7 Stages of Trauma Bonding: Reclaim your mental, emotional, and physical health
7 Stages of Trauma Bonding: Reclaim your mental, emotional, and physical health
In this episode of Women's Mental Health Podcast” Randi Owsley, LMSW, and Jessica Bullwinkle, LMFT, guide women ages 25-55 through the complex world of trauma bonding. Discover the definition, effects, and types of trauma bonds, while gaining practical tools to break free and heal. Join us for empowering insights, expert advice, and a roadmap to reclaiming your identity, building self-esteem, and finding the path to healthy relationships. If you're seeking solace, self-care, and mental health resources, this episode is a lifeline.
If you're looking for information on trauma bonding, coping skills, and resources to help manage the emotional toll, then you've come to the right place. Learn more about the definition of trauma bonding, the effects it can have on your mental health, the types of trauma bonds, and common causes, including family dynamics and childhood trauma. Discover how therapy can help you break free from toxic relationships, navigate codependency and establish boundaries. Gain insights into the difference between trauma bonding and healthy love, while identifying the signs of trauma bonding in friendships and romantic relationships. Find out how to heal from trauma bonding and rebuild self-esteem, trust, and a sense of identity. With practical tools, expert advice, and compassionate support, you can learn to manage trauma bonding and reclaim your emotional wellbeing.
In our upcoming podcasts, we will dive deeper into some of the most important topics related to trauma bonding. We will explore codependency and its link to trauma bonding, while providing practical steps to break free from toxic relationships. We will also discuss the intricate balance between trauma bonding and healthy love, and how to tell the difference. In addition, we will examine the impact of trauma bonding on self-esteem, trust, and mental health, while identifying common signs to look out for.
We will also examine how trauma bonding can impact friendships, and provide guidance on setting and enforcing boundaries after trauma bonding. Whether you're seeking healing from past trauma, looking for resources to help manage emotional pain or seeking guidance on how to move forward, our upcoming episodes will offer valuable insights and guidance to help you thrive.
Frequently asked questions about trauma bonding:
Q: What is trauma bonding?
A: Trauma bonding is a complex psychological phenomenon where intense emotional attachments are formed with abusive or toxic individuals due to a cycle of reward and punishment.
Q: How does trauma bonding affect women's mental health?
A: Trauma bonding can have significant detrimental effects on women's mental health, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and difficulties in establishing healthy relationships.
Q: What are some signs of trauma bonding?
A: Signs of trauma bonding may include feeling powerless to leave an abusive relationship, minimizing or excusing the abuser's behavior, and constantly seeking their approval and validation.
Q: Can trauma bonding occur in friendships?
A: Yes, trauma bonding can occur in friendships too. It can result from emotional manipulation, control, and power dynamics, leading to a cycle of attachment and toxicity.
Q: How can I break free from trauma bonding?
A: Breaking free from trauma bonding requires recognizing the pattern, seeking support from professionals or support groups, establishing boundaries, and focusing on self-care and healing.
Q: What role does codependency play in trauma bonding?
A: Codependency often intertwines with trauma bonding, as individuals may become excessively reliant on the abuser for validation and self-worth, reinforcing the cycle of abuse.
Q: Can trust be rebuilt after trauma bonding?
A: Rebuilding trust after trauma bonding is a complex process. It often requires professional help, open communication, setting boundaries, and consistent actions from the abuser to demonstrate change.
Q: How does childhood trauma contribute to trauma bonding?
A: Childhood trauma can create vulnerabilities and patterns of attachment that make individuals more susceptible to trauma bonding in adulthood.
Q: Are there support resources available for healing from trauma bonding?
A: Yes, there are numerous support resources available, including therapy, support groups, helplines, books, and online communities, focused on healing from trauma bonding and rebuilding emotional well-being.
Q: How can I learn to establish and enforce boundaries after trauma bonding?
A: Learning boundaries after trauma bonding involves self-reflection, identifying personal limits, assertiveness training, and practicing self-compassion while setting and enforcing boundaries in relationships.
