Your Brain on Narcissistic Abuse: Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery

Your Brain on Narcissistic Abuse: Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery

As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, I know how hard it can be to believe you could have been abused by someone you thought loved you. It’s not just that they were charming, seductive, and desirable. It’s also that they seemed to care about you. You may have even felt loved – at least on some level. It’s hard to imagine that everything you thought was true about your relationship might have been a lie. This is one way you can deal with serious cognitive dissonance. And don’t worry – you’re not alone here. This happens to nearly every narcissistic abuse survivor somewhere along the way. You might also be living with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that significantly affects your everyday reality.

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (disagreeing cognitions) we experience when we encounter information that contradicts our existing set of beliefs or knowledge. In other words, when we experience cognitive dissonance, we feel anxious because part of us wants to reject new information because it is threatening to our established beliefs – but another part of us knows that the new information may be true and is demanding that we accept it as such. This internal tension can cause stress and anxiety – especially if we are unaware of its source. 

Did you know that your brain betrays you in narcissistic relationships?

It’s true! The chemicals oxytocin, which encourages bonding, endogenous opioids – responsible for pleasure, pain, withdrawal, dependence; a corticotropin-releasing factor which involves withdrawal, and stress; and dopamine which is connected to the craving, seeking, wanting the narcissist back, even when they’ve caused you extreme emotional stress and pain. Toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse lead your neurochemistry to fall into dysregulated states, which makes it really hard to leave a narcissist and even harder to finally get over a toxic relationship. Take Dr. Daniel Amen’s free Brain Health Assessment to discover your Brain Type and your Brain Fit Score!

How can you re-wire your brain after narcissistic abuse?

Your brain is neuroplastic, meaning it can change and heal in some pretty amazing ways. When you’re dealing with the type of brain damage that is caused by narcissistic abuse, you can sort of re-wire your brain yourself. (Of course, you should always check with your medical professional to ensure there’s not some other underlying reason for brain fog or being forgetful.) Speaking of brain fog, let’s define it. 

What is brain fog? 

Brain Fog is the feeling of dissociation or disconnectedness often experienced during and after narcissistic abuse. It’s a very common symptom of narcissistic abuse-induced C-PTSD. Most survivors report feeling lost like they’re not really there, or like they’re sort of watching life happen through a screen or a bubble.

Self-Help Options for Healing Brain Fog After Narcissistic Abuse

Most memory training techniques involve exercises to improve linking objects to certain items or using numbering systems to stay on top of being forgetful. However, oftentimes the only thing that is needed to keep your mind on track is to get organized and to stay that way! Below are a few good tips that will help you:

Use a filing system effectively

Take the time to think through your filing system. Figure out what organization will work best for you – client files versus project files, color coding, and so on. Once you’ve worked out your system, make sure to use it. File all pertinent information in the appropriate file (not a desk pile). It’s also helpful to attach blank sheets of paper to the inside right back flap of file folders. Then, you can take notes on relevant conversations, memos, and meetings right where you need them. And make sure you put your files away in an organized fashion.

Use a task list for projects

Overwhelmed by a complex project? Think through the project concretely, step by step. Then, make a list of all these steps, or tasks, to help you get them done. Here’s another suggestion: Keep your task list stapled to the inside front cover of your project file. That way you can refer to the task list whenever you work on that project. Personally, I LOVE Bullet Journaling for this kind of stuff.

Avoid paper piles

Are you surrounded by a sea of papers at work? Is your dining-room table so covered with mail that you’re not even sure it’s still there? There are generally two things that happen to information buried in a paper pile – either it is forgotten or it can’t be found when you need it. Paper piles are like the plague – they should be avoided at all costs. When you get a piece of paper, you should do one of three things: file it, write the information down elsewhere (such as in your scheduler) and toss it, or simply toss it.

