6 Stages of Trauma Bonding with Narcissists, According to an Expert

Survivors of narcissistic relationships commonly experience six stages of trauma bonding before getting caught in the unhealthy cycle. A trauma bond is a strong connection that forms with abusers due to power imbalances, mixed signals, danger, and betrayal.

Unlike healthy relationships, narcissistic manipulators distort their victims’ perspectives, and the betrayals in these harmful relationships can strengthen the bond victims have with their abusers as a way to cope.

Here are the six stages of trauma bonding you might have gone through:

1. Idealization: Love Bombing and the Illusion of the Ideal Partner

At the beginning of a relationship with a narcissist, they copy your interests and act romantic, which feels great. Things might speed up, like moving in together. You rely on their attention, even if something seems off. The narcissist seems convincing, and their “love” is overwhelming.

2. Cognitive Dissonance: The Impact of Criticism, Betrayal, Love Triangles, and Gaslighting

After the exciting start, things change with the narcissist. They begin saying mean things and doing hurtful stuff like taking long to reply. This makes the survivor confused and unsure, as they notice problems. The narcissist might talk about exes to make you jealous, then say they didn’t. They watch to see how you react. This happens from the beginning, but it’s not clear. The hurtful actions become more obvious, making you doubt yourself and miss the happy start. But the narcissist treats everyone like this, making you feel bad about yourself without much you can do.

3. Intermittent Reinforcement: The Temptation of Seeking Approval through Mixed Kindness and Harshness

Narcissists make a pattern of being nice and then mean to keep you hooked. They might say sorry after fights or act kind after causing problems. These kind acts seem big because they’re rare. It’s like when a captor gives a prisoner food – you feel thankful for surviving. This is like how abuse victims remember good times. A brain chemical called dopamine is part of this. It gets released more when rewards are surprising. The narcissist’s unpredictable actions make you try harder to make them happy.

4. Devaluation: Intense Criticism, Isolation, and the Cycle of Harm and Rescue

In this tough stage of the trauma bond, survivors face “Devaluation.” The narcissist becomes mean, distant, and compares you badly. They’re less kind and more hurtful, and they make you feel alone by keeping you from others. They make you doubt what others think, so you stay away from usual things and people. When they’re not around, you want their approval. They’re nice after hurting you, making a cycle that’s tough to break.

5. Identity Erosion: How Abusers Undermine Your Self and Cause Entanglement

Narcissists use tricky tactics to confuse and damage your self-worth. They distort your self-image, making you believe their lies. They might call you negative or worthless, making you doubt yourself and giving them control. You lose parts of yourself as you get caught up in their identity. Your reactions change, like getting angry or jealous, due to their manipulation. You become emotionally dependent on them while they seem energetic, hurting you instead of supporting you.

6. Dangerous adaptation and Learned Helplessness: The Struggle to Leave a Narcissistic Relationship

This is often the final tough part of the trauma bond before getting better. You’ve given a lot to the relationship, so it’s hard to leave. Many people struggle in this situation, especially with kids or money involved. The “sunk cost fallacy” makes you think it’s okay to stay, even if you know it’s not. You believe the narcissist’s lies, defend them to loved ones, and might go back before leaving for good. Feeling tired, anxious, and sad from the trauma makes staying feel easier. You cope with the wrong relationship, feeling helpless. To heal, realize the bond is from mistreatment, not love. Break free and start healing.

Share Your Thoughts:

Did any of these stages hit close to home? Your thoughts matter – feel free to share in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *