What contributes to the intense confusion, feelings of despair, and the hope that just won’t stop flickering?
The article (linked at bottom) was the first thing I ever read about trauma bonding. I still find it to be a favorite on this topic. Before the article is an excerpt, something I wrote on another blog. It’s my attempt to explain to others (and to myself) why it’s so confusing, and why it’s so difficult to leave.
Never underestimate the power of trauma bonding, or what happens when covert behaviors reinforce over and over and over that you are not quite enough to be loved, or have committed some wrong that results in your spouse withholding affection and intimacy. To have someone say they love you, at times behave lovingly, but ultimately live with you as though you’re just a roommate is a crazymaking kind of dissonance.
Trauma bonding (Stockholm Syndrome) is almost inexplicable to those outside of it, but quite powerfully real. The person who tears you down offers their hand to build you up while their other hand prepares to put you in emotional jeopardy again.
Covert abuse disguised with a passive mask is a terrible chipping away and erosion of the human heart and spirit. While any person at times is capable of behaving in a passive aggressive way, and some people may exhibit it more strongly as a character trait, to experience a truly passive aggressive person is extremely difficult to explain to anyone who has not. People understand overt abuse, overt neglect, and overt disrespect. The abuse from a passive aggressive person is like having carbon monoxide in the room. You can’t see it or smell it, but it’s toxic nevertheless.
A person who has been the victim of physical starvation is not expected to run a marathon, but people don’t understand that a victim who has been conditioned over time to endure starvation of the heart and spirit may have difficulty leaving a toxic relationship.