“How do I set myself free from this trauma bonding”?
“Is there something wrong with me?”
“Will I ever heal from this pain and be free?”
“Will I ever be a happy and normal functioning person again?”
Questions keep flooding your mind.
Recently, I came across this post from a woman:
“How come when we are madly in love with someone we forget to love ourselves? We tend to overlook it when they are not treating us right. We only realize how stupid we were when we snap from it and heal.”
In her own words, she painted a picture of someone that is trauma bonded.
Many times trauma bonding is mistaken for love. It is no surprise to hear someone saying something like “He/she cheats, beats me, abuses me but I just can’t leave because I love him/her so much.”
The moment you snap out of it and realize just how dangerous the person you “love” is to your health, your sanity, and your wellbeing you are confronted with the dilemma of “how do I then set myself free from this bondage?” You are faced with a lot of conflicting thoughts and for many staying put and ignoring everything feels like the easiest option.
Abusers program your mind to be loyal to them. You keep on overlooking the majority of the bad they do and choose to focus on the little moments they somehow act right.
It is also unfortunate that for most victims, this programming started from their childhood. Many victims of abuse who end up trauma bonded suffered some sort of abuse as children. Could be sexual, emotional, verbal or physical. It also should be understood that this abuse doesn’t have to be direct. Witnessing these forms of abuses or being forced to be accomplices to them is equally traumatic to any child. This applies mostly to kids who grew up in homesteads where there was abuse.
Your mind from a young age became programmed to take abusive situations as normal. You were taught to make the best out of the few calming moments. So, your only option is staying put.
Unless therapy is sought there is a chance your brain will keep believing that enduring pain and abuse and overlooking or ignoring things that hurt you is the best option.
In fact, for many, abuse is interpreted as love. Pain is associated with love.
It is a deep rooted unconscious belief system that is extremely damaging and incapacitating.
In my previous blog I took time to mention the first vital step that needs to be done before embarking on other steps in your journey of freedom and healing. That is acknowledging your pain and facing the truth that is your reality.
Without you acknowledging that you are hurt and that everything is not okay the things I will mention below will just sound like bluffing. You have to start there.
Below I’m going to take you through tips on how to break free from this trauma bond on your journey to healing. With the help of Harley Therapy
- REALITY TRAINING
Denial is a common defense mechanism used by victims of abuse. You find yourself focusing more on a future that never comes, promises that are never fulfilled and relying on unrealistic hope. You strategically deny the reality that is what is happening, what you are experiencing and what you are feeling.
It is important that you get real and realistic with everything that is happening to you and around you.
It is common for, especially, religious people to lean so much on hope of a promised better future. It is no surprise to see a lot of religious people recount years of abuse that has only gotten worse. Ask them what they have been doing all these years and the answer will lie mostly on prayer, fasting, hoping and waiting.
Not that there is anything wrong with you praying and fasting. That is just not how you will stop the abuse in your life. Being more practical and realistic will be a better step here.
Train yourself on how to be real with your experiences, your emotions and feelings, and with your reality.
How? You may ask.
Make an account of everything that happens between you and your partner. Notice familiar patterns in their behavior. Write exactly what they said or did without the desire to bend it or justify it.
This will be a great start to your reality check.
- TRY SHIFTING PERSPECTIVE
There is how you see things and your life as a victim of abuse right now. Chances are, your perspective is a little tampered with and bent. Try imagining yourself as someone else, could be even an 80 year old you in the future. Now, look back at your life right now.
What do you see?
Do you like what you see?
What do you wish changed?
What are your genuine wishes for this person you see?
This will help you have a clear picture of what you want and wish for yourself.
- START FEELING
Numbing of emotions and feelings is a common occurrence with victims of abuse who are trauma bonded. It is almost as if you can’t feel pain anymore.
I have come across countless women who say, “I got used to him doing this and that. I don’t feel it anymore.”
You zone out.
People may even confuse you for being calm under so much stress but really you are just in a state of numbing.
One woman gave this advice to another woman that was hurt by the continuous cheating of her husband and felt like she couldn’t take it anymore; “Just hold on with time you eventually get used to it and it will hurt less.”