Un-sticky your life

Avoid constantly putting information on sticky notes and other small pieces of paper: If you need to write something down, put it on your Master Plan or on your to-do list. While it’s okay to use a reminder such as a sticky note every once in a while, using such notes all the time will make them less noticeable and—as a result—less useful.

Don’t overdo it

Organize your day according to your energy level: Most of us are at our best in the morning. Therefore, set aside time in the morning to work on projects that require your full focus and ability. Schedule less important meetings and other tasks for later in the day.

Supplements That May Help With Your Healing

Did you know that there are certain supplements designed to help with healing your brain? Did you also know they can be taken while your brain is still in recovery from trauma bonding in narcissistic abuse? Are you wondering what supplements actually do this and if the claims are true? I’ve compiled a list of supplements that have helped me and others I have coached in recovery. It is based on personal experience, what I have read, and what other people have told me. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but my aim is to help you find some useful information about healing your brain in recovery.

*Please note, I am not a medical professional and nothing on this site should be taken as medical advice. Do not take any supplements without first discussing with your doctor and getting their approval.

  • Calm My Brain: Quell your worried mind with this highly effective formula for the relief of anxiousness, featuring the ultimate calming mineral magnesium, the powerful stress-busting herb KSM-66® ashwagandha, and the fast-acting amino acid L-theanine.*
  • Attention Support: Trouble concentrating? Can’t sit still? Attention Support contains natural ingredients selected for their clinically proven benefits to help you relax, stay calm, and increase your attention span.
  • Betaine TMG: Provides the nutrient betaine (trimethylglycine, TMG), which enhances SAMe for healthy mood; provides crucial methyl for DNA, brain neurotransmitters, melatonin, and myelin production; and helps cells regulate their water content.
  • Brain & Body Power: The easiest way to get your daily mind and body essentials – parceled into convenient packets including a brain optimizing multi-vitamin-mineral, and pure omega-3 fish oil capsules.
  • Brain & Body Power Max: The most advanced memory-directed formula – perfectly portioned into convenient daily packets including a multi-vitamin-mineral, maximum memory-boosting nutrients, and omega-3 fish oil for complete daily nutrition.
  • Brain & Memory Power Boost: Our most advanced, best-selling memory formula with a lineup of powerful nutrients clinically proven to help protect circulation in your brain, boost mental connectivity, sharpness, and sustained focus.
  • Brain Boost On-The-Go: Fight brain fatigue and tackle your day with the zero-calorie, caffeine-free, and sugar-free, effervescent berry blend that’s perfect anytime, anywhere. Quick natural energy and hydration to help promote mental clarity. Simply add to water and enjoy.
  • Craving Control: Anyone who has ever tried to make better choices knows all too well how cravings can sabotage the best intentions. Craving Control contains all-natural ingredients that help to calm the craving centers in our brain, balance blood sugar and promotes a positive mood.
  • NeuroLink: Feeling irritable or sad for no reason? NeuroLink helps to balance our emotional ups and downs by delivering an exclusive blend of key nutrients to neurotransmitters in our brain helping us to feel tranquil and clear.
  • BrainMD’s GABA Calming Support: Calm your mind naturally with GABA Calming Support, an exclusive formula that contains clinically studied nutrients that help to calm your brain waves and help act as the biochemical “brakes” your brain needs to slow down your anxious or fretful thoughts.
  • Serotonin Mood Support: Does your mind race with negative thoughts? Try our customer favorite Serotonin Mood Support, which contains a patented form of saffron along with other key nutrients that help to promote calmness, positive mood, serotonin balance, and even healthy weight management.
  • SAMe Mood and Movement 400: SAMe Mood & Movement 400 provides SAMe (S-AdenosylMethionine), a nutrient with very high energy that helps power numerous enzymes important for the brain, joints, liver, muscles, and other organs. SAMe is fundamental to the body’s renewal, repair, and overall well-being.

Going Forward in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Being in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser causes survivors to experience a form of trauma and shock. For this reason, trauma therapy is helpful because it acknowledges that healing is a process and that there is more than one way to move forward.

