Idealization, and trauma bonding

This is a post I wrote as a guest for another blog, a few years ago. Until now, it’s sat in my “drafts”… It’s been 6 years since I’ve been free from that hell. Life continues to throw me into various “ready or not” scenarios, even to this day. Eh, it’s still life…I’ll take it…

I’m a thinker. I’m analytical. I look at all aspects of any given topic before forming my own conclusion. Some might say I think WAY TOO MUCH! But, be that as it may, it’s my own curse and its been invaluable to me. Sometimes, as in the case of my relationship with a Psychopath 2 years ago, I can think myself into being entirely stupid. The sad thing is, I’m not alone, here..

I can’t think of a relationship where, in the beginning, there weren’t over-the-top butterflies, “I-love-you’s” being thrown around, and “I can’t stop thinking about you”. These are the words we say when in a new, seemingly perfect relationship. We want to spend every waking moment with that person and sometimes, every sleeping moment. We are in a state of euphoria. Cloud 9. Everything is perfect. We have an ‘idea’ of who that person is, and some of us feel safe for the first time in our lives. We’ve never known love like “this” before. This is the early part of any relationship, good or bad… Idealization. This is mutual. Otherwise we don’t have the emotional fortitude to actually fall “in love”. It’s what happens when the attraction is mutual. The attraction is both physical and emotional. We believe in who we have met. We believe they are the sweet, caring, self-effacing individual we have always dreamed of. Our proverbial “knight in shining armor”, who has come to sweep us off our feet, out of our own personal hell, and onto that beautiful white horse waiting in the distance. There are ferries, castles, over-the-top chivalrous escapades to drool over…. We believe what we experience from that person, early on. We are caught up in the faerie tale, with hearts beating and eyes a swooning… Really, people? Isn’t that just the way it is, early on? Especially for the insecure, needy woman who has read too many childhood “happily ever after” stories. Don’t worry. I’m not pointing any fingers that aren’t already pointing at myself…

Once we believe the story line, it’s hard to think that it just might be a FALSE perception of the object of our desires. False, because we all put our best foot forward in order to impress and capture the heart of another. We fail to show our faults, or our idiosyncrasies to the new love interest. If we did, we would have a tougher time enjoying a relationship in the early days. This is every bit as true, if not more so, when dealing with someone who is abusive.

The abuse doesn’t usually show, right away. Much of the time, there will be little snippits of the partner’s abusive personality. It starts slow, normally. Of course there are still the sweet times, which keep us enthralled with the other. It’s just THAT which will keep us hanging on. The next thing you will notice in time, is less and less love being shown, and more controlling behavior, or angry outbursts. If you are lucky, you will notice the abusive tenancies early on, being able to walk away before any real abuse takes control. Many of us weren’t so lucky.

We’re stuck in faerie-tale land, where we still believe our partner is the chivalrous knight, who, when he comes to his senses, will still whisk us away to our dream-come-true. “It’ll be ok. He’s just had a bad day…(week, life, etc)” as you wipe the drainage from your freshly blackened eye, arm, open wounds… “I just need to be patient, loving, caring, bandaging his perceived emotional wounds…” If you view the abuse with a clouded, blind eye, it doesn’t make it go away or stop. No matter how much you believe in him, or your relationship.

Lets imagine a real scenario. One that many of us know all too well, already. The abuse has started, a little at a time, coupled with loving gestures and words. He’ll draw you a beautiful personal bath, with scented candles all around. “you work so hard, and I don’t show you enough how much I appreciate you”. As he walks away, while you are swooning again, yet still being careful not to bump the arm that he hurt the last time he threw you. You forget the abuse for a moment, and begin to cry alone. You remember how upset you were at the monster you saw just the previous day. This “monster” has become the Knight in shining armor, once again. “He really DOES love me! How could I have doubted him?” You swell with guilt, mixed with pain inside your heart, and in your body. You begin to trust again.

What you are witnessing here, is a blatant attempt to break your spirit. To cause you to second-guess yourself and to do whatever you can to gain his love, again. You are in pain, and he thinks it’s fun to control you in such a malicious manner. You are desensitized to what it means to be in a healthy relationship. This type of scenario becomes common-place, and you find yourself doing anything in your power to survive. “To Protect and to Serve” isn’t just the motto of our nation’s police. It’s the motto of the abused partner.

