If you find yourself stuck in an unhealthy relationship and do not know what to do, the following practical steps will help you heal from a trauma bond.
- Be committed to living in reality at all costs. Make a commitment to yourself to no longer delude yourself into thinking your relationship is just going to spontaneously improve and become healthy. In order to live a healthy life, you must be honest with yourself about how compulsive your behaviors are with respect to the relationship, and how abusive the toxic person really is. Tell yourself: “I am committed to living in the truth.”
“Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.” – Scott Peck
- Be kind and compassionate toward yourself. You cannot heal yourself without having a compassionate inner voice and encouraging inner dialogue. You do not need any more abuse in your life – from others or from yourself. Commit to self-care.
- Make a list of all specific self-defeating behaviors that you continue to repeat over and over again, that are very unhealthy patterns in your life, and make a commitment to abstain from them.
- Write an autobiography about your toxic relationship. Write your narrative in the third person: “Mary was a beautiful little girl who loved her step-father with all her heart. While she felt hurt and angry when he touched her inappropriately, she always knew he loved her.” Write about three pages. Read your story out loud to someone you trust.
- Make a list of bottom-line behaviors that you will no longer practice. To figure these out, think about what triggers you to have emotionally charged reactions. Figure out the things your toxic person does that cause you to react with intensity. One strategy I use is that if I feel defensive because one of my “buttons” has been pushed then I will not participate in the conversation. Some people have to make a rule to have “no contact” at all with the toxic person.
- Ask yourself some questions:
- Is the person I’m bonded with honorable? Or, is he/she an impossible situation?
- What kind of behaviors do I want in a relationship?
- In what ways am I devalued in this relationship – by the other person and by myself?
- When do I over-react and when do I under-react in this relationship?
- Stop trying to have the “talk” or write a letter to your abuser in order to get him/her to understand your point of view and finally resolve the “problem.” No matter how perfect you try to explain things to those in the abusive system, they will not understand.
Trauma bonds can be disrupted when healthy bonds are available (Patrick J. Carnes, Ph.D.). Finding supportive, healthy relationships is the foundation of recovery. Be sure and find other, healthy relationships to be a part of. Join a support group, a 12 step recovery group, get a sponsor; find a competent therapist…
In terms of neuropsychology, healing involves changing the way our brains are wired. While our old habits exist on a neural “superhighway” of deeply entrenched, habitual behaviors, our new behaviors will be difficult to acquire and will require lots and lots of practice because we are carving out a “goat trail” of new neural pathways in our brain. Healing from a trauma bond takes long, hard work.
Listen to Kelly Clarkson for inspiration:
Badenoch, B. (2011). The Brain Savvy Therapist’s Workbook. New York, NY: Norton & Company
Carnes, P. (1997). The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.
Samsel, M. (n.d.) Trauma Bonding. Retrieved from: http://www.abuseandrelationships.org/
Vernick, L.(2014). The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press.
For abuse recovery coaching information: www.therecoveryexpert.com