Trauma therapy is often focused on the past but will also guide you toward future goals and dreams while teaching you how to deal with various triggers. Awareness of cognitive dissonance, trauma bonding & emotional flashbacks can be instrumental in understanding what your inner experience of the relationship was so you can work through it & begin letting go. Find a therapist here. 

You might also want to try narcissistic abuse recovery coaching, or if you’re looking for more of a small group setting with a lower price point, try our small group coaching plan – there are significant benefits to this and the price is significantly less than one-on-one coaching. 

Takeaway

You are not to blame for your traumatic relationship with a narcissist. By understanding what happened to you and having the right support on your healing journey, you can go on to live a happy and meaningful life. After overcoming narcissistic abuse, you may find yourself feeling like a whole new person. If you have found yourself in that stage, take comfort knowing you’re not alone. It is a journey that is as exhilarating as it is exhausting, but the end result is well worth all the effort.

You can recover. You just have to take your time, and you have to trust the process. Give yourself permission to rebuild your life from the ground up. It’s going to be a long and difficult road, but it will be worth it in the end.

Get Help With Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery – Here’s the link for your free tools.

Dealing with relationship trauma

Dealing with relationship trauma

Are you dealing with relationship trauma?

The bad news? The second you fall in love with someone, the likelihood that you’ll be dealing with relationship trauma increases exponentially. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer in silence – and there are things you can do to begin to heal and resolve relationship trauma and move forward.

What is relationship trauma?

Relationship trauma is a term used by psychologists and other mental health professionals to identify the condition people suffer after having been subjected to relationship abuse (emotional, physical, and otherwise). Many victims were also exposed to prolonged and/or extreme forms of abuse/neglect during childhood. This can predispose them to end up in toxic relationships as an adult, which cause them to be retraumatized in adulthood.

What are the signs of relationship trauma?

The signs of relationship trauma can be as subtle as they are obvious. If you’re dealing with it, you’re far from alone. In fact, according to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, nearly 10% of couples experience relationship abuse. Other research shows that as many as 40% of women and 25% of men have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetime; 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men report having been sexually or physically assaulted by a partner at some point in their life.

Common signs of abuse include:

  • Fear for your safety
  • Feeling trapped and/or controlled
  • Being isolated from friends and family
  • Losing self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling like you can’t trust anyone else (including yourself)

See more signs of relationship trauma and narcissistic abuse here.

Are there different types of relationship trauma?

There are three main forms of relationship trauma: Acute, Chronic, and Complex, according to MedicineNet.com.

Acute Trauma

Acute trauma is the result of a single incident that traumatized the victim. This could be something like a car accident, having your home broken into, being raped or assaulted, or even a natural disaster. In any case, the event is extreme enough to cause you to doubt your physical security.

Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma happens through prolonged trauma that happens over the course of time. According to MedicineNet, it “may result from a long-term serious illness, sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying, and exposure to extreme situations, such as a war.”

Complex Trauma

Complex trauma means that you’ve dealt with a variety of traumatic events, to put it mildly.

“The events are generally within the context of an interpersonal (between people) relationship,”  writes Shaziya Allarakha, MD.“It may give the person a feeling of being trapped. Complex trauma often has a severe impact on the person’s mind. It may be seen in individuals who have been victims of childhood abuse, neglect, domestic violence, family disputes, and other repetitive situations, such as civil unrest.”

What does relationship trauma look like?

Relationship trauma can profoundly affect your entire adult life, including your present-day relationships, career, family life (including communication with your own children).

People develop different types of relationship trauma that can change the way they relate to others. Some people become addicted to relationships that are too good to be true. Others fear intimacy and can’t get close enough to their partners. They’re afraid of being entrapped by someone they love, and this fear may keep them stuck in unhealthy relationships. Some psychologists suggest that this could also be related to attachment styles developed early in childhood.

