But on the outside, I was trembling for about an hour causing my friends to ask if I’m ok. My jaw, my arms, my legs, I looked like someone dumped me naked in the snow! How amazing are our bodies! If you know how to read it right, you know it’s not you missing them. It’s your body and mind frightened and telling you to stay away.
Thanks again Irena!
Thanks for sharing your story. I was wondering if you replied back to him offering condolences or stayed the hell away.
Thank you for your kind comment. It means so much to me that this post resonated with you. I got chills when I read your message. Again, I’m no expert in trauma or trauma recovery, but everything I have ever read about trauma describes a trauma release exactly as you described it. The kind of shaking you are describing is a normal, primal response to a stressful situation. In fact, trauma occurs BECAUSE we often get frozen in a trauma bond and literally can’t shake it.
They have done studies which show that animals physically shake to release tension and return to a normal physiological baseline after they have escaped from a predator. Your body is amazing, recognized a stressor, and then was able to LET IT GO through this physiological reaction. This makes me so happy for you. You were able to stay away from someone toxic for long enough to BREAK the cycle, freeze out of the toxic relationship, and when confronted with it again, your body and mind were able to recognize it as a stressor, protect yourself, AND release it. You are amazing.
And doesn’t this all bring new meaning to Taylor Swift’s “shake it off?” 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this. So much love to you. xo, Irena
You have no idea how much I identified with your post. Each and ever line. it’s like you were specifically writing about me. Also thanks for addressing the part that trauma bonds don’t understand time and place. I thought I was the only crazy person on this planet who is unable to get over this guy though it’s been 3 yes (yes 3 yes) since he dumped me and kept throwing crumbs after that. Now I get it – TRAUMA BOND.
A big thank you to you and lots of love and best wishes.
Only you can write a book (a humongous task) and still make sure that all your sister’s all over the world are taken care off. I am speechless at your generosity, love and concern for all of us.
As always loads of love
Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me that this was helpful to you in any way. When break ups happen, especially in trauma bonding, there are so many layers underneath the feelings that come with the break up. It’s hard to even start to grieve the break up when there may be so much other history behind the feelings that are triggered (during the relationship and after the break up). All those feelings don’t come with a sense of time, and we can get really confused and believing that there must be something incredibly romantic or star crossed about our ex-partners, because we’re continuing to feel the reverberations of these feelings as time wears on. Or that there must be something wrong with us for feeling this way. There is not. Your body and heart need time to recalibrate it all. Never feel ashamed. I hoped that this post would spread compassion toward these kinds of feelings, so that we can stop feeling awful about ourselves and start paying attention to our needs, at long last . You are definitely not crazy and you are never alone. Thank you for sharing and for being part of this community. Much love to you. xo, Irena
Thank you Irene. This means a lot to me. I read your message twice and will continue doing that as a reminder :)…….love and best wishes Meg
I love you so much ???? thanks Meg. I can’t put into words how much I appreciate you and your love. xox
I had a breakup years ago(5) and we are still in and out of each other’s lives but the anxiety it causes me is so overwhelming. Why do I torture myself? I know I’m being mistreated. I read this about trauma bonding and oh my god!! Everything you say is exactly what I’ve been going through. And my body has definitely let me know with a gall stone and back problems and weight gain, insomnia.. you name it. I never connected it before but now that I read this I know I need to get help and get myself back to me again!! Thank you for an amazing article!!
P.S… I love every article on here!!!! Best advice ever!
Hi Christine! 🙂 I’m so glad that you loved this post as much as I do.
Thank you for taking the time to share and for being a part of this tribe 🙂 All my love to you sister. xox
I went through my first toxic relationship in 2014-15. I was 18 years old and it took me years to get over. After thinking that because I had already been through it, I would be able to see it coming the next time, and stay away. About 8 months ago, it happened again with someone else. I am out now, and doing much better. I can’t tell you how much these articles have helped, and how much they have led me down deeper paths that I had no idea I needed to address.
It still amazes me that there was so much information available on these kinds of people/relationships/bonds. Sometimes I wish I could go back and give a binder full of these articles to my 19 year old self. Most of the time I’m glad because I know I can handle whatever comes my way.
Thank you Irena, this article sunk really deep into me, in the best way. And thank you to Natasha and all of the lovely commenters on this page, I read each and every one of them. xox.
I’m so glad that you love this post as much as I do. Thank you for sharing, for being here, and for being a part of this tribe. All my love to you. xoxo
I was diagnosed with C-PTSD last year after a very abusive relationship that lasted 4 years. My ex was not only physically abusive, but mentally, emotionally and sexually as well. The sexual abuse started a month into our relationship when he raped me during an argument. A year later my ex held me in a friend’s apartment and beat me up over the course of two hours. In the middle of the assault he raped me again. This was our pattern for four years. Your article brought me some peace of mind and understanding of what my body is going through. I feel more prepared to deal with my trauma. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for your comment. I am honored to know that this post helped you in any way. I am so incredibly sorry to hear about your last relationship. Thank you for sharing your story. You make others feel less alone. You are an incredibly brave person, to not only survive that situation, but to be able to face what happened so that you can grieve, get help, and process it. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I am so happy to know that you are taking care of yourself. Please know that we are behind you and you are never alone. It takes immensely powerful courage to start paying attention to your body, to recognize trauma, to identify triggers, and to get by each day while you are healing. You are an inspiration – please keep going. I know there are good days and bad days, but you make sense, your body makes sense, you are not crazy, you are safe, and you are very loved by us all. xo, Irena
This was a transformative read for me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for putting it together. The most difficult part for me is the following symptom: an intense desire to inform the person who hurt you about your healing.
I have so much hurt and anger for the past, but also so much pride in even the smallest steps I’ve taken so far, and I want so badly to contact the ex to say all the things I either didn’t have the courage to say before, or hadn’t processed enough to even understand how to say before. Worse still, I discovered more lies and nasty manipulative behaviors AFTER we cut contact, and I have such a strong desire to reach out and let him know I know. Some part of me wants him to know he didn’t get away with it, that I’m not a fool to this specific lie or that one anymore. I KNOW it would do me no good. I KNOW any contact I’ve ever had with him has ended in turmoil and left me gravely dissatisfied and hurt all over again. But that desire is still there. I suppose a part of me still seeks that validation? Or seeks some kind of “Aha, I’ve shown you!” moment?
