The trauma bond is a victim’s pathological inversion of the feeling of fear, into the feeling of love toward her abuser.
Possibly, it is a survival mechanism enabling the victim to better appease her abuser. The victim, by convincing herself that she is in love with her abuser and that her abuser loves her, feels more able to convince her abuser of the same.
Another possibility is that the victim is not feeling love at all, but obsession with her abuser. She feels that if she focuses all her attention on the abuser, she is more likely to predict future abuse and appease his anger with displays of affection. The fear and obsession are confused with love because the victim feels as if she will die if she can’t be with him to appease him and make him happy.
The abuser’s role in creating the trauma bond is by alternating benevolence with malevolence. He becomes the poison and the cure, the problem and the solution. Ironically, after the abuse, the victim interprets a lack of abuse as an act of kindness, so that the abuser doesn’t need to do anything kind except to stop the explicit abuse.
The trauma bond is sometimes referred to as “Stockholm Syndrome”, named after a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden in which bank employees who were held hostage became attached to their kidnappers and defended them in court.
A trauma bond doesn’t require long periods of time. In a person predisposed to appeasing abusers because of past experience or upbringing, it can take only seconds to become trauma bonded. The abuser only needs to imply a threat of danger and then withdraw it: he can cross a boundary and then step back; He may imply a threat and then laugh at his “joke”; He may rage and then apologize. This is enough for the victim to feel endangered and then feel relieved of that same danger. It is the whipsaw action which induces the trauma bond in the victim.
Some psychopaths will induce fear in their prey without any threatening behavior at all. An instinctual reaction to being stalked can trigger it. The psychopath is aware of this and will prepare by bringing a prop: a toy; a flower; or a cast to make him appear harmless. This is a ploy to disarm the victim’s natural self-preservation instinct.« Back to Glossary Index