What are the long-term effects of relationship trauma?

The long-term effects of relationship trauma are varied and depend on both the person and the traumas they’ve suffered. Some examples include the following.

Parental rejection leads to toxic people pleasing

Valuing yourself highly and feeling safe and secure is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for those who’ve suffered from parental rejection. At the root of this is the belief that your value is based on what you do, not who you are. This leads people to put their own needs aside, putting themselves at risk for burnout and breakdown.

Sexual shame leads to extremely low self-worth and intimacy issues

Trauma tends to make us think we’re broken — we may come to believe that we’re “damaged goods” or “damaged goods who can’t be fixed.” If this is our experience with sex, it makes sense that some people would have a hard time enjoying sex or being interested in sex. In some cases, it’s been hard for these people to see themselves as sexual beings at all.

Others have trouble understanding what sex has to do with their value as a person. Or they’ve had parts of them broken so long that they don’t think they have a right to enjoy sex or be sexual at all. All of this can lead to chronic sexual shame and a need for constant reassurance of the kind “I’m good enough” or “I’m lovable.”

Risk avoidance leads to isolation and chronic fear

If you’ve had a lot of parental rejection or sexual shame or both, one thing may become clear: You don’t feel good about yourself most of the time. You may grow up thinking that if you’re not perfect, then you’re worthless. That can lead you to avoid situations where things might go wrong, which often means avoiding new experiences altogether or limiting your experiences to those that feel safer to you.

You may feel unable to trust anyone ever again. You might not want to believe that another person could do this to you again. But the truth is, it’s not rational for you to have total trust in anyone else from here on out. You can learn to trust selectively and build a bond of mutual respect again with a partner who has betrayed you in some way.

Why do we stay with partners who traumatize us?

You can’t change the past, but you can move forward. If you find yourself with an abusive partner, you might be afraid to leave, or you might even wish you could go back once the relationship ends. This is likely a result of trauma bonding and C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder).

What is trauma bonding?

Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, this is a condition that causes abuse victims to develop a psychological dependence on the narcissist as a survival strategy during abuse. Trauma bonding also makes recovering from a toxic relationship significantly more difficult.

What is C-PTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)?

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a serious mental health condition affecting a large percentage of victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse. This disorder can take years to treat and many professionals aren’t familiar with its symptoms or misdiagnose it.

Some therapists and other mental health professionals may even victim-blame if they aren’t familiar with the subtle tricks of a narcissist. Unfortunately, it can be a lifelong condition, but it can be managed with mindfulness and behavior modification, among other therapies and modalities.

If you are affected by C-PTSD, you may wish to supplement your therapeutic treatment with narcissistic abuse recovery coaching. Or at the very least we recommend that you find a therapist who understands your unique situation. Check out this guide on how to find a therapist who understands narcissistic abuse and recovery.

How do you end the cycle and recover from relationship trauma?

Relationship trauma is what happens when a relationship ends and one or both parties have difficulty processing that experience. You can experience relationship trauma in a variety of ways, but, in general, the process involves the following steps:

  • Recognizing that you’ve dealt with traumatic abuse in a toxic relationship
  • Acknowledging the impact the relationship had on you
  • Coming to grips with your feelings about the relationship and how it ended
  • Deciding what to do next with your feelings and your life
  • Moving forward with your life without the toxic person in it.

The DUO Method was designed to help survivors of narcissistic abuse take back their lives. The good news is that you don’t need to do this all by yourself. It is possible to overcome the pain and move on, especially if you’ve learned from the situation. Start here if you’d like to start your recovery right now.

Here are a few pieces of advice for moving forward.

1. Ask for help.

There’s no shame in asking friends and family to help you through a difficult time because they know what you’re going through better than anyone else. They might be able to offer insight into the hurt you’re experiencing or help you regain perspective on your situation. You can also reach out to a coach or therapist, who can help guide you through this process and give you support as you work toward recovery. Online support groups can also be very helpful for survivors of narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.