What she was basically saying was eventually you become numb to it.
Is this a good thing?
Take this example: you have a wound on your thigh. It is bleeding and excruciatingly painful. Then you do not do anything about it. It digs deeper, forms pus and eventually it stops being painful. Does this mean this wound has healed and it is better?
Naturally the more old and deeper a wound becomes the lesser the pain. But this doesn’t mean the wound is better or has healed. This in fact is an indication that the wound is getting worse.
Just because you have numbed yourself against the pain doesn’t mean the damage isn’t being done. The human mind is more complicated than you imagine.
Exiting your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations that come with your reality will not help.
Stay present and true in the face of stress.
Start feeling every emotion that comes with your experiences. This is the only way you will know what is safe and sane for your future and general wellbeing.
Name every single emotion that you feel.
“I feel Angry and sad.”
“I feel like crying.”
“This is so painful.”
Embrace your feelings as they are.
- START WORKING ON THINGS OR PROJECTS YOU HAD PUT OFF
With abuse and trauma bonding, chances are you have completely lost yourself to your partner.
Your life revolves around them.
Your thoughts are centered on them.
Most of what you do or say or plan revolves mostly around their plans and expectations of you. You forget about yourself and your goals
This is the time you started doing things for you. Embark on your initial goals and aspirations.
- STOP THE GAMES
One thing that is sure to make a trauma bond strong is the “games” that the victim and the perpetrator engage in.
Now, as much as you cannot make the perpetrator stop the games, you can do your part to stop it.
How? You may ask.
Look at this statement: “You make me feel taken for granted.”
Do you find yourself verbalizing something similar to your abuser?
“You” statements only makes it more about the abuser.
Make more of “I” statements.
“I feel taken for granted.”
You also need to stop asking for explanations from the abusive partner. An abuser will never tell you the truth.
Stop pushing for changes in them. You can’t CHANGE a person.
- ESTABLISH GOOD QUALITY SOCIAL CONTACTS
Isolation is a big part of abuse.
The first thing abusive people do is chasing away your biggest support system.
People you trust.
People close to you
They separate you from people that are important to you.
By the time you are deep in the abuse you basically have very few to no people you can turn to for support.
It is important to start establishing good quality social contacts when you embark on your journey to freeing yourself from the trauma bond and the abuse.
We have mentioned before that abuse comes with a release of chemicals in the brain that creates the trauma bonding. These chemicals are very similar to the ones produced when one takes heroin. You eventually get addicted to this person.
This explains why some people experience some sought of withdrawal symptoms whenever they leave an abusive partner.
All happening in their brain.
This also explains why someone will leave an abusive partner and if they lack well established supportive system they are likely to go back to the abuser.
What well established social contacts do is help your brain break from the abuser and focus more on something that could be triggering a different release of chemicals in the brain.
It facilitates the release of calming oxytocin that reduces cravings, withdrawal and lessens the pain.
It is important to mention that these social contacts should NOT be with another toxic person. This should be with sane and healthy individuals.
These contacts can be a therapist, a good friend, or a family member.
I personally would recommend a therapist first because having been through abuse there is a chance you may not know who is a healthy person and who is not and you may end up in a state of depression.
- ESTABLISH NO CONTACT WITH THE ABUSER
The final step I will talk about here is establishing NO contact with the abuser.
This step is not stressed enough.
This is a very important step to your freedom from trauma bonding.
The NO contact approach from your abuser will literally SAVE YOU.
The more you are exposed to the abuser, the more contact you keep with them the deeper the bond gets.
The brain will keep releasing the chemicals that bonds you to them.
The NO contact approach will help your brain to STOP releasing the chemicals that bond you to them and this is a very important step to healing.
Remember this; you are not trauma bonded because you are weak or stupid. Most victims of abuse who end up trauma bonded have history of abuse from their childhood. Some abuses were direct, some indirect but equally traumatizing. The situation you are in today is through no fault of yours. There is a lot that has happened to your brain perpetuated by circumstances that have put you here.
Stop beating yourself up.
Stop blaming yourself.
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Picture credits: pairedlife.com
BY JACKIE WANGWE