What Is Trauma Bonding and How It Keeps You Stuck In Abusive Relationships

What Is Trauma Bonding

Take trauma bonding with a narcissist, for example. Trauma bonding with a narcissist means the narcissist makes you think that by repeating this abusive cycle, they can fuel your needs of validation and love, and make you believe what they are doing to you is normal.

Do narcissists feel the trauma bond? Narcissists only feel the power of manipulation from trauma bonding, as it’s an addiction to them. However, they don’t feel the actual trauma bond because their theory is if they don’t feel, others can’t hurt them.

A narcissist may also become abusive and form a habit of trauma bonding as a consequence of traumatization from their upbringing or past relationships. 

Vulnerability to trauma bonding often stems from insecure attachments created during repeated abusive or traumatic childhood experiences with a caregiver. This relationship pattern becomes internalized as a learned pattern of behavior that carries into your relationships as an adult.

If you experienced abuse from a primary caregiver when you were a child, you likely learned to associate love with abuse. This became the template for how you learned to relate to others and form relationships.

trauma bonding
trauma bonding

What does a trauma bond feel like?

You expect that in order to feel loved, you must also be abused — that’s just how it works.

For example, if you were abused for being noncompliant as a child, you were likely left feeling abandoned and unworthy. In order to attach to your abuser, you learned to meet their needs and make them happy so you could receive love and approval. Over time, this became your basic equation for love.

If you were abused as child, you protected your relationship with your abusive parent by preserving your vision of them as a “good” parent, pushing down your feelings of anger or hurt to feel loved, safe, and attached.

You protected yourself by burying these feelings, and convincing yourself that there must be something wrong with you for being upsetting to your parent. You came to believe that it was all your fault — you are bad, you are naughty, and you must make it up if you want to be “good enough” to deserve their love.

Read 4 Ways You Can Heal Trauma Bond After a Narcissistic Relationship

What causes a trauma bond? 

This coping mechanism became the template for how you see yourself in relationships as an adult.

You see yourself as bad and deserving of punishment, so you must be good to get the love you want. In essence, you are still longing for your abusive father or mother to give you the lost love you wanted, repeating the self-destructive pattern with abusive partners as you desperately fight to get them to love you.

When you feel as though you’re not good enough, your desire for love can be the perfect bait for an abusive narcissist to hook onto. When you’re meeting all their needs, you feel loved and good enough, allowing you both to see their abuse as justified.

As you justify or minimize the abuse and blame yourself for it, you remain in denial about the fact that you are being abused — just as you did as a child.

Acknowledging abuse creates a fear of abandonment, awakening your original pain. This pushes you to further defend and protect yourself by digging deeper into denial and self-blame.

Facing reality and letting go of the fantasy that you are being truly loved stirs your fear of abandonment, along with your associated feelings of not being good enough. You reenact the same attachment pattern you first learned with your abusive parent and cannot let go of the abuser. Instead, you believe you must figure out how to be good enough to get them back.

Victims of abuse will go back to their abusers over and over, justifying it this way every time as the trauma wounds bind them tighter together.

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