2. Remember that recovery is a process, not a destination.

You can’t just snap your fingers and expect yourself to be instantly healed. Narcissistic abuse recovery takes time and effort, so don’t expect everything to turn around immediately. Too many of us have been hurt in relationships that came to a bad end, and we’ve been left to pick up the pieces. It’s a difficult thing to do, but there are some things you can do to help yourself heal.

3. Release the need to hold the narcissist accountable. 

Obviously, forgiveness isn’t really an easy thing when it comes to recovering from relationship trauma. But you don’t have to traditionally forgive the narcissist. Rather, you need to release the need to hold them accountable and release the need to remain connected to them.

4. Be honest with yourself about what happened.

When a toxic person hurts you, you’re not wrong to blame them for your pain, but staying stuck in victimhood will prevent you from recovering. Instead, it can be more productive to look at the situation objectively and consider how you found yourself in this relationship in the first place and how you could have handled the situation differently. While the narcissist will never be able to do the work to figure out why they hurt you or what it really means, you can certainly recognize what happened by learning to understand the dynamics of toxic relationships. Thoroughly understanding why you found yourself there and what made you stay can also help you avoid future toxic relationships.

5. Go no contact if possible.

In order to work through a relationship trauma, you also need time and space away from the person who hurt you. This isn’t just about getting away from them — it’s about regrouping and getting a new perspective on what happened. You must understand that your experience was real and valid, despite the fact that your abuser likely gaslighted you and made you doubt yourself and your reality. This takes time and requires healing. If you can, go no contact (or low contact, if you have children under 18 with this person).

6. Be prepared to find your own closure. 

As much as you deserve it, your abuser will absolutely not willingly give you the closure you so desperately want and need. So, you’ll need to prepare yourself to find and create your own form of closure after the end of a toxic relationship.

7. Move forward and create the life you want and deserve.

In the end, you can intentionally choose to heal and then create the life you want and deserve. It’s a sort of personal evolution that can often be the silver lining to this otherwise miserable situation.

When dealing with relationship trauma, focus on finding healthy outlets for your feelings so you can move forward with life. Find a therapist or psychologist who is an expert in dealing with these kinds of issues. Spend time with people who can give you feedback on how your actions have affected them or others around them; seek support groups; make healthy choices, and take good care of yourself while healing.

Do you think you’re dealing with the effects of relationship trauma? Take this relationship trauma test and find out.

Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support

No Closure At the End of Your Relationship? What Now?

No Closure At the End of Your Relationship? What Now?

Why do narcissists refuse to give you closure in a relationship?

Are you desperate for closure after the ending of a relationship with a narcissist?  Rarely is the need for relief from the discard allowed by the narcissist – and being able to speak your mind and discuss the issues you lived with if you have gone no contact is practically a foreign concept.

Lack of Closure After a Toxic Relationship Leaves You Reeling

Feeling the need for closure in order to move on and heal can perhaps be one of the more frustrating things survivors of narcissistic abuse go through after a discard. I know that for me personally, it left me feeling like it was impossible to stop thinking about the narcissist and I even struggled to forgive myself for having been with them in the first place. Can you relate?

What can you expect from the narcissist at the end of a relationship?

With a narcissist, if you get closure then you are one of the rare few. The narcissistic person will not allow you to get the closure you need. Instead of closure you get the silent treatment, smear campaigns, gaslighting, blame-shifting, the narcissist playing victim, hoovering, and repeated abuse. In other words, anything but closure.

They might even call you the abuser. Of all the people I have spoken to about the abuse they have suffered, not one has said they have had closure directly from the narcissist.

Can you create your own closure so you can move forward with your healing after narcissist abuse?

Absolutely you can! This video talks about why a narcissist won’t give you closure as well as ideas for how to move forward with your own life to create the closure you seek.