Either way, I KNOW it’s a terrible idea. I KNOW he isn’t worth any attention from me, positive or negative, but that desire is so strong. When I’ve broken up from other, healthy relationships, I never had the desire to reach out to them about my healing. So this is definitely unique to the “trauma bonding” you describe. Your article is correct, I think I just want to “place” that energy somewhere, and I feel it’s his burden to bear. Any time I feel the urge, I will remember your words. It would only do more damage.
It’s good to know I’m not alone. Thank you.
I’m so glad that you got as much value from this post as I did. That is the most difficult part for me too. Also, the realization that a knife will never be a band-aid. You are extremely self-aware and yes, you want him to know that you know. It’s normal but with toxic people, never is it worth reaching out. You know that <3
You are incredible and you are never, ever alone. Thank you for being you and for being a part of this tribe. xo
This article was so well written, thank you for sharing it.
I relate to a lot of these and definitely feel that me and my ex have a trauma bond.
The problem is I recognize I hurt him a lot too. I was toxic too. I really want to apologize for the hurtful things I said throughout the course of the relationship, some of which he says have really hurt him.
I broke up with him a month ago during a fight on messenger and I just feel awful about the way things ended. The way our last date ended was really sad (I felt uncomfortable and needed some air after he brought up a difficult topic in his car, he was meant to drive me home but I ended up walking over 3 miles home instead because I just needed some space to process and breathe and not get put on the spot with the conversation he had tried to raise). I never thought that would be the last time I saw him, but then he started such a hurtful fight on messenger. I told him how much the things he said were hurting me, to the extent I couldn’t even taste food anymore and was getting anxiety over the notification sound going off, but he wouldn’t stop he just said worse things and continued for hours. When it ended it was night time and as he later justified: “I wanted to conversation to end but I also wanted you to know I was hurt.” So he decided to exit the conversation by saying: “I am still extremely upset with you. I don’t trust you or your words. I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t like you.” I was devastated and told him so repeatedly for an hour, begging for him to speak to me on the phone but he wouldn’t. He wanted to leave me in that state of misery. His apologies in the days to follow didn’t take full responsibility, and he didn’t seem to comprehend the severity of what he had done, deflecting by bringing up how things i have said in the past have hurt him too.
The way we broke up was traumatic for me and also for him, I think… I feel a lot of guilt for hurting him. I didn’t mean to break up over messenger, but I just was so anxious over the thought of seeing him again and didn’t see the point… I didn’t want to deal with his accusations anymore and I felt like he would try to convince me to get back together but after what he had said I didn’t want to because I don’t understand how anybody could treat someone they loved the way he treated me that night… love is respect. Love is caring about someone’s wellbeing. I had made my pain so obvious to him, made myself so vulnerable, but he hadn’t stopped sending awful messages. I posted some of the messages online anonymously and strangers told me it was abuse.
Finally I believed him when he said he thinks he doesn’t have empathy (the first time he said that was over a year prior to this… d’oh! I hadn’t understood that that was even possible back then, it was incomprehensible to me at the time he first brought it up. Lesson learned)
I have thought a few times to reach out and ask if he would like to meet for a no-expectations talk so we can both get some more closure (and possibly establish that we may get back together one day in the future if we both do the required self-work and therapy… the thought of completely closing the door to us ever getting back together induces so much panic and anxiety in me and I would much rather leave the door open in case I make a mistake and one day realise he was the one after all. Plus I do want him to get better and feel that if we did have this conversation maybe he would be more motivated to stick with therapy)
I even have the message scripted out, but every time I go to actually type it out and send it to him it’s like my entire body just screams no… this awful panicky “heated” feeling comes over me and I can feel my heartbeat until I erase the message and put the phone down.
But I still really want to apologize, so doing nothing doesn’t feel right either. I remain stuck in limbo, ruminating and obsessing, going from feeling guilty and missing him to anger and frustration, back and forth, depending on what I am remembering and re-reading.
The fact that I was toxic too in some of the things I said during the relationship makes it much more confusing because there’s thoughts in my head like that if I had been better he probably never would have gotten triggered in the first place. Our worst fights were always when he felt insecure and like I was backing away from the relationship. If I had communicated more kindly and clearly and thoughtfully like I will strive to in the future his outbursts probably wouldn’t have happened.
There is the fear that maybe I was the problem. And that maybe I will never be able to find anybody as good. That maybe I should have tried harder to make it work, that if we both got professional help to work on our issues things could work out.
Because he treated me very well, except for when we would fight. And he would always apologize afterwards. But that doesn’t take back the hours spent in misery and anxiety, sometimes to the extent I had diarrhoea.
I just feel like knowing what i know now, going back to the start with a fresh slate things might have been able to work out differently. And that’s hard.
The thought of him moving on and replacing me and sleeping with somebody else is really hard too.
I don’t know if he’s in pain right now – maybe he’s moved on and doesn’t even think of me – but the thought of him devastated about our breakup and blaming himself and hating himself for the things he said in our fight is really hard to handle. That’s what makes me want to reach out most of all.
But who knows, maybe he doesn’t even want to hear from me. Maybe hearing from me would just set back his own healing rather than help at this stage.
I so relate to what you are saying here. I am a bit confused though and wondering if you could offer some insight. It has been 12 years since I broke up with ex whom I felt I was in an unhealthy relationship with, and am now wondering if perhaps the reason I still think of him is because it was a trauma bond. The only thing is, he wasn’t abusive. I broke up with him because I felt abandoned when he went out with his friends and had his own life and didn’t know how to recognize or communicate my feelings. We both had complicated childhoods. Meantime, I am married to someone else, but I still dream regularly about this other person. He made me feel safe, not unsafe. Can it be a trauma bond, with myself being the one resistant to connection, even though I desperately wanted it? And how can I allow myself to feel safe with myself? Especially on the days when I all I want is to rest my head on his shoulder. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Thank you so much for reading and for being a part of this community. Please know that you are very much not alone in your experience with regard to an ex from long ago. It’s not usually talked about, but many people enter subsequent relationships and never feel completely happy or “whole” because they long for a former partner. And there is a lot of misery in the world based on that, because these intimate feelings that you have certainly feel like the God’s honest truth — making many people feel like a “fraud” in their current relationship.
