Trauma Bonding occurs when a person, living with some sort of unresolved pain, recognizes a similar pain in another person. The two sufferers, then, begin a friendship/relationship based on their pain. This leads to all sorts of dysfunction within the relationship that will, inevitably, leak into other parts of life and other relationships.
At first, this may seem like a positive friendship because, after all, they’ve found someone who can relate to what they’ve been through. It’s always comforting to know you’re not alone. While this type of friendship does not always turn out dysfunctional, I will be highlighting how toxicity can manifest.
If the friends become more content within trauma, and pain, than intent on personal growth and healing then toxicity is certain to follow. This “contentment” is nothing more than settling for a lifelong trauma response. Inevitably, at least one of the parties involved will end up feeling stuck in life and, sadly, may wonder why.
Please understand that I am not speaking out against someone who needs support from their friends during a trying season of life. I am also not speaking against sharing burdens with friends.
To the contrary, what I encourage you to consider is a friendship that is taking too much from you – so much, in fact, that it causes anxiety, further pain, and loss of personal growth, health, and freedom.
Trauma bonding also occurs when a relationship, with hormonal enmeshing, becomes abusive but also has moments of what seems like, “love”. In this case, the one being abused may come from a background of childhood abuse, or neglect, which sadly, sets them up for wanting to be “saved”.
This plays well into the abuser’s approach as they will dangle carrots of relief, between episodes of abuse/mistreatment. The abused will, in turn, think of the abuser in an unrealistic light which keeps them shackled to this hellish cycle.
Due to previous unprocessed neglect/trauma, the abused will wonder why this person doesn’t love them like they should but often continue to cling to the moments they see as “loving” – as they would have done with a parent.
The non-narc feels underlying anxiety, or fear, around the narcissist. Deep down, the non-narc party recognizes that the other party is unsafe.
But, due to fear of rejection, questioning their own intuition, or under serious deception, they choose to allow the narcissist to remain in their lives. This often turns into the non-narc relying on the narcissist to “protect” or “save” them. Think Stockholm Syndrome.
If one of the parties involved has a leaning towards narcissistic behavior, then most likely the other party has a very compassionate nature. This will cause the trauma based “friendship” to have an extra layer of toxicity.
The deep compassionate nature, of the abused friend or spouse will be taken advantage of by the narcissist. In spite of the red flags, and abuse, the abused often remains stuck within the trauma based “friendship” with the narc because, after all, they recognize (and connect with) what appears to be – a similar type of shared pain.
The narc will take advantage of their friend’s/spouse’s compassion as well as their apparent “need” for saving. The manipulation, and charm, that the narc put on the win the abused over at the beginning of their relationship will, again, kick into gear to keep them in the relationship.
If you’re wondering if you’re involved in a trauma bond, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
– Does my “friend” (relative, spouse, etc.) celebrate my victories?
– Does my “friend” (relative, spouse, etc.) encourage my efforts towards health and healing (mind, body & spirit)?
– Does my “friend” (relative, spouse, etc.) give me space to grow or resent my efforts to better myself?
– What do the conversations between this person, and I, mostly center around?
– Can I, safely, confront this person if there is an issue, between us, or am I afraid of how they will react?
– Is there an issue, between us, that the person refuses to address in spite of my attempt to discuss it?
– Is there any unhealthy amount of competition within this relationship?
– Does my “friend” (relative, spouse, etc.) respect me?
– How does my “friend” (relative, spouse, etc.) speak of other people who question them?
We are all on a healing journey. Friendships can be such a blessing in this life! However, we must be wise with who we choose to spend our time with and open our hearts to. GOD has called us to be kind to others…but not to be a doormat. If someone is standing in the way of your health, personal growth, and well-being then they do not have your best interests in mind.
This topic is very serious and can be multi-layered. This article is just a basic overview. But I hope that it will help you. There are many things that can be affected by a trauma-based friendship – whether there is a narcissistic element at play or not.
However, praying through these things and learning to recognize what you’re dealing with are the first steps to breaking free.
The next step is to seek help by a professional who is well-versed in breaking free from trauma-bonding. and/or toxic relationships.
If you’re in an unsafe situation, please seek help from someone you can trust or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.
Our need to get well, and live well, is just as vital as our need for relationship.
When our relationships are healthy – it aids in our overall health and well-being.
Shalom to you,