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 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 as well.
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 their own 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 is causing anxiety, further pain, and loss of personal growth, health, and freedom.
If one of the parties involved has a leaning towards narcissistic behavior, then most likely the other party has empathic, or very compassionate leanings. This will cause the trauma based “friendship” to have an extra layer of toxicity.
The deep compassionate nature, of the empathic friend will be taken advantage of by the narcissist. In spite of the red flags, and abuse, the empath 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.
Yet Another Layer:
There is another type of trauma bond which manifests when 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” them. Think Stockholm Syndrome.
If you’re wondering if your “friendship” is toxic, or if someone is holding you back in life, 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, that we need to discuss 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?
– 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. 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.
Our need to get well, and live well, is just as vital as our need for friendship.
When our relationships are healthy – it aids in our overall health and well-being.
Shalom to you,