Get Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Now

Additional Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources

‘Love’ with a Sociopath: The Cookie Illustration

‘Love’ with a Sociopath: The Cookie Illustration

~THE COOKIE ILLUSTRATION~

What is ‘love’ with a sociopath like?

Well, imagine there’s a vending machine in front of you with one big red button that says, ‘FREE COOKIES’. At first, the cookies are so delicious.. so euphoric. But afterward, every time you press the button, you receive a painful electric shock.

But you keep pressing the button, hoping.. becoming frantic. After about the 99th time of getting shocked, you get a broken chip of a cookie.

You actually feel sad, yet you are thankful for at least having this broken piece of cookie.

When you finish the broken cookie, you realize you would gladly get shocked another 99 times to get another broken piece of cookie. Desperation is now a daily occurrence.

So you continue, accepting the malfunction and the biting pain of each shock. You now live on your knees in front of the cookie vending machine.

Then one day, the cookies stop coming.

That’s ‘love’ with a sociopath. It’s not real love–this is trauma bonding.

Only you can stop it.

This is the behavior of addiction.

~~

And…that machine is deriving power from harming you. Power that it will use to continue harming you as long as you stay.

Do you want a better life? Then do the work of recovery.

Trauma Bonding

Trauma Bonding

This article has been medically reviewed by our content partner Dr. Robin Bryman

Trauma bonding is a common condition among narcissistic abuse survivors and their abusers. Thanks to an ongoing cycle of intermittent reinforcement, many survivors of toxic relationships go through this, much like kidnapping victims and hostages do.

Trauma bonding is often a bigger issue for people who also grew up in toxic and abusive homes, partially just because it feels like “normal” to them.

As Warwick Middleton said, “The capacity for dissociation enables the young child to exercise their innate life-sustaining need for attachment in spite of the fact that principal attachment figures are also principal abusers.”

What is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding is often used interchangeably for the term Stockholm Syndrome.

“In 1973, Jan Erik Olsson walked into a small bank in Stockholm, Sweden, brandishing a gun, wounding a police officer, and taking three women and one man hostage,” writes Rachel Lloyd. “During negotiations, Olsson demanded money, a getaway vehicle, and that his friend Clark Olofsson, a man with a long criminal history, be brought to the bank. The police allowed Olofsson to join his friend and together they held the four hostages captive in a bank vault for six days.”

Lloyd continues: “During their captivity, the hostages at times were attached to snare traps around their necks, likely to kill them in the event that the police attempted to storm the bank. The hostages grew increasingly afraid and hostile toward the authorities trying to win their release and even actively resisted various rescue attempts. Afterward, they refused to testify against their captors, and several continued to stay in contact with the hostage-takers, who were sent to prison. Their resistance to outside help and their loyalty toward their captors was puzzling, and psychologists began to study the phenomenon in this and other hostage situations. The expression of positive feelings toward the captor and negative feelings toward those on the outside trying to win their release became known as Stockholm syndrome.”

Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, it’s a condition that causes abuse victims to develop a psychological dependence on the narcissist as a survival strategy during abuse. Of course, this makes recovering from a toxic relationship significantly more difficult than it might otherwise be. While bonding is normal in healthy relationships, trauma bonding is a sort of toxic version of this that results in an abusive relationship – verbal, physical, or otherwise.

What does trauma bonding feel like?

Trauma bonding is the feeling of being addicted to a person. And it literally causes you to become almost physically addicted, due to the ongoing cycle of intermittent reinforcement. You are fighting a battle within yourself and it turns out that your own body is sort of against you on this one. The cognitive dissonance and the feeling of addiction are what lead us to stay with a narcissist in a toxic relationship even when we logically know better.

“Many survivors have such profound deficiencies in self-protection that they can barely imagine themselves in a position of agency or choice,” writes Judith Lewis Herman. “The idea of saying no to the emotional demands of a parent, spouse, lover, or authority figure may be practically inconceivable. Thus, it is not uncommon to find adult survivors who continue to minister to the needs of those who once abused them and who continue to permit major intrusions without boundaries or limits. Adult survivors may nurse their abusers in illness, defend them in adversity, and even, in extreme cases, continue to submit to their sexual demands.”

