Trauma bonds affect EVERY part of you. You'll know this if you have ever been through such an experience.
The most obvious changes are psychological - how you feel about yourself and your emotional responses. Sadly you often end up feeling:
Inadequate and not good enough
Unworthy and undeserving of anything
Anxious, fearful, panicked, overwhelmed
Depressed, tearful, heartbroken
LOST - about who you are, what you should do, your position in the world or among the people you know
You may also have thoughts that reflect these feelings:
I cannot be loved the way I am, I have to 'be or do' something to be accepted or liked
Other people are better / more desirable than me
My partner is better than me / has more privileges
I should try to keep the peace to keep the relationship going: I either shut my mouth and not say anything, or I do a lot for them to keep them happy.
The reality is that the trauma bond ALWAYS lives in the body. Traumas (big and little t) affect us physiologically and leave an imprint in our brain and genetic coding.
One common pieces of information you may have heard is:
You go into fight or flight (or freeze or fawn) when experiencing trauma.
This is true. One of the immediate responses is that the threat centre of the brain (amygdala) becomes activated by sensing danger in the relationship (when you're criticised, judged, attacked, or neglected) and it turns on the sympathetic nervous system. Ultimately what these responses look like in a trauma bond is that you:
'Fight' for the relationship (e.g. by frantically trying to fix what you believe you are 'wrong' for).
'Fly' away from your fears (e.g. by working really hard to avoid being seen as potentially inadequate - you buy excessive gifts, lose weight etc. before they have a chance to criticise you).
'Freeze' when they attack you (e.g. respond in silence).
'Fawn' by pleasing your partner at any opportunity, keeping the peace or avoiding any conflict at all costs.
However, the trauma goes MUCH deeper than just your nervous system.
The trauma can affect your genetic coding.
Humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. Some are active, while others lie dormant.
The thing is, when we experience a trauma, repeated traumas, and complex traumas within relationships whilst we are most vulnerable - certain genetic coding gets activated that would have otherwise been dormant (and vice versa).
The activation of threat-based genetic codes means that the neurological wiring in your brain and gut is also affected. As a consequence:
You struggle to regulate emotions and feel calm.
You struggle to problem solve and see between logical and irrational thought
You struggle to remember certain things and concentration decreases
You have a higher level of stress hormones in your body
You end up being in a heightened state of anxiety most / all the time (this elevates your emotional distress baseline levels).
Your automatic thought processes are more likely to go to self-critical mode
The biggest one for me though is:
Your brain associates 'love' with 'threat' and cannot tell the difference between the two.
Neuroscientific research from Universities at Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge and labs at Silicon Valley and hundreds have evidenced this process.
Evidence also shows that this process of activating and muting certain genetic coding can also be reversed - and actually improved upon what you were like BEFORE a trauma bond.
You need to harness the power of epigenetics to do so. This involves specific mindfulness based and hypnotic practices - that when done correctly and regularly - lead to significant changes.
But I say this with a pinch of salt - you need to be well supported in the process of change.
People who know me know I love my science - and whether or not you work with me I highly recommend that if you work with a practitioner, that they use scientifically evidenced based treatments.
If this resonates with you - please reach out for a consultation and support.
improving your relationships