I don’t think that a relationship has to be anything close to abusive in order to be the center of a trauma bond. What stood out to me in your comment is that you remember feeling abandoned. I believe that is key here. We ALL unconsciously seek partners that remind us of people in our past, especially our primary caregivers. And when we find them, we tend to cling on because they do feel familiar and safe. It’s counter intuitive, but a person can feel like “home” even though that person also makes you feel abandoned and alone, if you didn’t feel seen, heard, or cared for in your childhood home. I have the impression that you believe that your relationship with your ex ended because you overreacted on your feelings of feeling abandoned and not cared for.
I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think that you acted on your inner wisdom which said “NO MORE” even though you you were probably crazy for the guy at the time. This is a very powerful and protective part of you that many people do not hear. One aspect of trauma is our compulsion to repeat the trauma (to seek partners that remind us of our past) so that we can at long last, make right what went wrong long ago. There is a very powerful need to find someone who feels like home and then grit your teeth and bear what you know how to bear well until such time that the relationship is TRANSFORMED. And the person who feels like home does see us, hear us, stand by us, and believe in us for the precious human we all are. To finally heal that part of us that should have felt that way in our childhoods, but perhaps never or only inconsistently did.
This part of us doesn’t fall away when we are in a new relationship. It doesn’t fall away no matter how many years pass by. Time is no match for trauma. The BEAUTIFUL part of your story (and I know you may disagree with me here) is that you did NOT fall into a cycle of praying, hoping, and staying with someone who made you feel abandoned and alone, waiting for them to change. Many people are trapped in this cycle for their entire lifetimes. You said NO MORE and you moved on with your life. Trust the decision that you made long ago. You know what feeling abandoned feels like, and there’s no such thing as a person who makes you feel moderately or manageably abandonded or alone.
Search the website for dreaming about your ex – Natasha has a great post about that. These dreams and feelings you have about your ex are a gift to you. And I’m willing to bet they don’t have anything to do with your ex at all. They are indications that a hurt part of you still feels hurt. It is still seeking acceptance, love, and comfort. Our caregivers were supposed to provide us with unconditional love when we were children. It’s very hard and it is very much a big deal to heal from a situation when you were given conditional love. I believe you have connected the fulfillment of these needs to the image and body of your ex. This is normal. And I understand it can make you crazy. But he is not the comfort you are seeking. He could not provide it for you then, and he likely cannot provide it for you now.
Try something for me. Whenever you think of him, whenever you dream of him: talk to yourself. Ask yourself what you need in the moment? What you want? What would feel good? What would taste good? Your thoughts about this person are YOU calling yourself back to YOU. This is HARD, but you can do it. The process is slow, but you will eventually start to feel better. You will eventually feel less longing for him. You will see the longing for what it is: a longing for you to no longer abandon yourself.
Much love to you.
Thank you so much, Irena, for your thoughtful and helpful response! You definitely hit the nail on the head for the reason I left. Though without knowledge of my own patterns, I sadly still didn’t then learn to navigate toward a connected relationship. But, as you say, at least I am recognizing how I have abandoned myself now and not after an entire lifetime! I thank you also for picking up on my confusion about the end of my relationship. I think my hang up was on the fact that I wondered about how I handled my feelings— not necessarily where to place the blame or if I could have contained my fear, but more how I would have experienced the connection differently (and more fully) had I allowed myself to get to curious about the triggers, and witnessed, possibly shifted, my tendency to withdrawal— had I understood the importance of my feelings — had I remained open to the possibility that I might love someone without fear of losing them, and that I might deserve being loved in return. And then decided if it was in my best interests to stay or leave the relationship. Incidentally, through phone conversation with ex years ago (I reached out after losing someone close to me), I miraculously, and unexpectedly, was met with the validation, acceptance and the transformation you described. The soul opening comfort and healing from another was still not enough to fill the void, however, or reach me entirely, and never will be, as I am learning— when I don’t offer the same to myself. In any case, I REALLY APPRECIATE you taking the time to share your useful insights…Your words definitely catapulted me into a new level of self awareness, helping me understand where “home” really is. Which seems a simple concept, yet has eluded me until now. Thank you!!!
I needed this so much…
Thank you… from the deepest part of my core!
I’m going through the same thing, and your words made me cry as I found myself in them.
I always thought it was such a lie that we can be traumatized from things that happened in our childhood and all the feelings built up then, to now, over two decades later, start to recognize just how much I actually carry and how it affects my existence and relationships.
I’m – once again – am in the middle of trying to break from, what I suspected since months, is a trauma bond. On both ends as we both have a bad past. Especially him (and that’s a big part of why I always found explanations, aka excuses, for his not that nice behaviors towards me… Like for instance the type Rose just described 🙂 )
Thank you for this article… for making me see myself not as broken but with more compassion and understanding… I’m afraid I won’t be able to heal from the things I gathered within me in my childhood, and that’s causing big issues for my present and future. It’s why I ended up in this bond too, and that adds to the why it’s so difficult to break it off, and stay off (It’s been two years since we were on and off…) And lately, I tell myself every time “this is it! I’m done!” and yet..it never was.
So I have no idea how this will go this time… It’s very hard to think about him not in my life anymore.
He was my confident, my closest friend. I used to feel safe and loved to the moon and back… Then we became more and more toxic, to the point where there’s not a pattern of pulling and pushing away, constantly.
I still find…excuses. But for now I’m holding my ground and not contacting.
He’s doing the same.
I wonder if there is any chance we might ever be able to go back to that beautiful friendship we used to have?
I have a ton of respect for everyone who has commented on here and the author. I’m an attorney that deals regularly with family law, and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why people stayed in abusive relationships or were so haunted by their endings. Well it took me being on the co-dependent side of an abusive relationship to even begin to comprehend. I was stabbed, assaulted, constantly put down until I had almost no self-esteem. It nearly ruined my career, I abandoned family and friends, and started having panic attacks for the first time in my life. It has been months since contact and I am still barely breathing. Every day seems to get more and more difficult. I truly wish all of you the best with your recovery, because this is no joke.
