7 stages of trauma bonding

Many people are unaware that they have created a trauma link. Many of us have probably experienced at least one such relationship in our lifetimes. Acceptance of such a link is the first step toward breaking free. I published the following to describe what a trauma bond is, how it arises, and some resources that may be useful if you’ve had a similar experience.

It’s not always as simple as walking out the door when you’re in an abusive relationship. Along with worries about finding a place to live, supporting yourself, or being denied access to your children or loved ones, you may feel compelled to stay with your partner. A trauma bond is an emotional attachment that develops as a result of a cycle of abuse, devaluation, and positive reinforcement.

Abuse trauma can produce strong emotions that are difficult to comprehend, especially when abuse is interspersed with kindness and tenderness.

What Is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding is when a person is loyal to someone who is damaging. It happens as a result of cycles of abuse followed by periods of love or reward. This treatment establishes a strong emotional bond that is difficult to break. People are frequently unaware that they are in a trauma bond, despite the fact that others outside the connection may clearly see the partnership’s damaging patterns.

These forms of damaging attachments are referred to as “betrayal ties,” and they can occur in any situation where a relationship can form. They can manifest themselves in sexual relationships, friendships, family ties, and the job.

When can trauma bonding happen?

Trauma bonding can theoretically occur in any situation where one person abuses or exploits another. This could include circumstances involving:

  • domestic abuse
  • child abuse
  • incest
  • elder abuse
  • exploitative employment, such as one involving people who have immigrated without documentation
  • kidnapping or hostage-taking
  • human trafficking
  • religious extremism or cults

According to the organization Parents Against Child Exploitation, a trauma bond develops under specific conditions. A person must:

  • perceive a real threat of danger from their abuser
  • experience harsh treatment with small periods of kindness
  • be isolated from other people and their perspectives
  • believe that they cannot escape
Steps to Recovering from a Toxic Trauma Bond

Signs of trauma bonding

The attempt to rationalize or defend the abuse is the most common symptom that a person has formed a link with an abuser. They could also:

  • accept the abusive person’s justifications for mistreating them.
  • Make an effort to stand in for the abusive individual.
  • People who are attempting to assist them, such as friends, family members, or neighbors, may dispute with or remove themselves from them.
  • If someone intervenes and tries to halt the abuse, such as a bystander or a police officer, they may become aggressive or hostile.
  • be hesitant or unwilling to leave an abusive relationship or break the tie.

The 7 Stages of Narcissistic Trauma Bonding

Are you or someone you love caught in the trauma bond cycle? Pastor Jeremy Foster explains the seven stages of trauma bonding, and what signs to look for.

  1. Stage 1: “Affection Bombing”—The Nt lavishes love and approval on you.
  2. Stage 2: Dependency and Trust —You begin to believe that they will always adore you. You’ve come to rely on them for affection and acceptance.
  3. Stage 3: Criticism Starts—They progressively decrease the quantity of affection and affirmation they provide you, and they begin to criticize and blame you for things. They become obnoxious.
  4. Stage 4: “Gaslighting”—They accuse you of being to blame for everything. They would shower you with affection again if you would only believe them and do precisely what they say. They are attempting to persuade you to disbelieve your own views and adopt their version of reality.
  5. Stage 5: Gaining Control—You’re not sure what to believe, but you believe that the only way to reclaim your positive sentiments from Stage 1 is to try doing things their way.
  6. Stage 6: Resignation and Self-Loss — Things are worse, not improving. When you try to defend yourself, they become much more abusive. You’d be content with peace and an end to the war now. You’re perplexed, dissatisfied, and your self-esteem is at an all-time low.
  7. Stage 7: Addiction—Your loved ones are concerned about you. You realize this is a bad scenario, but you feel compelled to stay since this person has become everything to you. All you can think about is regaining their affection.