A trauma bond is an inextricable dysfunctional attachment you develop to people who harm you. It often includes seduction, betrayal, danger, and hot and cold behavior. An expert shares the five behaviors you may display if you are trauma bonded to a narcissist.
Over-explaining yourself constantly.
Victims who are trauma bonded to narcissistic individuals have often been chronically gaslit into believing their emotions and perception of reality are inaccurate. As a result, they’ve been trained to question themselves and overexplain their perspective, often when it’s not necessary. Whether it’s overexplaining yourself to the narcissist in an attempt to convince them the legitimacy of your feelings or finding yourself overexplaining yourself to your loved ones and friends because you’ve developed a habit of having to defend yourself, this behavior is deeply rooted in the trauma bond you’ve developed to the narcissist. It keeps you in the vicious cycle of defending your basic rights and boundaries rather than embodying them and taking proactive action.
Fawning is a trauma response where you respond by appeasing a predator or complying with their demands to avoid danger and mitigate threat. A hostage may try to fawn and be kind to their captor so they can try to stay alive, or a victim of domestic violence may walk on eggshells around their abuser lest they face punishment and retaliation for speaking up or standing up for themselves. Trauma bonded survivors tend to fawn and people-please both within the toxic relationship as well as outside of it because they start to fear taking up space. They’ve been destructively conditioned over time to associate being assertive with being punished, threatened, shamed, humiliated, mocked, or aggressively attacked by the narcissist. As a result, they begin “shrinking” in many aspects of their lives in an attempt to avoid potential consequences.
Rationalization and minimization of mistreatment.
Surviving a toxic relationship, let alone exiting one, is no small feat, but even survival on its own takes many internal resources. When a victim is in a perpetual state of cognitive dissonance about who the abuser really is due to their Jekyll and Hyde behavior, they have a tendency to minimize and rationalize the brutality they’re experiencing so they can cope with it and survive the psychological or even physical abuse. Unfortunately, this coping method can place them in even more danger, which makes professional support necessary and vital to evaluate the risk of escalation.
Defense and protection of the abuser.
Outsiders often ask why the victim did not leave the toxic relationship right away, or why they choose to defend their abusers or even go so far as to protect them. This is a common reaction loved ones and law enforcement may have when a victim refuses to press charges against an abuser or when they omit the true extent of the mistreatment they’re experiencing. Yet this too, has to do with the numerous coping mechanisms that a trauma bonded survivor’s brain engages in to protect themselves and maintain the relationship out of fear of abandonment and the need for survival.
When a survivor has been love bombed profusely with excessive affection and attention only to face abrupt withdrawal and callous intermittent mistreatment, the unpredictability of such a toxic relationship can leave a victim feeling both addicted to the dangerous dynamic as well as helpless. This sense of learned helplessness can seep into other aspects of their life as they feel a loss of control and agency as they experience the emotional whiplash of the tumultuous relationship – one minute savoring the euphoria of the highest of highs only to feel drowned and downtrodden in the lowest of lows. The cycle seems inescapable because the victim feels like they are in love, but such a cycle is is more akin to a drug addiction. The narcissistic abuser may also literally try to exert control over the victim’s life, attempting to nitpick them constantly or micromanage their finances, friendships, career, to further keep them under their watchful gaze.
If you are in a toxic trauma bond with a narcissist, you are not alone and you deserve support. Seeking a trauma-informed professional well-versed in manipulation tactics can help. You deserve to reclaim your power.