There is nothing I could write that would ever come close to expressing how thankful I am for your support, your strength amidst the most lonely kind of pain, and your willingness to share. Thank you for existing. I’m glad that you enjoyed this article as much as I do.
This is the most insightful article regarding trauma bonds that I have come across. I used to think that the butterflies, tension, flashbacks were all because I was damaged and or because it was a soul mate connection. Reading this helps me channel back to myself and self-care.
I need to remind myself that my body and feelings are to be acknowledged and assessed and also to not justify it as a problem with me. My ex had me in the state that I thought was the one with major issues that I need to resolve so that my emotional needs don’t hamper him. I still have moments where I think I ruined something good. But now I realize that it was mainly trauma bonding and living for the moments of validation or approval.
This came as a kind of relief because I was stuck on what is wrong with me that I behave like this. Do I have major psychological issues? To hear the scientific explanation, which other people have also experienced helps rationalize and remove the insecure aspect of it.
I am deeply grateful for this. Thank you!
Hi Fo fo,
Thank you so much for your comment. I am so honored to have helped. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Your body has tried to do what it knows to do, to protect you. It has always been on your side. YOU have always been on your side. And we are with you. I know it’s hard and you can have occasional doubts, but please know that you are such a beautiful and brave example of someone who has trusted themselves and walked away from a toxic relationship. Trusting yourself and your body to protect yourself is incredibly hard, and the “reward” or feedback that you receive may initially feel like punishment, but trust me, you are only gaining more strength every day. Sending much love to you.
I stumbled onto this site while (still) using Google searches as my online “therapy.” Some very insightful and hopeful comments here. I am reeling from my involvement with a married man, who I knew in school 40 years ago. He liked me in school, but I was never interested. We remembered that we had sex one day, after graduation, but we don’t know the why/how, and we were not “dating.” Anyway, I liked him as we started spending time together-he pursued that, but I came around, too. Turns out, he is married. Said at our first meeting he had been separated for 3 years, and divorce was imminent. I had never dated a married man. Longest story ever short: We wrangled, danced, split up (he usually dropped me out of nowhere), came back together, rinse, repeat. Without writing the novel, suffice to say that divorce has not, and will not be happening, and I have been swiftly discarded for good this time.
Since mid-May, things blew up, and I have been in that fog people describe. And very confused as to why the ruminations, and hurt feelings seem to amplify instead of subside. I do carry abandonment issues, but I have never felt so wounded, or obsessive, in any other time, during the ending of past relationships. They haven’t all been unhealthy-or at least, not to this degree. On top of his deception about the marriage, I finally have also realized that he hid his strong religious belief’s from me. I am not a “believer.” He knew that. So, lots of betrayal came my way, and I spent much time having grace and empathy for his issues-he is very dismissive-avoidant-on top of the other obstacles stated. I chased, he ran. And it was a blurry “holy trinity” of reasons why this relationship wasn’t working. But he trained me to shrug off religion as a deal-breaker, and the marriage was “over.” So we were (I thought) just left with opposite emotional selves, and our childhood hurts were warring with each other. That was a thing, regardless of the other issues. I knew it. I kept fighting for us to be kinder to those little kids we carried around. I would open our junior high 7th grade yearbook, and look at the photo’s of when we were young. Of course, that was during the time that our families and other influences were shaping who Rod and I became as adults. But I would wish for the innocence.
I wrote millions of journal entries during the year and half of this relationship. I knew early on they all sounded the same, yet I soldiered on. I was extremely attracted to him-the dopamine and all other chemicals were raging, and after losing my last boyfriend to cancer in 2013, I was happy to have a “person” again-won’t lie, and it’s normal. Until it isn’t. We were forming a connection, and he is not used to that in his life-said his wife is also very avoidant-low-emotional intrusion for over 30 years. So I was the “extroverted hippie girl” to his conservative (relatively) life/lifestyle. I thought, well, opposites have attracted. I was in love with the whole thing! There was so much deception lurking behind our relationship that I had no idea about for months. And even after I found out, there I stayed, being “human” and empathetic toward him, He did and said genuine and kind things, and was often appreciative for who I am. But not enough, and not with consistency. Very closed-off, and aware of himself, though. But still. Meant I was not having my needs met-in ways I could see clearly, and other ways, I didn’t know yet. Like, that he had never separated, so everything between us was a lie for five months. So my”self-crimes” were adding up.”