This video explains how trauma bonding directly affects our decision-making ability and why it causes it to feel so hard to let go and move forward from a toxic relationship.

“Their experiences led them to create assumptions about others and related beliefs about themselves such as ‘this is my lot in life’ and ‘this is what I deserve,'” writes Christine A. Courtois. “Some also learned that personal safety and happiness are of lower priority than survival and that it may be safer to give in than to actively fight off additional abuse and victimization. When abuse is perpetrated by intimates, it is additionally confounding in terms of attachment, betrayal, and trust. Victims may be unable to leave or to fight back due to strong, albeit insecure and disorganized, attachment and misplaced loyalty to abusers. They may have also experienced trauma bonding over the course of their victimization, that is, a bond of specialness with or dependence on the abuser.”

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a form of psychological stress or discomfort that happens when you simultaneously hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. Often affects narcissists as well as their victims at different times and for very different reasons. Are you struggling with cognitive dissonance during or after narcissistic abuse? Get your free cognitive dissonance toolkit right here.

This video offers an overview of cognitive dissonance as well as actionable and practical self-help tips for healing from cognitive dissonance.

How does trauma bonding affect your body and brain?

Is there such a thing as narcissistic abuse-induced trauma bonding? Yes. And, this is exactly why you might find it so difficult to get over a narcissist. It is like you are literally addicted to them! It might even be why haven’t already left the narcissist. When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist or sociopath, it often looks nearly perfect from the outside, especially to people who aren’t aware of the dynamics that happen behind closed doors.

And most likely, you don’t want anyone to know how ugly your relationship really is on the inside. Hint: think Stockholm Syndrome (aka trauma bonding) – codependency – and feeling stuck.

How can you manage and heal from trauma bonding?

It isn’t easy, but it’s totally possible to heal from trauma bonding – or at least to manage it into submission. In this article, my fellow QB coach Lise Colucci explains how self-care can help. Lise also runs a small group coaching program for healing from trauma bonding.

If you find yourself stuck in a toxic relationship, these practical steps will help you heal from a trauma bond and finally let go of the narcissist, once and for all. The heartbreak is painful, but the healing is real. We will discuss the psychology of a trauma bond and how to let go of the narcissist, plus PTSD and NPD, and how they work. Being trauma bonded to an abuser is being tied to something you know harms you yet still feeling unable to get away. The emotional ties alone are confusing and challenging. Here are a few ways to help you break those bonds too.

Trauma Bond Healing Tips from Dr. Robin Bryman

Do Your Research

Learn as much as you can about the narcissist and how they think differently than you do. This is critical in order for you to understand that you are not alone in this, that there are so many people that are impacted by narcissistic abuse.

Time (Limits) for Obsession

Try to structure your day. For instance, for each hour, give yourself ten minutes to “obsess” about your relationship with the narcissist. For the rest of the hour, focus on yourself, live in the present moment, and plan for your future. At this point, try not to focus on your past.

Get Help

Find a therapist or coach that understands trauma bonding or who has been through it themselves.

Get It Together

Start organizing your life. Start with finances, career, family, friends, home, etc. The toxic relationship you were in took so much of your energy and as a result, a lot has been neglected in your own life. You deserve to focus now on taking your energy back and building a beautiful life for yourself.

Choose Intentionally

Make a list of goals for yourself. They don’t have to be life goals. You can create a list of things you would like to do. When you’re having a hard, choose something to do from that list.

Get It Out of Your Head

Keep a journal. It doesn’t need to be organized. For instance, when you’re upset, you can just scribble, free associate, or write down whatever you would like. It doesn’t have to be neat.