When we are finally used up, psyche’s destroyed and our hearts are seemingly non-existent, our previous knight finds another damsel and discards us for her. We, in our emotional and mental chaos, are left reeling. Our world that we fought so hard to preserve with hope, love, sweat, tears and yes, our own blood at times, has been pulled out from under us. We scramble to hang onto whatever sliver we can, in order to cling to what has become “accepted” and “protected”. We love them. We put so much heart into the relationship and felt such repetitive euphoria over this man, that it becomes almost impossible to let go. Regardless of the abuse we suffered at the same time.

This is what becomes a Trauma bond. ( Many of us have gone through exactly this. The trauma bond is what makes it so hard for us to find our confidence again, outside of the relationship. We call, relentlessly, trying to get him to see the error of his ways. “We were meant to be together!!” or “What did I do wrong? I’ll fix it! I’ll prove to you I’m good enough for you…” and so-on. We text, call or show up at his place of employment, only to be met with either silence, or outright cruelty. He doesn’t care, and is happy to tell you. We then go into unrelenting depression, blaming ourselves, our lives, our children… whatever we think the cause might be, for being thrown away. Some victims resort to suicide, to quiet the pain within. Others become stuck in the unrelenting emotional and mental tail-spins, which are a direct result of being discarded so callously.

What so many don’t understand, is, IT WAS NEVER YOUR FAULT TO BEGIN WITH!

Even if you were the one to walk away from the abusive relationship, recognizing how dangerous it was for you and/or your family, you might still find yourself missing the abuser. After a time, the bond still hooks you to the trauma. It becomes familiar to you and just life as you are used to, regardless of anything else. You have been subjected to constant anxiety and fear, with the occasional honey-moon stage, where everything seems “ok” again. You can’t walk away without being affected by it. You are used to the dramatic mood-swings and even the abuse. To try to walk into normal life again, is difficult at best. PTSD becomes a huge factor in our healing process. It takes time to become centered again.

Remember to be kind to yourself. You may find yourself clinging to memories of the good times, with only shadows remaining of the bad. Force yourself to remember what you endured. Create an exercise to center your heart, mind and psyche. He’s had such a strong hold on you, that you will have a tough time differentiating between your voice and his, for a while. Especially when you hear his taunts, demeaning statements telling you that you are “stupid” or “ugly” or “slut” or, or, or… the possibilities of what you heard for so long, are endless. Would you say those things to yourself? Absolutely NOT! You are hearing his voice still. When you learn to recognize this, then take steps to silence it, replacing those intrusive thoughts with what ever is good or uplifting. No matter what it might be.

The trauma bond will become less of an issue, over time. Believe me when I say this; it takes nothing short of fighting for your very life, to get over this type of abuse. Start to take steps, even small ones, to challenge yourself, your talents and your confidence level. When you are in a position where saying “yes” could be the life-changing wonderful happening you have always wanted, but in the past you would second-guess your ‘qualifications’ or abilities, and say “no” due to a fear of failure… Definitely say YES! The first step out of the familiar is very hard, but when you begin to try in spite of the fear, you will discover a whole new world at your feet. A whole new YOU!

Be patient with yourself, during this time. We all become impatient when wanting to move on and be “over” things. The fact remains that you absolutely can NOT rush through. Concentrate on keeping your feet moving forward, and refrain as best as you can, from becoming fixated on what lies BEHIND you.

My favorite line, which I took from a movie, is “Father, how will I find you?” the father replies, “Don’t be silly, William. you follow your feet..” In other words, keep moving. Don’t stop moving. Even during those hard days that just walking out your front door to go to work, is almost impossible.. move your feet. Even baby steps are steps moving forward. You might go back to the abuser, before being able to let go. If this happens, don’t beat yourself up. Even leaving can be a process. If one approach doesn’t work, try another until you find one that works for you. It will still be painful, but you will become stronger by the day. Keep your friends close to you. They are invaluable.

It has taken every bit of the last two and a half years, for me to get to where I am today. Will I ever be the same again? No, but honestly, why would I want to be that person again? The person who was an easy target, simply because I didn’t trust my own intuition or what I was witnessing, is the whole cause of being targeted in the first place. I had to learn hard things about myself because of the abuse I endured. It’s because of these lessons that I am stronger than I have ever been in my life. I’m 47.

It’s time to finally live.