So, in my need to be “seen and heard”, and on the heels of times I tried to end this relationship, I lashed out, made myself known to his wife, and eventually, to some key people in the storied, wealthy Presbyterian church where he works as the operations/facilities person. It’s all tangled up together, “marriage and God”, and hypocrisy, etc..The betrayal was numbing for me. He has completely shut me out since May, and I made attempts to get him to have a conversation-things blew up quickly and I had no real idea where we were, or should be. Aside from the fact that I really “did” know. I am finding that these last months, I am more hurt, and more reminded of him, and more things come out in my processing of the entire “affair.” Also, he spent much time at my house, connected to my neighborhood, friends, places, etc…This has made it more difficult. Even so, I, like the others on this post, have had so much trouble with letting go-of all of it. I see him everywhere. I’m still angry that he kept the “story” going all Spring, then for a second, and final time, discarded me. I have looked to him for closure, validation, etc…and WHY? Because of all the reasons stated in this post. I have felt traumatized, but judged that “word” as being too dramatic. I don’t now…
SInce COVID-19, all of my jobs were gone, and I spent much time with Rod in the first few months of the shutdown. All my friends and connections were “staying put” as we all were pretty much doing. I got even more attached to Rod, and a “new” intimacy” he was showing me, and then, he’s molecules again. And for good. I know he is the last person who would comfort me, or even be square with me about the recent events, why, etc…But yes, I still have felt a very strong need to have him “hear” me, and see the hurt. He may have, but he will never show up. There will be no redemption or closure now. So, I have struggled on my own, while still unemployed, and trying to work myself into a state where I can “sell myself” and find work, and also, stop living in “wounded little girl” mode. To say it’s hard is a murderous understatement. I am grateful for this article, and the comments. I study and subscribe to issues of the human mind, and elements of psychology, although at times, I feel we have created a new stable of labels for people, and maybe even some excuses. But, I feel validated and genuine to accept that what I am dealing with is trauma, and that the bond between Rod and I (and on his end as well) was a trauma bond. I will try to remember the advice I have read here, as I sit typing this in my bedroom, looking at my old Crate amp that I used to play music in my room when Rod was here with me. This is a long battle…
Thank you so much for your comment. You truly help others feel less alone. We are sending you so much love during this time, which is made even more difficult, because of the pandemic and our reduced ability to be in contact with each other. I know you are feeling down right now and it is difficult to put yourself forward to seek job opportunities, but I believe you are on the slow path to feeling better without the person you have described. I really love what Carnes wrote about trauma bonding: This type of bonding does not facilitate recovery and resilience but rather undermines those very qualities within us.” I read this statement to also mean that without the continuous presence of the bond, we are more likely to recover, to regain resilience, to listen to ourselves, and to trust ourselves once more. What you are experiencing is undoubtedly so painful, but please know you are doing the brave thing to set out on your own. I know it’s difficult to be in a place that reminds you of your former partner. Sometimes those reminders can trigger us. While it’s likely not possible for you to move, it might be helpful to put away or give away things in your home that remind you of your ex the most. It may sound cheesy, but I have found it to be helpful to also look around your home and try to see details in a new light. Rearrange things. When you look out the window, try to see a new bird or branch, or the way the sunshine hits in a different way. I think that sometimes, in order to move forward, we have to reawaken to our old surroundings and see them as new. Even tiny feeling shifts can be helpful. We are thinking of you and sending you lots of love. xo Irena
You are not alone Jess. xox
Oh my goodness, Natasha. This is such an incredibly intelligent article, thank you so much. I recently went through a very brief but very intense trauma bond and although we are no longer in contact I have been so obsessive about him coming back to physically hurt me. I have felt so unsafe. I do this regularly with narcissists….my son’s headteacher, an ex-boss and others. I don’t need their love or approval (got my own) but my body goes into fear and I fear that they are going to do something to punish me. I think this stems a little from my childhood father wounds and largely from a narc relationship I many years ago. I get lost for weeks, sometimes months in the fear and freeze. No one understands and they think I should ‘just get on with it’ or ‘drop it’. I have trouble assessing whether I really am danger (because I feel so much fear and my brain is looking for ways that they might hurt me AND MOST IMPORTANTLY THE WAY I FEAR NOW IN THE PRESENT IS THE SAME FEAR I HAD THAT WAS RIGHT ABOUT THEM….THEY WERE DANGEROUS…so I know that that was right in the past so I think that the fear remaining (that they are still a threat) must be right too which is very confusing.) If I am reading this correctly then it’s actually just that the original energy is still in me…though I am likely safe now. To feel understood is such a major gift. Do you have any more information on how we can release this trauma once and for all so we can no longer have to meet more people that will trigger this? I am SO ready to be free now from attracting them and getting lost in the trauma. I want to feel safe to be powerful instead of feeling that I will be punished for being powerful. Am working on creating new beliefs, new identity, self-love and acceptance, being emotionally available for myself, and so much more… but this trauma and fear…it makes it hard to be fully in the present/safe to concentrate on me because of this sense that there is an external threat at all times. Thank you with all my heart xx
I agree! Irena did a fantastic job on this post. She will respond to you shortly 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to reach out and for being a part of this tribe. xox
I’d never heard of trauma bonding before stumbling on this article. I am currently seeing a fantastic therapist who is trained in trauma counseling and EMDR. My diagnosis is CPTSD.
I’ve come along way, especially since finding a trauma trained counselor. And although she has explained to me about trauma “living” in your physical body, I never really thought about it this way before.
Thank you so much for this. It’s given me a new way to frame those intrusive thoughts that some days I just can’t seem to shake. And the weird visceral feelings of anxiety/anger/hopelessness that are sometimes (less often now) followed by a numb detached feeling.
I thought I was crazy. I was afraid my mother was right.
It’s been 12 years since I “broke up” with my mother. And 5 since I “broke up” with my MIL.
I’m going to bookmark this article so I can come back to it when I’m feeling vulnerable, which is the trigger for me.
Thank you so much for this!
Thank you for your love and support! And thank you for being a part of this tribe, CA!
Wow…this article hit the nail on the head and made me finally realized what’s been happening all along in my life. I spent most of my teen years listening to my mom explained how she seduced my dad because she thought he had money, being beat up and verbally abused by my older sister and mom. I was hated and wished dead by both my mom and sister. My husband was sexually abusive on our honeymoon because I was not supposed to tell him how to behave with other women. I stayed in this marriage for twenty something years while he refused to communicate or apologize. This marriage lacked mental, spiritual and emotional support even after I was diagnosed with PTSD. I was wondering if I can reprint your article in a book I want to publish for veterans or anyone else who has
gone through abuse and neglect from family members or close friends.
Firstly, I don’t normally engage in the comments sections of sites, but felt compelled by the way this article connected with me. I thank you for taking the time to write this article, and also for making yourself available to answer every comment; this, too, compelled me to comment.
I’m here on the opposite side of the conversation, albeit having experienced what is defined as a trauma bond in several relationships. My last relationship lasted 12 years, and I was the perpetrator of the trauma (trauma that now seems so overwhelming and I have so much compassion for what I put her through). Unlike me, she didn’t have past relationship trauma but did have trauma stemming from her upbringing. I can’t list everything I did here, but in almost every instance that we argued, I would try to subdue her calls to be heard with a dictatorial demeanor. I would throw around the thought of breakups knowing it would hurt her. I broke up with her several times because of this acting as if it didn’t bother me and that I was strong, when in fact I would go home and cry myself to sleep some days. I was emotionally closed off when in her presence at times especially during arguments, and wouldn’t want to discuss issues to provide rational resolution to them. In some instances, I was demeaning, mostly when I felt I couldn’t win an argument. I later found out that my actions were a defense mechanism to protect myself from being hurt. I perceived a threat seemingly from my past relationship trauma bond. Even though I was truly loving on the inside, I still wasn’t aware enough -or humble enough- to catch myself in those moments when I felt compelled to argue or run. So I ran many times and it seems acted negatively out of the experience of my trauma bonds (if I’m reading this correctly). From her perspective, she froze even when her body was yelling for her to walk away. She would stay and try to endure my wrath. I later learned of how her grief would consume her and she would spend days crying in a corner or on the floor, and sometimes, when she was so beat down that didn’t care about judgment, in her mother’s arms. I know what that feels like as I experienced the same in the relationship before this one, and I don’t wish that experience on anyone. Even through all this, she was always willing to accept me back. And in the moments when she would run but come back, I would accept her, too.
