Stockholm Syndrome aka trauma bonding

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.


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4 Responses to Stockholm Syndrome aka trauma bonding

  1. chosetobehappy says:

    YES, totally right on point. I was in therapy recently and my therapist mentioned this to me as well as the fact that she thought I had post traumatic stress caused over time. This resulted for me a kind of numbness that happens when new events show up as if, I am not quite totally there mentally and the fact that I’m stuck in the repeating cycle of abuse / honeymoon phases makes no difference at the time, I go into survival mode. Scary mental s**t… Even therapy right now cannot help me so deep in this stage I am at, my confidence in myself is minimal although when I am not with the pah, I feel more like myself and I’m more confident, I even excel at work. To try to explain this to anyone who has never been in a relationship with someone pa or ca is like trying to teach them a foreign language. They cannot understand that I would accept such crap when what they see is a confident strong person on the outside. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t bother telling people anymore, only not to hear the “you can leave any time you want”. Agreed but it’s not that easy and it’s not that simple.


    • ChickenLadyMovedToTown says:

      Happy, tell us more about the PSTD.

      At one point, I was trying to finish the last few prerequisites before applying to RN school, was taking a psychology class, and realized I had symptoms of PSTD.

      Needless to say–(PJ it happened to me too)–he sabotaged the continuing my of education. It was all about him being cheated through having to step up to the plate while I studied. It wasn’t about sacrificing in the hopes of a better, more comfortable life for the entire family, or the ability to make needed home improvements, and afforded opportunities for our kids, and safe cars to drive that wouldn’t need constant repair, and finally, maybe, a simple family vacation. No, it was all about him, as usual, and instead of working together towards a common goal, it was perceived as a competition.
      The End! AND my hair start falling out.


      • chosetobehappy says:

        ChickenLady – I’m not an expert in the field but I do know that I when a blow up comes my way from my pah, I go into survival mode, I start feeling numb, there’s even a cold type of sweat that I start experiencing and I start talking like a robot, very calm and very smooth. At other times, I am myself and I snap in defense. I’m not sure what the process is in my head and why I react one way in a circumstance and in the same circumstance the other way. It’s confusing, I’ve been reading up a bit on it but I think I will be able to get myself to a better place if I leave him. Otherwise I’m not sure how to heal myself from this. I feel kind of in a wheel that I cannot get off of and I’m just round and round without a stop in site. This is not my usual self, I would never have accepted this being my old self, obviously something over the years has put me this way, still trying to figure it out but of course it’s attributed to the constant pa / ca behaviours I have experienced. Another thing that happens, I will randomly remember events that have happened in the past as if I was reliving them, I can see everything in my head, remember the smallest detail and feel like I’m back there in the moment, experience the same emotions I did at the time as well.


  2. chosetobehappy says:

    Chickenlady – just thought of something else, I have bad dreams about events as well. Sometimes in my dream they turn up after a blow up event… it goes away but it leaves me very tired and drained the next day.


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