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  • Lynn Catalano

How to Break the Trauma Bond to Your Narcissist

We stay in abusive relationships with people who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) because we are trauma bonded to them. Our relationship’s highs and lows are rolled together with shame, guilt and embarrassment. Narcissists are known to wear a mask in public, behaving differently than they do behind closed doors. All these things together, make it very difficult for victims to leave.


What’s a Trauma Bond?

A trauma bond is the connection between an abuser and their victim. It’s the attachment an abused person feels for their abuser, specifically in a relationship with a cyclical pattern of abuse. This term wasn’t even coined until 1997 by Patrick Carnes, PhD, CAS.  

Up until that time, the closest term used was “Stockholm Syndrome,which refers to hostages who develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity. Whoa.


What are the 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding?

These are the stages of the narcissistic abuse cycle. Just when it’s at the worst, it loops around and begins again.

1. Love bombing

Often in the beginning of a relationship, you are showered with love and affection. It feels like the connection is so intense you believe you’ve met your soulmate.

2. Gaining your trust

This other person will do everything they can to gain your trust. They make lots of false promises of things you will do together and your future life. Once you become attached to them, they will back out of the commitment and slowly distance themselves.

3. Shift to criticism and devaluation

It all begins so slowly; you may not even notice it.  As they start criticizing you and belittling you, you may begin to believe that it’s all your fault and that you deserve such treatment.

4. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that can make you doubt your own reality. The other person will gaslight you by twisting facts and denying your experiences.

5. Resignation and submission

This is when you realize that having an open and logical discussion with your abusive partner is impossible. If you attempt to reason things out, they’ll blame you and criticize you. This is mentally and emotionally exhausting and leads you to resign and submit.

6. Loss of sense of self

As a result of your decreasing self-esteem, you find yourself neglecting your needs and desires and losing any self-awareness you had before. You are solely focused on the abusive person and their needs.

7. Emotional Addiction

Trauma bonds create an emotional dependency that can feel very similar to drug addiction. It’s a recipe for disaster.


How to break the Trauma Bond with your Narcissist


A trauma bond is a very deep emotional attachment between two people that is developed through emotional and/or physical abuse. A trauma bond is very hard to break.

The following steps will help you break the trauma bond:

1.    Learn Everything You Can About Narcissistic Abuse

2.    Make Sure That You’re Taking Care of Yourself

3.    Keep a Journal to Avoid Any Confusion

4.    Learn How to Set Boundaries With a Narcissist – use Gray Rock Method

5.    Self-Reflect

6.    Find a Good Support Group

7.    Find a Qualified Professional Coach

8.    Go No-Contact With the Narcissist in Your Life


Where are you in the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle?

If you relate to any of the stages of the narcissistic abuse cycle, you need to do something for yourself. You see, the sooner a problem is identified, the sooner a course can be charted designing a solution or remedy for yourself; whether you decide to learn coping mechanisms and stay or, cut and run. The better educated you are about the problem, the easier it will be to figure out what to do. Unfortunately, with narcissists, you must always keep your guard up, be on defense, hyper-aware of every word exchanged. This often makes the relationship feel like a chess game.

This hurt will bleed into other aspects of your life until you work through it. You need to talk to someone. But not just anyone. Someone who gets it. I get it.


You see, I didn’t get here by accident. I didn't set out to become a narcissistic abuse recovery coach. But after I’d suffered this kind of abuse, I realized that my story and my experience could help so many people who’ve suffered similarly. 


Often, we stay in these cycles of abuse because we don’t believe we deserve something better. I kept trying to make our relationship work, but he didn’t want me in his life. It took me a long time to understand that I deserved better.


You deserve better, too.


If you’re ready to change how you think,

If you’re ready to change how you feel,

If you’re ready to change your path,

Check out The Narcissist Slayers podcast episode on Trauma Bonds. 




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