In the moments after the breakup, I sought to get therapy as I couldn’t continue to live this way perpetuating trauma especially since I still loved – and still do love- this woman. Therapy was very targeted as I had found Dr. Charles Whitfield’s “Healing the Child Within” a year earlier. I knew that my childhood trauma may be the cause of all the issue, and I attended therapy for three straight years. Needless to say, it was tremendously helpful and propelled me to a level of true confidence, humility, and most importantly, awareness that I never thought I’d be able to reach.
As it seems, my ex still has trauma bonds with me. I ended up speaking with my her in early 2019 and began a journey of trying to heal together. I thought that, if she can see that I’ve changed, we can fix this relationship and move forward. Obviously, that didn’t yield the result that I expected. In my mind, if I help her voice her pains and am available to apologize for my transgressions, the past trauma should fade away. My understanding was that she’ll begin to replace the “old” me with the “new” me and all would be fine again. After reading this article, it seems like that won’t heal the trauma bonds especially since they don’t know space-time, but rather seem to only exist in the now no matter how long ago the trauma occurred. I can confirm that from my own experience. I will say that my targeted therapy increased my awareness enough to be able to forgive myself for the things that happened to me, even the ones I had no control over. Once I learned self compassion and techniques for self awareness, my mental outlook shifted and I began to see the world from an unapologetically happy place. I don’t think I have the same trauma bonds with my past anymore; instead, it seems like a new trauma bond has been setup with her.
We’ve not communicated much since the beginning of this year when she determined she doesn’t want to be emotionally connected to me. She fears that my presence triggers her. After not speaking with her for several months, she texted me explaining that we need to separate emotionally as she broke down crying while out with her friends. I spoke to her and after discussing, she decided that that’s not what she wanted. I tried giving her space so I didn’t reach out afterwards until recently. I bumped into her at a supermarket and we began engaging in conversation. The spark was amazing. We walked down the aisles and at one point we held hands. The moment was extremely warm and gave me hope. In a recent communication, it seemed like she was triggered again and shut down. From reading this article and confirmed by my past experience, the trauma will live in her no matter where she goes and with whom she stays. She will always be triggered until she releases the trauma bonds.
That leads me to my question: is it even possible to fully release trauma bonds and reconnect emotionally with a person that caused you trauma? From my experience with healing, I feel it is very possible, and I hope that’s not a rare occurrence. I agree with one of your articles in that, if I were toxic, unavailable, and narcissistic, she should run away for good. Granted, I haven’t provided enough for you to know that I’m not, but I know that I’m not. How would you navigate that experience? What guidance would you provide her if you could communicate with her? In the end, I want to be able to help heal all the trauma I caused, and hopefully reconcile.
Again, thanks for the thoughtful article. I believe this is the first internet comment I’ve ever left on a site and I’ve been using the internet since 1996. So thank you for motivating me enough to write this.
Forgive me if I put my two cents in here.
First thing: becoming self aware is an incredible step; the first step at a chance for recovery. This bodes well for you. You have a chance to really change your trajectory in life.
Secondly: don’t stop there, you need to do the really hard work of discovering why it is, really why it is, that you are the way you are. It is difficult for both the abused and abuser to dig deep and own the psychological aspects of us that create the attraction in the first place.
Me? I’m a survivor of a narcissistic/BPD gf and I am the codependent son of a narc mother…not an easy thing to own up to, but knowing opens the door to healing.
Lastly: if you really care for her, let her go. This is where you have to be 100% honest , do you REALLY care for her? Or is it about you?
You cannot turn back time. To continue to contact her, to pick at that wound, is literally killing her slowly. She is in a trauma bond with you. Key word “trauma”. If she does not have the strength to stay away, man up and take responsibility. This action will be the most loving thing you could ever do for her. Let her go. 100% no contact. Do not seek validation from her for this act either, that will only continue the cycle.
currently going through withdrawal after a year or more of breaking up with an abusive person in my life and searched for articles to shed light on the intensity and insanity i was feeling from missing and craving connection with that same person. only to realise that the trauma bond continues to haunt me despite thinking that i must have built resilience and recovered. i really resonated with all your words which gave me insight as to how i should be understanding and processing the things that i may be caught unaware of, only to realise them after reacting badly to something. thank you from across the world
Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me that this post was helpful to you. Please know you are not alone. With this comment, you help others to know they are not alone as well. Please know there is nothing “wrong” with you — the feelings and events that stem from trauma bonds are symptomatic of your body doing what it knows to do, to protect you (albeit in a way that makes you feel another type of discomfort and pain). It is always there for you, just like you have always been there for yourself. You are here, you have survived, you are open to viewing these reactions in a compassionate way, and you are loved here by us! I know it may feel like your body is attacking you with the intensity of the craving, but once you understand this for what it is, once you can step back and witness yourself as you are (suffering and all), I promise that the intensity will start to fade. Please remain compassionate to what is occurring to you. I believe that helps most of all.
Much love to you.
<3 I appreciate you and could not have said it better.
It’s been 3 years since we broke up and the trauma bond is strong as ever. This is the first thing I have read that gives me hope. Slowly realizing that when I get triggered, that’s not how love is supposed to feel. Like I’m being crushed and can’t breathe. Want to jump out of my skin and while crying so hard I can’t see. This finally told me why I feel like that. My body is screaming at me to stay away. Not that I need him . Why would I run to someone that broke my nose and choked me? Who broke their hand punching me in the head? You run away from them. Thank you for explaining it to me. Everytime I start to feel triggered, I read this again. It settles me like nothing ever has and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me. I know I will be free of him. It’s already starting.
