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Trauma Bonding


Trauma bonds are attachments formed between a victim and the perpetrator in a cycle of abuse that uses rewards and punishments to maintain the victim's compliance with the abuser's desired behavior. Trauma bonding refers to the process of creating ties in the wake of terrible experiences. When a victim creates an emotional connection with the person who inflicted the trauma, this is called a trauma bond. This might be thought of as a dominator-submissive or abuser-victim relationship. A power differential and the repeated presentation of positive and negative reinforcement in the form of praise and criticism are the two most important ingredients in the recipe for creating a trauma connection. Bonds formed through trauma can develop in a variety of settings, including but not limited to romantic relationships, parent-child connections, incestuous relationships, cults, hostage situations, sex trafficking (particularly of kids), and military deployments.

Fear, dominance, and the unknown are the cornerstones of trauma bonding. As the abuser and victim form a stronger and deeper trauma link, the victim experiences alternating waves of fear, numbness, and sadness. Victims in trauma connections typically lack a feeling of self and agency. They have adopted and internalized the abuser's conception of themselves. 

Trauma bonds harm the victim greatly, not only during the relationship but long after as well. Trauma bonding can have far-reaching consequences, such as the perpetuation of a generational cycle of abuse, difficulties with mental health (such as poor self-esteem, negative self-image, and an increased probability of depression and bipolar disorder), and staying in violent relationships. It can be extremely challenging, if not impossible, for victims who have formed a painful attachment with their victimizers to break free from that bond. Many people who do manage to escape their abusive partners end up going back to them because of the pervasiveness of the learnt trauma connection.

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