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7 Stages of Trauma Bonding: Reclaim your mental, emotional, and physical health
Welcome to the Women's Mental Health Podcast with Randi and Jess. We're two licensed psychotherapists and we talk about mental health, well being, and strategies for coping with life's challenges and how it's all normal.Jess: 0:25
It is so normal and you're so in the right place.Randi: 0:28
Today's episode is an important one. We're discussing trauma bonding and abusive relationships, a deeply complex and sensitive subject that we believe needs to be talked about.Jess: 0:39
It is a term that's becoming more recognized. I hear it a lot more but it's important to understand its dynamics because we're hearing it used in two different ways.Randi: 0:49
It's important to note that the true meaning of trauma bonding does not mean bonding with another person over shared traumas, but rather a bond that a survivor of abuse feels towards the person causing the abuse.Jess: 1:00
However, thanks to TikTok and other social media channels, the other meaning is connecting with friends or people in similar situations, which we will talk about in our next episode.Randi: 1:11
And for this episode, there is a trigger warning because we will be discussing abuse.Jess: 1:16
Help is available. You can speak with somebody today at the National Domestic Violence Hotline 800 799 7233. Have you ever had these thoughts?Randi: 1:29
does trauma bondingJess: 1:31
How does trauma bonding affect women's mental health?Randi: 1:35
mental health?Jess: 1:36
Can trauma bonding occur in relationships such as friendships?Randi: 1:40
How can I break free from trauma bonding?Jess: 1:43
Can trust be rebuilt after trauma bonding?Randi: 1:47
How does childhood trauma contribute to trauma bonding?Jess: 1:51
Are there support resources available for healing from trauma bonding?Randi: 1:55
How can I learn to establish and enforce boundaries after trauma bonding? We will answer more of these questions fully at the end.Jess: 2:02
Okay, Randy, let's start by understanding what trauma bonding is within the context of abusive relationships and why it's so important to talk about this for women.Randi: 2:12
Trauma bonding refers to a complex emotional connection that forms between an individual and an abusive partner or situation. This connection is often characterized by a mixture of positive and negative experiences, creating a powerful psychological bond that's very difficult to break.Jess: 2:32
The challenge for this is going to be to break free from these bonds. They're often fueled by manipulation and fear, the, I love you, I hate you, I love you, I hate you. The abuse occurs and then the next day there'sRandi: 2:44
right, like, Love bombing and things like that we'll talk about a little bit more, but also fearful that you'll be alone, or there's financial things that they're holding over your head. There's a lot of fear placed in that. But like you said, then there's a positive with a negative, a positive with a negative. You're constantly spinning in this cycle. So how do you break free from that?Jess: 3:07
Abuse, I guess we, I want to explain abuse. Abuse can be in many forms, right? There's emotional, physical, verbal like you had just said, financial time wise being phone friends. There's so many ways that abuse can happen. And I want to talk about how trauma bonding, manifests in these different situations.Randi: 3:28
Within abuse, there is a real play for control with manipulation and vulnerability that keeps individuals trapped in these toxic relationships. And so these are seen in different forms of abusive relationships, like child abuse. Incest situations, elder abuse employment abuse where employees are being exploited kidnapping or hostage situations, human trafficking and sex traffickingJess: 3:58
What are some of the indicators that our listeners should be aware of?Randi: 4:02
Oftentimes an abuse victim will think that abuse is their fault.. An abuse victim might lie to friends and family about the abuse. An abuse victim is covering up or making excuses for the abuser's behavior. A victim might not feel comfortable. Leaving the situation or even talking about it.Jess: 4:26
Oh, right there. How do we recognize some of the trauma bonding and abusive relationships?Randi: 4:31
They'll shoulder the blame. They feel like they're the cause of it.Jess: 4:35
If only I hadn't done this, he wouldn't have done this. Or only if I had been different.Randi: 4:41
Yes. If I had listened, if I had followed the rules, especially if that's like in a strict environment or like a parental environment like that, if I had just done A, B, or C, then X, Y, or Z wouldn't have happened and we need to stop right there. You are not at fault for the abuse.Jess: 5:00
We talked about some of the lies or not being honest about it would be like, Oh I fell. nothing happened. I fell. Oh, I ran into a doorknob. We've heard these actually happen.Randi: 5:10
Another thing is the abuser will promise that they'll change over and over again. So it's like a cycle I'm so sorry I did this next time it'll be better. And you keep waiting for the next time and there's never a next time. Or they manipulate and control the victim with gaslighting.Jess: 5:27
This is your fault. Yes. You made me doRandi: 5:31
Making you, perceive a reality that isn't really reality because they just keep hounding the facts over and over again that you're the cause of it.Jess: 5:40
That didn't happen.Randi: 5:42