I apologize for this taking so long to write to you. I am begging you to take this energy that you feel and “move”. When I say move, I mean even if you go for a brief walk to the mailbox…just move away from the location you are experiencing this negative energy. Move to help dissipate the toxins that are flooding you. I promise you as I speak from my experiences that moving will kick start your healing. You deserve to live in serenity.
I don’t normally comment on articles but this is the first article I’ve read that fully seems to understand what I’m currently going through
I recently went no-contact with someone who has been in my life for almost 3 years. We were together for 18 months of that time but remained in contact as he wanted to be ‘friends’. The relationship included; gas lighting, love bombing, control and manipulation. He has recently moved on to another relationship. It’s been 1 month since I replied to any of his messages. He messaged me after I cut contact but I knew that nothing good would come of the communication so I didn’t respond. When we were in contact I had severe anxiety if we weren’t talking and low moods. I craved his attention and needed his validation.
Since cutting contact I’ve had periods of severe anxiety and constant thoughts about him with his new girlfriend. Questions like; ‘why wasn’t I good enough?’ and ‘what if he becomes the perfect partner for her?’. I feel like I’m not alone after reading this article and I hope that by acknowledging the trauma bond, I can slowly begin to heal both emotionally and physically
My ex gf trauma bonded me. Our relationship was going great. No problems. Then the day of our three year anniversary. She disappeared. And she blocked me on Facebook too. A friend screen shotted her profile picture. It was her and a new guy holding eachother. My heart jumped. I called n texted. Finally I got a hold of her. But she was drunk and a mess. Then she hung up.
I went to her house to talk to her a few days later. She acted like she didn’t do anything wrong n she brushed off our entire relationship like it was nothing. She even has a framed picture of her and him on the night stand. It was like she intentionally wanted me to see it to get a reaction out of me. She was just so cold and indifferent. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was going on. And the guy. She only met a few days earlier at her new job. Why would she drop me for someone she doesn’t even know. So 6 months went by. She beat crumbed me and ghosted me every week. When they didn’t work out. She came back. I took her back. And she treated me like shit. For years. I think she had no respect for me because I tried to brush off her cheating like it was nothing.
On our 8 year anniversary she left me for a second guy again.
The trauma bond had a hold on me. And still does to this day. But it’s slowly getting better
Natasha and Irene, you both are true blessings for us all. Well done. Like many others, this article hit deeply home for me; I’ve been searching for answers and coming up frustrated.
Becoming aware of the reasons why I fell so completely for my cluster B ex has been healing, however the trauma bond has proven to be so difficult to break free from. (Of course, the lack of closure didn’t help either.)
I have this bookmarked and have returned to it several times. Each time I reread it, I feel energized to continue to be aware and mindful, plus give myself grace.
Hi, thank you so much for this piece. I was wondering if you could tell me, is it possible to still be trauma bonded 3 years after having left a toxic relationship? I feel, as I am learning to love myself and be more present in my life, that I am not triggered as much, I rarely have flashbacks, and I am more able to be present, ie, not be with him in my head all the time.
But when things get hard it’s the first place I go to. I still want so much to contact him sometimes. To talk to him one last time. To ask him why.
I’ve been in therapy for two years but still I thought I was in love and missed him. Trauma bonding is just starting to make sense to me. I didn’t think that’s what it was.
So sorry, this was long, what I’d like to know is, is there hope? After 3 years I thought I’d be ok. I don’t feel ok. I feel better, I feel like I am getting there, but I wish I could just not go there anymore.
Thank you <3
I’m trying to break free of a trauma bond right now. I don’t feel I can even live anymore. This article (out of all the 100’s I have read) was the best and most soothingww de. It still feels impossible no matter how much I read, surround myself with family, get therapy, practise self love. I still can’t stop contacting him. I still feel great despair. I don’t want to live anymore. It hurts too much.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this.
Thank you for the gift that is YOU. Love and appreciate you, sister. xo
Please know you are not alone. I hope this goes without saying, but if you do feel suicidal, please seek immediate help. I’m not sure where you are in the world, but please know that suicide hotlines and hospitals are standing ready to help you. It is absolutely crucial that you seek help when you feel this way. Please hang on and please take care. The most important thing in the world is your safety.
Please also know this: I can absolutely 100 percent guarantee you — I would bet all I know and love — that if you keep hanging on and if you keep doing the things you mentioned — you WILL feel better.
What you are feeling right now will not continue. I promise you the pain will abate. Here’s the best news:
You will absolutely adore Future You. You will look back on this time with so much compassion for yourself. Future You will think of Current You and say: you were in so much pain and you were so incredibly courageous through it all (I know you may not be feeling particularly courageous, but you are).
I will NEVER say that trauma or trauma bonds are something to be grateful for. They absolutely are not. I am so incredibly sorry that you are going through this and that you feel this way.
But I also know this: on the other side of how you feel right now, shortly down the road, is a Future You who has more compassion for themselves, who understands themselves, who has the confidence to walk away, to pursue your own life and your own dreams, and to know that you have VALUE for the beautiful human being made of stardust and light that you are. This is what happens once this kind of pain transmutes itself. After you show your pain compassion. Once you see this type of pain as what it is: your body frozen and trying to protect you in the way that it knows how. This is what happens to everyone when they hang on, seek support, and do the other things you are doing. It will happen for you.
You may not feel this way now, but TRUST ME, you will absolutely love this future version of you when you meet them.
I understand that it can feel impossible to stop reaching out. I’m not a psychologist or in any kind of healing profession, but what I have read and know is that many psychologists believe that an addiction to a person can often be harder to “break” than the hardest of drugs. This is to say — what you are trying to do feels impossible, because it’s incredibly hard.
But you are not alone. There are so many resources out there to help you. And it sounds like you are reading a lot of articles. Please know that information, support, and resource- seeking does not all have to happen at the same time. Your nervous system is working beautifully to keep you safe in likely one of the only ways it knows how. It’s possible that a lot of information seeking (via articles on the internet) is doing you more harm than good (when you are in a very activated state).
Here is something that has helped me. When you are feeling an emotion that feels completely unmanageable, narrate what you are feeling in the third person as if you are writing a story. For example, if I am feel anxious, in the moment when it feels impossible I will say “she feels very nervous about her upcoming project. she feels like there’s absolutely no way she will be able to handle it at all.”
