F the Trauma Bond

17 Apr

While she was growing up, Macy’s parents used her as their slave and beat her whenever she didn’t do what they wanted. Her three brothers lived like kings compared to her.

When Macy became an adult, her parents wanted her to be an accountant and even though she wanted to be a nurse, she took accounting to please her parents. Even after Macy was married, she was expected to come to her parents’ home and do some of their house work.

When Macy had a daughter of her own, she realized her parents had not loved her the way she loved her little girl. She couldn’t treat her child like a slave. She decided to be a different kind of parent who doted on her daughter instead of using her, but whenever she went to her parents’ house, she still endured their put downs. One day she had a big argument with them over how she was raising her daughter.

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That was the day Macy realized if she continued seeing them, they would keep treating her daughter like they had treated her. She wanted her daughter to grow up in freedom without beltings and expectations. For the sake of her daughter, Macy felt she had no choice but to go no contact with her parents.

This would seem to give Macy’s story a happy ending where she could close the book on past abuse, but Macy isn’t happy. Her husband is very supportive and her little girl is having the childhood Macy never had, but Macy is deeply depressed and misses her parents.

Macy feels a nostalgia for her family that her husband and friends can’t understand. Some days just an ad or mention of the word mother or father makes her cry and binge on chocolate. Sometimes she can barely get out of bed. Macy misses her abusers so much she even makes self-depreciating jokes to put herself down.

Macy has a trauma bond with her parents. A trauma bond is where a person keeps going back to be used and abused because of an emotional connection. Macy has tried for years to fix the relationship with her parents, but they have zero interest in fixing the relationship.

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Can you relate to Macy’s situation? If so, you might be locked into a dysfunctional cycle. Here are five clues you might be dealing with a trauma bond:

1. You Feel Emotionally Connected
to Someone Who Keeps Hurting You
Healthy relationships are always a two-way street. If you’re the only one working on it or you find yourself pining away for the good ol’ days when you were used as a slave, belted or given just a ration of food, you probably have a trauma bond with your abuser.

If the person who keeps hurting you makes no attempt to apologize, you might want to analyze why you keep going back. What are you getting out of this relationship besides pain? Do you like pain? What will it take for you to value yourself enough to take care of yourself?

2. You Keep Explaining Yourself
If you’re in the position of proving yourself all the time, and you keep going back to argue and suggest how to fix what you believe is broken in this relationship, but the other party ignores your pain and expects you to carry on life as usual, you probably have a trauma bond.

Any time you need to grovel for love, you surely must know it’s not love you will be receiving. Love cannot be earned. Real love can only grow if it is free and unconditional. If you grew up trying to fulfill unrealistic expectations, you might have a trauma bond that keeps you going back like a dog to his vomit.

3. You Spend Hours Analyzing
What You Might Have Done Wrong

Perhaps you didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe you have been asked to play a game you can never win. Perhaps you are a peach trying to win someone who only likes bananas. (Or maybe the other person is totally bananas and you are the only sane one in the relationship). Go gentle on yourself. Forgive yourself for allowing yourself to be abused. Look for a true peach lover. Once you meet up with someone who loves who you for who you are, you will have a much better chance at a good relationship.

4. You Keep Forgiving Someone
Who Never Apologizes
The commandment states we should honor our parents, but this simple rule leaves room for a wide misunderstanding of the fifth commandment and allows abuse to continue. When betrayal happens–even by a parent, there’s no way for the relationship to continue without an apology and a complete renegotiation. In Religious Narcia, we find abusers wielding the Bible to justify their abusive behavior.

5. You Feel Sorry For Your Abuser
If you’ve gone no contact with your abuser, and you feel depressed to the point you can’t enjoy your own life because you miss them and worry about them regardless of what they have done, you very likely have a trauma bond.

This trauma bond allows people to use you. Unless people are wearing diapers and unable to speak, you are not responsible for them. We all sow what we reap. Do you believe God wants you to sow so another can reap? That goes against the natural order of life on this planet. Understanding this might be the first step to accepting the apology you never had so you can move on with your life.

It takes courage to let go of the trauma bonded relationship, but it’s worth it. Even if this relationship is with a parent and you can’t imagine your life without them. You might not realize the toll this twisted and dysfunctional bond is taking on your health and other relationships.

When someone lies about you and to you,
When someone has not apologized,
When you explain yourself all the time,
When someone doesn’t respect you.
When you feel the feelings of your abuser
before you feel your own feelings,
When you have continued to be abused,
When the relationship is one-sided,
When you struggle to sleep or eat
or get out of bed in the morning
because you feel sorry for your abuser,
you most definitely have a trauma bond.

A trauma bond is a relationship fallacy.
It’s NOT a real relationship,
but for some reason the bond makes it seem real.
All the judgmental Christians can leave now–
pardon my french,
but FUCK the trauma bond!

A man who views the world
the same at fifty 
as he did at twenty
has wasted thirty years of his life.

-Muhammad Ali

4 Responses to “F the Trauma Bond”

  1. Barbara Womack April 17, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    This is a great piece! Even with, or maybe because of, the F-bomb. 😉
    I’ve been no contact for some time, but I have really struggled with the whole depression thing ever since. Some part of me is still mourning. It’s aggravating, it’s stupid, it makes me feel weak…it’s definitely a trauma bond.
    Thank you for defining it for me. Now I know what I am up against.

  2. Cherilyn Clough April 17, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

    Hi Barbara,

    Glad to hear this was helpful for you!
    I pray for your healing and peace!

    Cherilyn

  3. LM April 17, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    Wow. I guess this explains why my mom, and justifying myself to her, plays heavily in my tgoughts. or when I feel guilty for not calling or visiting (because I think she wants me to). Or when I feel like I might miss them, but yet there is nothing to miss….got me thinking all this thru. Thank you for the insightful post.

  4. Cherilyn Clough April 19, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    Hi LM,
    For me, the most powerful thought is that friendship is a two way street. If our parents don’t treat us like friends, what have we got to work with?

    Peace and freedom to you!

    Cherilyn

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