Loosening the grip of trauma bonding
TRAUMA bonding in psychology happens where a strong emotional attachment develops between an abused person and their abuser, which happens as a result of cycles of abuse, mixed with intermittent positive experiences. It can make it difficult for the victim to leave the abusive relationship due to conflicting feelings and a skewed sense of attachment.
When the term trauma bonding comes up, we usually think of toxic situations in love relationships, where one partner, the more powerful, has a hold on the other more vulnerable partner, and it’s usually difficult to break that hold without intervention. But trauma bonding does occur, also, in the form of generational trauma and abusive behaviours passed down from our parents and grandparents.
These three women share how they have had to loosen the chains that bonded them to that trauma.
I lived in an extended matriarchal family where my grandmother ruled the roost, and decided the outcome of the relationships of all her girls. So with her own husband she chased him away violently — she waited for him to come home from work, then doused him with dirty water, and with my mother and aunt, she told them which man made economic sense to date, and which didn’t. This resulted in both of them having kids by different men, all decided by who could give them money. In my case, I realised that this kind of thinking passed down covertly. For a long time I saw men as mere wallets, and didn’t value their input at all. I grew up being independent and angry and hating men who couldn’t provide what I wanted. Those who provided were just there for that, and couldn’t have a voice in anything I did. I did some therapy sessions with my own daughter recently, and saw not only the baggage I was bringing to my marriage, but also that young people nowadays can easily recognise when situations are toxic, so thankfully, my daughter won’t repeat the cycle.
Funny enough, I didn’t have daddy issues because my parents were married and my dad was in my life, but I realised that I was forced to toughen up early, because when his alcohol addiction problems started, my mom had to be the head of the house. When he lost his job she had to sell all our furniture, and I’d see her in the room crying, when it got to the point where she had to pawn her wedding ring too. I think I absorbed that trauma somewhat, and have held on to relationships longer than I should have, because I believed in sticking by your man, even when he wasn’t being a man. When my mother finally left my dad it was when we were all grown, and it’s like a cycle, where all her kids are concerned — being in stagnant relationships, and not leaving. Even now that I’m married to a good man, and I’m doing well financially, I’m always on edge, always anxious and worrying over money and cheating and things like that, even though my husband is a good man.
Having terrible, toxic parents and grandparents affected my life and all my relationships in ways I didn’t even realise until I started to live mindfully. Before this, I had toxic friends, toxic boyfriends, two toxic marriages and even a toxic career, and was unable to question whether these people were good for me, worthy of me, or made me happy. My family was just awful; both parents had anger control problems. I had never heard “I love you” from either of them, and struggled to say it to anyone. I broke the cycle though — when I was raising my children, I made a point to always make them feel loved and wanted.