This does two things. First, it puts a tiny bit of space between your current activated state and the soul in you that is experiencing that very moment in your life. Second, and more importantly, you will feel seen. You will feel witnessed. You will feel as if you exist. I think a lot of times, when it feels like we will never stop reaching out to someone who is harmful to you, it is because we feel that if we don’t have contact, we don’t exist. This is a completely normal response if you have at any point in your life felt unseen, unheard, neglected, and unloved.
Please see yourself and witness yourself. Because truly do exist and you are one of the beautiful souls who will resonate with others, will write a comment on a blog, and will help people feel less alone in their pain. You have done that for others. And if you’re open to it, I promise you, you will see that other people will connect with you, witness you, and value you. This is an absolute guarantee — that you WILL have a different life.You will stop seeking this from people who do not have the capacity or ability to give this to you. You will find the true souls who are ready and open to what you know you need.
I’ll say this again — I feel you and am thinking of you — but I am not a professional, in mental health or any kind of medical profession. Please continue to seek help. And know you are loved and never, ever alone.
I appreciate, value and love you so much Irena ♥️
This was an excellent explanation and explains so much ! Thanks
I agree! Irena did an incredible job on this guest post. So happy that it helped you as much as it did me, Ann! Thank you for being a part of this community. Big hug. Xx
This article is absolutely amazing!!! Thank you so much!!! One of the many helpful things I am taking away from reading this is reminding myself that I am now safe! I remind myself of this every time I get anxiety and it helps me immediately. Absolutely amazing!!!
Agreed! Irena did such a fantastic job! I’m so happy that this post served you as much as it did me. Thanks for taking the time to comment and for being a part of this tribe, Jill! All my love you you. Xxox
This is an excellent article. I have just come across trauma bonding and this is exactly what a close friend of mine is going through. They have been on and off so many times and each time it gets nastier. Now I understand what he is going through. I am so glad I found your site.
I’m so glad that you found this site too! And so happy this post helped 🙂
All my love to you, Angela. xox
This article is amazing. I am currently in a trauma bond, and I recently just realized it was a trauma bond. My boyfriend gaslighted, lied, manipulated, love bombed etc. All the nasty stuff. He tells me he sleeps with other girls, but then he is just “joking” and I don’t believe he is cheating. But this man has truly warped my whole reality to I don’t trust myself or anything anymore. He planted fake nails, bra, leggings etc. in his room to make me think they were mine. To then telling me they were his mom, sister, etc. Lying on top of a lie, and yet I still believe him?? My reality is warped, and I can’t believe that I have stayed, and am still in this relationship. I walk around eggshells. Like a comment earlier, I am too nice, choose to believe him (even when I know the truth, and just want to avoid fights, and show him how much I love him. He doesn’t care. And never will for anyone (because he is a narcissist). Anyway there is so much more things he did to make me have a false reality. He made me turn against my friends when they were only helping. He isolated me. He uses awful names, and I want to leave him. But somehow can’t. He moved states so we are long distance, and will go for months without talking (on his terms). It’s awful but after learning about trauma bonds this all makes sense now. I am acknowledging and accepting that I need help & will be going to therapy to get out of this. Funny thing is he pursued me hard core, I was happy with myself and not looking for a relationship. It is now so hard for me to know who I am anymore or make decisions on my own. I just don’t know how to even break up or end it with him. Like what do I say? Do I write him a letter. I have tried in a joking way saying break up with me then when he talks about other “girls” but he never takes anything I say seriously. Sometimes I will tell him something or say something, have to repeat it 10 times so he can “hear” me, yet he just says something else and never acknowledges me. It is an awful feeling and I can’t wait for it to be over and to grow from this. much love and respect to all these comments! I resonate with so much of all of this, I can’t put it all into words. But I do need help on what to say to my partner keeping me in this trauma bond. How do I end the relationship when it is so difficult. I freeze up. I have that out of body experience.
Oh my goodness. This is unreal. I have been feeling utterly terrible since going no contact 4 months ago, slowly falling further down the spiral, scared and with no language to communicate or understand what on earth is happening to me. This! Exactly this. I have obsessively read books, article and watched videos trying to find anything that can help me move forward and now I finally have, I think this could be a big learning curve for me and a step towards healing. Thank you 🙏
Every single word in this article is what I’m currently living and have been for almost 8 months now. Thank you so much for this. I wish I could let go and move forward and I’m struggling and suffering every day- but being able to understand exactly what I’m going through not just by giving it a name but being able to see why I’m doing what I’m doing. It gives me hope that I can heal one day.
I’m so glad this helped, TMarie. You are not alone. Thank you for being you and thank you for being a part of this tribe. All my love to you, sister. xo
Thank you so much. I have been saying I am “ stuck” got some time now. At least I know I am not crazy.
So happy it helped! You are not alone, Cheryl.
Thank you for this article. I am happy to see that people are still engaging in 2022 and hope my story will be noticed. I am considering therapy but have no one to discuss this with. I’m at a mid life stage now and am with a wonderful man who makes me feel safe and loved, we’ve been together for years and have a very happy life. Someone from my past, from almost 20 years ago has re entered my life, and I should say, who I have allowed to re enter my life has re opened all of the pain that I blacked out long ago. At first I remembered nothing, then things started coming back. I thought I would use this opportunity to try to understand and attempted to communicate to and with this person about everything. Not much has been helpful and he hasn’t changed. It’s been about 6 months and I have gone from becoming connected to this person on social media and thinking wow, it’s been a long time I’m struggling to recall details, to breaking down sobbing on the floor when they came flooding back. Once again, my life is happy, but that trauma never went away though, because I never addressed it. 20 years later. As of now, I’m an emotional wreck and thinking about the right words to say to this person to break the connection and say goodbye for good. Despite all of this, can you believe I’m concerned about hurting this person who probably doesn’t even care? And I’m dreading knowing that they will be gone forever but things can’t go on this way, I feel like I’m leading a double life, safe and happy with my regular life and then this constant reminder of pain in the background.
This requires a coaching session. It’s impossible for me to advise in the comments (thank you for your understanding and kindness). Please go to my coaching page or seek a licensed professional. You are not alone. All my love to you, A.