The trauma bond is a survival mechanism that takes over the way in which a victim relates to an abusive situation.
It happens when a victim of abuse minimises, rationalizes, denies and therefore ‘bonds’ with the abuser to avoid or survive being physically, emotionally and verbally abused. This bond is created as a direct result of the traumatic effects.
It isn’t until after the victim has fully invested themselves in the relationship that the abuser starts to let his mask slip. Feeling in control, he now starts to reveal the extent of his true self at the expense of his victim.
A mix of excessive admiration, gaslighting, devaluation and threats of physical violence leave the victim stuck between deep-seated psychological confusion and survival. The trauma bond sets in and becomes a way of dealing with the situation.
When I first learned about the trauma bond, I realized that it and being isolated in a new country was the reason why I had stayed in my abusive relationship longer then I should have. It would take a vicious attack by him to snap me out of it completely.
I had always thought that if I found myself in an abusive relationship, I would know what to do to get out of it. But narcissistic abuse isn’t what you expect abuse to be or to look like.
It’s very subtle and deeply manipulative before it becomes physical. The narcissist is looking to control you and they do this by slowly eating away at your self-esteem and making you feel self-conscious so that you start to doubt your strengths and they can take control.
The narcissistic abuser will never value or acknowledge what you do. They judge you as they are and because they lack self-esteem, nothing is ever good enough. They constantly seek control because they have no control over themselves.
He took control of everything in our relationship.
All the decisions were made according to what impact they would have one him – his needs, his thoughts and his feelings. This included what I could and could not wear.
It also included where I could sit if we went out to eat (in case there were some men sitting opposite); what direction I could look at (without him being suspicious that I was looking at someone else); if I could wear makeup or high heels (because this most likely meant I was dressing for other men); and how I should walk down the street (to attract the least attention possible).
His insecurity imprisoned me.
At the same time, he would tell me he loved me. He led me to believe that he cared about me and that we were working on the problems in our relationship together. What I found instead was that he was a habitual liar and a hypocrite and that words carried no weight for him. He would say whatever it took to get what he wanted, even if it meant contradicting himself and what he believed were his own values.
In the end, he denied that any of the abuse ever happened. This was fine with me since I wasn’t looking for his validation. The bruises and the extent of the trauma spoke for itself. But then a few weeks later he called me up wailing on the phone how he would go to hell for all that he did to me. He threatened to commit suicide if I didn’t return to him.
I hung up the phone. He was now his own prisoner.
As for me, I understood that the person I had cared for never actually existed. It was all an illusion and that my love was worth much more than that.
Reference: Shahida Arabi, Power: Surviving and Thriving After Narcissistic Abuse: A Collection of Essays on Malignant Narcissism and Recovery from Emotional Abuse