Psychotherapy and life coaching often reveal deep truths about ourselves through examination of patterns in our behavior and relationships. Codependency is one of these commonly revealed destructive tendencies. A codependent may often recognize that their relationships may have similar patterns, but may be unable to break those problematic cycles. By working with a psychotherapist or a life coach who specializes in codependency and actionable change, anyone can fix these patterns and develop positive relationship habits for a sustainable, positive future.
The Trauma Bond
Trauma bonding is similar to Stockholm Syndrome—it’s a type of relationship survival strategy that occurs when a person is in a relationship with a narcissist. The individual, often with codependency issues, feels loved and care in the early relationship stages, but after the initial this begins to erode over time, and the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical abuse takes over the relationship.
The codependent may notice the change, but can’t understand why it happened. They seek flaws in themselves that might be causing the turmoil in hopes of bringing back the love. If they do manage to break free, the narcissist only has to return to the courtship phase to win back the codependent.
The more the codependent reaches out to the narcissist for love, recognition, and approval, the stronger the trauma bond becomes. This can mean staying in the relationship even when abuse escalates, creating a destructive cycle.
It is possible to break trauma bonds, but it isn’t easy. Psychotherapy and life coaching can help you develop effective strategies for fixing your issues and give you a safe person to talk to.
- Separation — Separating from the narcissistic abuser is key. This means physical and emotional separation, although the physical side of the separation is much easier.
- Acknowledge your choice — Exploring the relationship through coaching or therapy to see the gaslighting, emotional abuse, criticism, control, and the addictive aspects of the relationship is hard work, but it also provides the opportunity to recognize, acknowledge, and affirm your positive choices to escape being held as an emotional prisoner in the relationship.
- Develop a support network — As you work to escape the relationship and free yourself from the trauma bond and abuse, the narcissist is working to bring you back under their control. It is important to develop a network of professionals, friends, and trusted family members who understand your goals and are present to support you in your journey forward.
In addition to this work, learning to identify narcissistic and abusive behavior patterns is a critical part of not just healing, but avoiding these type of relationships in your future.