The Trauma Bond; Abuse that Feels Just Like Cocaine and Terror

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In describing a trauma bond to you I have decided to use a puppy and two genderless people instead of a man and a woman because people suck and puppies are relatable. You’ll empathize more with the puppy thus making the concept of a trauma bond sink in deeper. That, and you stable types tend to judge abuse victims who choose to stay in abusive relationships. SHAME ON YOU!!! Doesn’t it suck to be judged?

The Little Puppy

The little puppy loved its mother but its mother had too many puppies and would often not let the little puppy nurse when it needed to. The mother would get up and wander off, acting as if the little puppy didn’t exist. The other puppies were bigger and mother noticed them and licked them and let them nurse but when the little puppy finally fought its way to the milk the mother didn’t seem to see it. One day the little puppy was fortunate enough to get to the milk first and its mother licked it and cleaned it and it nursed until its belly was full and it felt milk drunk and happy. The happy the little puppy felt was a release of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. These are the love and feel-good hormones that hit the same part of the brain as Cocaine. The little puppy was stoned on love. It slept very well and was at peace.

At the next feeding the mother ignored the puppy and did not let it nurse. The mother did not lick it, or see it, or hear its whines for love. The puppy felt a flood of grief. Its brain was washed with cortisol, a stress hormone, and then adrenaline, a panic hormone when it saw its mother get up and realized it would not eat or be loved that day. So, the little puppy learned to please the mother, to beat its siblings to nurse, and to fight for its right to be with mother. Mother liked this and would alternately reward the puppy with love and punish the puppy with total withdrawal of all affection. The puppy was now conditioned to do everything it could for its mother’s approval but its everything was never enough. Worse still it was addicted to the cocaine like drugs it felt when its mother noticed it, and equally tortured by the withdrawals followed by worry and panic it felt when its mother ignored it.

One day people came to pick out puppies and take them home. The little puppy was terrified. It had an anxious attachment to its mother and wanted nothing to do with anyone but her. When people reached in to pick it up it shook and whined and peed itself. No one wanted the shy little puppy with no confidence. A person who smelled like the old wool sweater it wore came in and looked at the little puppy. It noticed the way it shook, cowered, and peed whenever anyone went near it. Preconditioned, fragile, low self-esteem, traumatized, bullied, and no sense of identity. Perfect,’ thought the person we will now call Wool.

Wool took the little puppy, shoved it into a box and went home. The puppy shook terribly. Its world was shattered. It couldn’t see anything and worse still, it couldn’t smell its mother. Once inside its new home the puppy was pushed into a metal cage and left alone for hours. Then Wool remembered puppy and pulled puppy out of the cage. Wool pet puppy and gave it treats, and gave it kisses, and called it good. Puppy felt the same flood of drugs pour through its brain and immediately fell in love. This love was not real love, it was drug love, the euphoria an addict feels when it gets high. Puppy would do anything for Wool. It felt the same way about Wool as it did about mother. In fact, Wool had replaced mother in every way. When Wool was unhappy with puppy, Wool would withhold all love and touch causing puppy to go into drug withdrawals from the happy hormones which were replaced with the fear and panic drugs, cortisol and adrenaline. Puppy wanted to prove its love to Wool so much that it would do anything to please Wool. It would fetch, play dead, fawn, lick, make puppy eyes and even attack on command. Once, when Wool was mad at a person, puppy bit them. For protecting Wool, puppy was rewarded with treats and petting, and such love that puppy became so stone on happy drugs that it peed on the carpet. It just couldn’t help it. Wool beat puppy until puppy couldn’t stand. Puppy was so ashamed of itself that just the idea of peeing on the carpet made it shake. Puppy became more careful than ever to be perfect and wonderful and loving for Wool.