 

Take the Trauma Bonding Test

Think you’re trauma bonded with a toxic narcissist, but still not sure? Try this test.

 

Our Recent Posts About Trauma Bonding

How to Heal from a Toxic Relationship

How to Heal from a Toxic Relationship

This healing guide offers not only solutions but also resources to help you learn not only how to heal from a toxic relationship, but why you were there in the first place. Plus, you’ll learn how you can level up your life after a toxic relationship and begin to evolve into the person you’ve always wanted to be.

Identifying Emotionally Unavailable People in Relationships

Identifying Emotionally Unavailable People in Relationships

“Most people in the psychology field believe that if we do not get a child to bond at a deep level with someone by age eight, we have lost them. We can never recover them and teach them empathy. Never.” ~Patti Henry, Author of The Emotionally Unavailable Man

Emotionally unavailable people in relationships can often be appealing to people – especially those of us who like to help “fix” people’s problems, those of us who enjoy solving a good mystery, and those of us who may have experienced an overly emotional person in a toxic relationship. In some cases, you can potentially take steps to connect with an emotionally unavailable person and actually create some positive change in both of your lives. But in the case of the emotional unavailability being a side effect of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) or otherwise on the cluster B spectrum – or even with someone who just has strong narcissistic tendencies but who hasn’t been officially diagnosed with the personality disorder – you’re going to be fighting a losing battle if you try to create genuine connection.

What does it mean to be emotionally unavailable?

Someone who is emotionally unavailable refuses to let his or her guard down. People who have been hurt or rejected often in their past may take this position without realizing it. They may find it difficult to trust new people or anyone at all if there has been significant trauma in their lives. In many cases, these people can be helped with counseling, coaching or even simple discussions with their loved ones. Toxic people, such as narcissists, who are emotionally unavailable might also be helped through counseling or therapy, but usually refuse to get or accept help as they don’t see anything wrong with their behavior.

How does it feel to be in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable?

Whether the emotionally available person is your partner, your parent or your best friend, you might find yourself feeling very lonely and even rejected by this person. You might feel unloved, and you might feel like their repeated rejection of your attempts to connect are related to a big wall this person puts up around him or herself. You feel like this person isn’t there for you in the way that a normal parent, partner or best friend would be. It’s a one-sided kind of relationship.

If this person is a narcissist or other kind of toxic person, it gets even more complicated. This video playlist offers a powerful compilation of red flags to look for in toxic relationships. 

Can an emotionally unavailable person change or heal so they can become more emotionally available?

This depends on whether you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist or a “regular” person. In both cases, the behavior is most likely a subconscious way to self-protect themselves. They refuse to allow themselves to be vulnerable to you in order to reduce the chances that they might be hurt or rejected again – or to manage their own emotional response if it (inevitably, in their minds) happens to them again.

However, with narcissists, we need to consider the fact that they have impaired empathy, which could also appear to be emotional unavailability. And we must remember that while it’s theoretically possible that a narcissist could create true change in their lives, it’s also highly unlikely that they will. That’s because most narcissists are unable or unwilling to take any sort of responsibility for things that go wrong in their lives and their relationships – so they generally look to blame someone else (with deflection and projection) and see themselves as victims or at least innocent bystanders.

How do you deal with an emotionally unavailable person?

If you’re dealing with someone who is capable of change, it could just take some time and some talking to work the situation out. You could sit down and have a conversation with this person and ask thoughtful questions about how they feel and why. Do your best to make that person feel safe and comfortable with you and like they can trust you, and then show them this in your own actions and behavior.

If you’re dealing with a narcissist or another kind of toxic person, the game changes. In this case, it’s unlikely that the person will change at all, nor will they be willing to admit they have a problem, to begin with.

That means the first step to dealing with an emotionally unavailable person is to determine whether they are a toxic person, or not. Take this quiz to find out if you’re dealing with a toxic narcissist. 

Once you submit your answers, you’ll be given resources to help in your situation.

 

 

 

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