This is Part 3 in our series on trauma bonding. If you haven’t yet read my initial post on trauma bonding, please click here to view Do you have a trauma bond in your life? Be sure to also check out Part 2 in our series called What happens when you try to break the trauma bond?
“We should take as a maxim never to be surprised at current difficulties, no more than at a passing breeze, because with a little patience we shall see them disappear. Time changes everything.”St. Vincent de Paul
You are a mess. For weeks now, you feel as if you have been walking around like a zombie, valiantly going through the motions of life, while all the while feeling empty and listless inside. You may feel somewhat better at home where you have the most control over your life, but when you go out, all you can think about is when and where you will see him next. You know such an encounter is inevitable. In fact, you recently heard through a friend that he is already seeing someone else. Not only are you worried about running into him, you are also worried about seeing some other lady on his arm. You are not sure how you will react.
Relief from this burden you carry is fleeting, and mainly comes when you are able to keep your mind occupied on other matters. Work, Reading, Netflix, talking to others and sleep (if you are lucky) provide some temporary escape. Perhaps once in a while, relief also arrives in the form of a ray of truth in your brain, when you are able to think logically for a moment, and remember all the times he has hurt you. I don’t need him, you tell yourself. I know I am better off without him. But then the thoughts return and soon you find yourself mired in a world of self pity, self doubt, and pain.
What can you do to truly start to break this contemptible trauma bond? What are some steps to begin healing?
Practical first steps to weaken a trauma bond
- Seek Help. First and foremost, seek help from a licensed counselor/therapist. Don’t let pride get in the way. This is not something you should handle on your own.
- Go No Contact. No Contact means you don’t talk to them or text them, you don’t look at their social media, and you do your very best to avoid running into them in public. Yes, this means blocking them every which way, and it even means possibly being rude by walking the other direction when you see them. You may have to change your schedule such as when you go to the gym or attend Mass.
- DELETE! Delete them from your devices. Delete their texts, delete their photos, delete their emails, delete their notes, delete their memes, delete birthday reminders, delete, delete, delete!
- Remove them from your life. If you have items in your house that remind you of them (such as gifts, cards, things they left behind, etc), get rid of them as soon as possible.
- Step back from hanging out with mutual friends. This is a tough one but you may need to cut off contact (albeit less dramatically) with mutual friends. You don’t need to hear about his life and you certainly do not want them passing on information about your life. Also, being around them may trigger unpleasant memories which only serve to strengthen the trauma bond. You may need to simply explain them that you need to step back for a while and take a break. You should be able to assure them that this break will not be permanent.
- It’s okay to cry. Don’t try to be strong, at least in this initial phase. Don’t try to bottle up your emotions and hope they go away. Letting yourself be sad (for a little while) and crying is a good way to release your anxiety.
- Get the heck off of social media. Take a break from social media for at least a month. Delete your social media apps. When you are tempted to login, read a book or listen to your favorite music. Clear your head and stop caring about what others are saying online.
Further steps to help change your thinking patterns
- List the negatives. Make a list in a notebook of all the reasons why you know this person is not good for you. Be as specific as you can and do not be afraid to write down whatever comes to mind. Every morning when you get up, read this list out loud and tell yourself how thankful you are to be free of this person.
- Telling yourself the truth. Whenever you start to miss this person or feel desperate to reach out to them, speak the following sentences out loud. I was not happier with him. He was going to ruin my life. I will find someone much better.
- Spend more time with family and friends. Social interaction is key to helping break a trauma bond. You need people around you who will affirm your decision and help take your mind off this person. Even one phone call a day with a friend or family member can help you remain grounded and confident about your decision to go no contact.
- Pray and meditate. If you are a person of faith, offer up this difficult time to God every day. Tell Him how you are feeling. Sit in silence and listen for His voice. You may be surprised how He answers you!
- Find someone else! You should definitely consult with your counselor/therapist about your readiness to date again, but finding someone else can be a big part of the healing process. Encountering people who treat you with kindness and respect can be a pleasant surprise. Of course you’ll want to look out for red flags based on your past experiences, but hopefully now you’ll recognize these signs immediately.
- Don’t blame yourself. It can be easy to feel guilty about all of the time you “wasted” with a narcissist who treated you so badly. You may feel used and gullible. Just remember that it was your kind and loving nature that drew the narcissist to you in the first place. You were ready to open yourself up and give your all to be in a healthy relationship. You are normal and you are not to blame! You will know better for next time and will be able to use your experience to help others in the future!
Breaking a trauma bond is never easy or fast but you must take steps to weaken it. If you are passive towards this bond, it will overwhelm you. If you are actively fighting to break it, you will find that it will grow weaker day by day.
Do you have more steps to add to these lists? What has your experience been like? Do you have any advice to share which might help someone else who struggles with a trauma bond?
Click here to participate in our online forum and tell us about your story! Thank you for stopping by!