But Wool had grown tired of puppy. Watching the puppy fawn and beg had been fun and Wool had even enjoyed beating puppy and watching puppy cower but Wool had decided that puppy was too much trouble and besides Wool really wanted a bigger, more aggressive dog. So, puppy was locked outside and forgotten about. Puppy wandered the streets, hackles up, sniffing for Wool, afraid of everything including its own shadow. Puppy felt nothing but fear and exhaustion and the cold. One day a kind person saw puppy and offered it a hamburger. Puppy was afraid of the person but it was so hungry it accepted the hamburger. When the person picked puppy up, puppy cowered, and shook, and peed a little. The new person who smelled like hamburger took puppy home and gave puppy unconditional love, a thing puppy didn’t know could exist. Puppy was never in trouble and no matter what happened puppy was not beaten or ignored. Once when puppy was very old, he peed on the carpet on accident. Hamburger sat down with puppy, who was shaking with remorse and held puppy in their arms until the shaking passed. “You’re ok puppy,” Hamburger said. “I love you and it’s ok to make mistakes.” Puppy rested its head on Hamburger’s shoulder and closed its eyes and felt real love, the kind of love that comes with trust and safety.

Everything that happened to puppy in this story happens to millions of people stuck in narcissistic relationships all over the world. Victims don’t stay because they want to, they stay because they don’t see any other way out and they’re addicted to their abusers. A victim can be a man or a woman. They can look strong and independent. Inside, they’re broken, codependent, and addicted to a very dangerous person. If you feel like puppy, talk to a safe person and get out. You cannot fix a narcissist and they do not love you. In fact, they do not love.

I love you. Unconditional love is real. If you see something, say something. You’re not alone.

Choosing Healthy over Hellish Love: Understanding the Trauma Bond

I’ve known several people who believed in this phrase, “We always hurt the one’s we love.” These people weren’t naturally abusive but each had a brutal past, a despair based perspective and an intangible grief. They lived in a state of bitter despair, their days clouded with careless words, biting comebacks and bursts of violence. There were constant stories of war, drunkenness and past wrongs depicted so vividly that, even though I wasn’t there, I experienced them vicariously.

Trauma Bonds make you the secret keeper to other people’s traumatic experiences. These bonds hold you hostage to atrocities, forcing you to turn for support to those who witnessed hell with you. Break a trauma bond by starting a better life and you will never be forgiven for leaving your fellow victims alone with their pain.  Stay and you will be forever stuck at the scene of the crime, a captive victim to a hellish past.

Trauma bonds are fused by a love that goes beyond healthy. It asks that you bare your soul, set aside your values and immerse yourself in a cult like existence. The bond is so overwhelming that you forget who you are and what you ever wanted for yourself. Only the trauma exists; the perpetuated recollection of the darkest moments in life replayed again and again within the trauma bond collective.

Trauma bonds are defensive. Everyone outside the bond is viewed as a potential risk, criminal or predator. Within a trauma bond there is no room for growth, no room for happiness, success or healthy relationships with the outside world.

In my book, The Only Home I’ve Ever Known, my character Gidra is trauma bound to her mother Sophia. They survived a war, hid from enemy troops and forage for food through bombed out villages. With the wars end their trauma bond continues. It grows, warps and twists into a new kind of desperation which makes Gidra’s life impossible to endure. At the beginning of the book Sophia artfully recalls their shared past in order to maintain her control over her daughter. You and I have been through a lifetime together and there is no one in this world who will ever love you or know you the way I do. Please remember that when Parker starts to make you promises. Please remember how hard we’ve fought to stay together when life wanted to separate us.” With these well-chosen words Sophia strives to enforce the trauma bond and destroy any hope Gidra may have of a life outside their bond.

Identifying and breaking away from a trauma bond is an important step to discovering your autonomy.  If you are experiencing a relationship that leaves you feeling depleted or depressed it may be traumatically fused. Separation is usually the first step. Only through separation will you begin to gain a new perspective of the world around you. Secondly, forgive your trauma partners for the life they offered you. When you learn to let go of your past you will be ready to embrace your present. Practice self-protection. Set safety boundaries that free you to live authentically. Open your self to new experiences slowly. Too much too quickly can send you back into old habits.  Practice everyday gratitude (this I really can’t stress enough). Chose to be happy and remember that you do not owe your life to anyone. You were born to live each day on your terms. Go forth and truly live.

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