A big one is isolating the victim from friends, family, work, support systems, therapists, like they remove them from the situation or they make them believe that their support system is toxic. orJess: 5:56
it they can't get there, right? They don't have access. They don't have keys. they don't have a phone. Yeah. Okay.Randi: 6:01
yeah. Another is the abuser will make the victim look so bad to friends and family. So friends and family are thinking like, Oh, what's really going on here? Maybe it really is the other theJess: 6:16
Oh, they're doing drugs or they're drinking a lot. It's really, I'm trying to help them.Randi: 6:21
And so let's talk about how victims might justify their partner's behavior, making excuses Again, believing the gaslighting and that they're responsible for the abuse.Jess: 6:33
It starts really slowly. Nobody says, Oh, you're an abuser. I'm gonna go date you, It doesn't happen like that. It starts very slow. It's little things and they add up to eventually where you're doubting yourself.Randi: 6:44
killers are like very handsome and very charming. Oh, and manipulative. So manipulative. Oh, and manipulative. So you don't go in thinking like this guy is gonna kill me or this woman is going to harm me or this person. A lot of These people are in. Power positions. There's somebody like at your work, or they're a family member you look up to, or they're somebody that you're dating. it can start out very charming, like love bombing. That's like when the person is all about you and loves you so much, and does… all these amazing things for you and you've never experienced this before and you think they're the most amazing person in the world and you're don't really realize because you're like in this like love lust like oh my gosh this is so amazing stage most people don't keep that up at that pace.Jess: 7:29
that is the beginning step of trauma bonding. There are seven stages to trauma bonding. And the very first one is what you said is love bombing. They love you. Everything's amazing. And you're having this great time. And then the next one is gaining trust, and they're so amazing. Cause again, there's still love bombing youRandi: 7:49
then slowly creeps in criticism. So little pokes here and there. Why are you doing that? Why are you dressing that way? Why don't you do it this way? Like I like it this way. Try it this. And you're like, Okay, well, I trust them and they love me, so you're not seeing it so bad. And then it delves into more of theJess: 8:12
manipulation piece, that if you loved me, you would do it this way. and if you do it this way, then we can have a life like this. And there's still love bombing and they're still gaining your trust and they're still criticizing you. And now they're manipulating you. And then from there, the person ends up doing what?Randi: 8:31
Resignation. So you're kind of like, okay, well they love me, but this is happening, but. Maybe all these buts maybe it'sJess: 8:40
just easier, right? This is just easier to do it this way.Randi: 8:44
Let's just go with it. Maybe I am the cause of it or maybe it's just this way or maybe they have had this experience. So they're this way. We start making excuses and kind of just being like resigned to the fact that it is what it is instead of being like no and noticing all these red flags and then it moves into oh shit. Yeah. Distress.Jess: 9:06
Yeah. Now it's causing problems. You can't make it to work and you're having problems at work because they've taken your keys. They've made it so you can't call your family or your friends and you're distressed and there's, there's anguish and there's issuesRandi: 9:21
happening and you're questioning things and then. It starts a repetition of the cycle. So they see you're distressed and they're like, Oh shit, I'm losing my hold on this person. So they go back into the love bombing, trust building, and this cycle repeats again and again andJess: 9:39
again. And this cycle can be fast. It can be long. It could happen several times a day. It could be with big stuff. It could be with little stuff. There isn't a specific timeline for this. So how do we help our listeners break this cycle?Randi: 9:54
So breaking free from trauma bonds in an abusive relationship is a very, very difficult journey. It is not something that can usually happen overnight. It's hard. Even if you decide all of a sudden just to be like, okay, break ties and walk away, there's still long lasting ramifications and emotional scars from this. We're going to give you some guidance on how to initiate that process. TheJess: 10:19
first thing I tell people is I want you to build a support system. I know that the person you're in a relationship with has probably taken that away.Randi: 10:27
They've taken you out of that situation, but your friends and family love you and they want to be there for you. So reach out to them and tell them the truth so you can build that support system back up.Jess: 10:38
also include others in your support system. It could look like a therapist, which is go seek professional help. It could look like talking to somebody at a local community center. CouldRandi: 10:51
look like reaching out to the hotline that we mentioned at the beginning with a text message. And from there, you can create a safety plan. So just how can you explain the idea of a safety plan?Jess: 11:03
Okay. So we throw the word safety plan around a lot in therapy. And the idea is having a plan obviously to keep you safe, but we want to break it down step by step. And it's going to be, if this happens, I want you to be able to call this number. If you can get out of the house, where are you going to go? Do people have special code words we talk about with our kids if someone's going to pick you up that you don't know, what's our code word should also be with your friends as well. If you're all of a sudden talking about, I don't know, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the middle of a sentence, or you're like I'd really like to get a strawberry daiquiri and you don't drink. These could be code words that your friends know. Oh, there's something in distress,Randi: 11:45
I need to call somebody or I need to go over to their house or I need to meet them at a place that we have talked about. So it's a plan, a steps a, B and C of where you can go, what you should be doing if you are in major distress and you need to leave the situation right away andJess: 12:01
having somebody that's in on your plan. Somebody who knows what your plan is and that is what a safety plan is. And this is really important if you're going to escape this cycle of abuse.Randi: 12:14
And then next we need to talk about healing and self care after leaving a situation with trauma bonding because, like we mentioned, it can leave a lot of your own emotional scars and trauma behind. And so it's very important to rebuild your self esteem. And learn about what a healthy relationship looks like and how to set boundaries so that you can heal and not have this happen again. Because a lot of times we will repeat this cycle with different relationships over and over again until we learn to instill that self love, that self confidence, those boundaries and learn about ourselves and how we navigate relationships.Jess: 12:59
absolutely right, Randy, because we will, we will go from one relationship to another one. It's almost like we're not broken, but we're picking what we already know. We talk about how children of alcoholics will marry alcoholics because they know how to navigate that. And so a lot of times you have to really work on yourself. And you said it last episode where you said, I like myself, I love myself, and I am worthy. Most people in a trauma bond relationship, because of the manipulation and the criticism, they don't believeRandi: 13:33
that. also a lot of it, comes from, childhood trauma. If you have had a parent that has treated you this way, You do not feel like you are worthy of the relationship and you are constantly trying to make up for that because you feel like you're lacking and you just want somebody to love you and show you an attention and that you are worthy but you need to stop and find that within yourself because You're just, it's just going to keep repeating, and that's why it's important to really do self care and take care of yourself and healing because you don't want to repeat it again andJess: 14:10
again. You don't, and you don't want your children, if you have children, to be part of this as well. Because they will do the same thing and they will repeat this cycle. And so it's important to really break down this cycle and regain a sense of control over yourself, over your life, your emotions rebuilding your self worth and, and really having healthy. Relationships with yourself and with others.Randi: 14:37
And so how can survivors of trauma bonding rebuild their lives and move forward with this new resilience?Jess: 14:45
It's important to cultivate self compassion, setting your healthy boundaries and really embracing your own internal personal growth as a woman, as an individual, a mom, whatever that is, because this is important for you to be on your healing journey is to have all of this and to know your worth. Most women. who aren't even in a trauma bond don't know15:09
worth. Exactly. It's so important to have empathy towards yourself. And when you can be kind to yourself, you will be able to learn to move forward with this, and you can rebuild your life. And it will be much better. And I'm not coming from a place of bullshit. I'm coming from a place of somebody who has left an emotionally abusive relationship. And move forward and made the life of my dreams. You are not alone in this.Jess: 15:40
You aren't. And there's so many women out there who are in these relationships who won't leave because they don't want to split up time with the kids. Who don't leave because they don't want to give up their house. Who don't leave because of whatever. Yeah. When I see women who have left and have rebuilt their lives, They have become so happy. They fall in love with somebody who loves them and not trauma bonding, notRandi: 16:07
love bombing. No house, no money, no anything is worth your sanity. And I left a relationship with nothing. No money, no finished education, no nothing to my name, and rebuilt myself from the ground up. It is possible. It is possible. So it's scary as fuck, but it's possible.Jess: 16:30
It is possible. So as we conclude today's episode, I really want every listener out there to know that you are not alone and that help is available. Healing from a trauma bond and an abusive relationship. It is possible. It is hard, but it is possible.Randi: 16:46
You deserve a life. free from fear and pain, so reach out for support and take those first steps towards healing.Jess: 16:54
Thank you for being part of the Women's Mental Health PodcastRandi: 16:56
community. If you found this episode valuable, don't forget to subscribe, share, and leave us a review. Stay tuned for our next episode where we'll continue addressing topics that empower your mental health journey. UntilJess: 17:08
next time, take care and be kind to yourself.