Chains that bind us to betrayal and the key to being set free
[August 11, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
A Guest post by one of our Anonymous readers.
This is a post of posts for me. So much has been learned and yet there is still so much more to be known and gained. My life has had a want. Not like the want of a Snickers bar on a Saturday evening, nor the want and lack of not being able to pay the bills. But rather, a want of needing to make a connection in my life to bring about a stage of healing that I have never had before. Enter, The Betrayal Bond [*Affiliate link] by Patrick Carnes, a book that brought clarity to me. My prayers to God and others’ prayers for me, have been answered. He brought this book to me and things are making sense now.
I am not saying that any of the points I make herein are not contained in any of the other books at hand, nor am I saying that this book is better than any of the other books here at ACFJ, I am simply saying that this book was a vital aid to me used in conjunction with the others.
Most of us here at ACFJ have experienced abuse. It’s a nasty word. It’s an act that leaves one empty, shattered and trying to cling to life, the one thing most of us just really had lost our sense for. When you live with abuse, you form trauma bonds and everything becomes low on the radar of what is abuse. I would say things like, “Well, that’s not near as bad as when this happened to me, so it’s probably not really abuse!” and I ended up downplaying so much of what was happening to me. I found great comfort for my soul in being able to see how angry God is — not that I delight in Him being angry, but that He sees how it has destroyed so much — and that He is not in the business of aiding destroyers.
As I picked up this book, fear was edging against me. I knew I wanted to be cautious because of the secular nature of it. Would it be easier to just put it aside and wonder, or would it be worth it to explore the pages and see what imprints in it God wanted me to find? I took it upon myself to trust God to lead me through it and teach me whatever was in the book He wanted me to know. I have read enough Christian(?) books with “poor theology” concerning marriage and family to last me a lifetime and have been contaminated with the really bad doctrines climbing off the pages, so why would it be any more damaging to read a secular book on bonds and the damaging ones we encounter in life? To me, one could be just as damaging and misleading as the other. It made sense to me to explore it.
In the first chapters of this book, my life was changed – again. Holding onto the knowledge that has been brought to me through various books, teaching and people, has been hard for me, so with pen in hand and journal pages turning, I began to take note of what I was seeing. For the first time ever, I felt I had come across something that was fully explaining my continued capture. Trauma bonds and what they had done to me.
Twenty nine pages into the book, there is a list of 14 signs that you have traumatic bonds in your life. I had a perfect score, coming in at 14 out of 14. I usually love getting an “A”, but was not thrilled at all this time.
This is one of the paragraphs early in the book that caught my attention:
An abused child will learn, for the sake of her own survival, to focus on the emotional well-being of the abusing caregiver. The child will become ‘expert’ at noticing and responding to the moods of her abuser. The child may, for example, become expert at care-giving as a way to soothe the parent, or may feel compelled to become compliant as a way to lower the anxiety of the abuser. Yet another option exists, given that abuse intensifies the child’s attachment to the abuser. The child may learn how to endure pain in order to maintain the bond with the caregiver. These ‘compelling’ patterns form a working model for how the child will later deal with significant people in her life. As an adult, the working model becomes the template for all important relationships.
This is how traumatic bonding begins. I can relate to this, both as a child and a wife. So what does this say about pastors or Christian counselors, who say that you cannot read your abuser? When I would say things like, “I know this is what he will do”, pastors and counselors would cringe and correct me, saying there is just no possible way that I could possibly know how someone else would react. It is a comfort to me that I can and did and do know. I have seen nothing in God’s Word that tells me that I cannot learn to read someone I have been abused by and formed a traumatic bond with. There is something that says we cannot know the true heart of another person, but there is also plenty that says we can know them by their fruits of repentance, and whether they bear true godly fruit or not. He is the One Who decides with finality, the heart of every person. In the meantime, He has given us His Word, to try to decipher who is true and who is false amongst the flock.
The book focuses on teaching you how to identify the patterns in your life and so far, there have been several worksheets and lessons for one to be actively doing. So, there is work to it. While we have probably all had trauma bonds with our abuser, our reactions and recoveries are all going to look different. For me, it was not enough to know that there is such a thing, or to do some light reading about it. I need more than to just identify with the fact that it exists. I needed insight and real understanding about those bonds. Some people are not going to struggle as much as others, not because their abuse was less or more, but because people are just different in how they see and handle things. If you are feeling stuck in your recovery, this book may be a great help to you.
There is another list. This one consists of 11 ways that betrayal bonds are made stronger. Here are a few of those examples:
- When there are repetitive cycles of abuse.
- When the victim and victimizer believe in their own uniqueness.
- When high intensity is mistaken for intimacy.
- When there is confusion about love.
- When exploitation endures over time.
Each of these deepens the addictive attachment.
This book talks a lot about addiction. I have my own thoughts and feelings on that aspect of the book and would advise just to exercise caution, or skip areas that you feel go against the teaching of the Word of God in an area. Basically, I am using the book to learn about the traumatic bonds I have made and how to break them, but I will do that the way I understand God to have me do it. I have found the counsel in the book to be good and not far from what God would have me to do, but with some tweaking.
I like that this book breaks things down and deals with each topic individually, so that whatever portions you scored on, you can focus on those and skip the ones you did not score on. It also tells you what your score means and suggests either just to recognize you may have a problem, or that you should at least discuss your answers with someone, or that you need help in breaking the bonds. It has an abuse inventory chart to aid you in recognizing when and where abuse may have happened in your life, and then how to deal with it and put it in its proper place in life. Doing this does not infer that you have not forgiven the people who have abused you, nor does it mean that you are bitter. It simply means that for you, this is the help you need. I think that Satan’s tactic to suppress wisdom to victims, using the Bible as his tool, is simply rampant today. God never tells us not to get help. Just as when we are acutely physically ill, we do not just read our Bibles and hope to recover; so too, when we have been made sick by abuse, we don’t just read our Bibles and hope to recover. God expects us to get up and get the help we need. He has provided that help to us and expects us to seek it out, and remain obedient to Him and His Word at the same time. Of course, the Bible plays an enormous part in that for us as believers, but I am convinced that getting additional help is what God would have us to do, as long as it does not lead us away from God. We should not be fatalistic in our views of God and His sovereignty and providence, and in God in His providence has provided wisdom to human beings by way of general revelation, which includes books like this from secular authors.
There is also talk of co-dependency in this book. However, I would refer you to a previous post on ACFJ that deals with that issue. You can find it here.
I just want to be whole. The greatest thing I learned so far from this book was that God and I don’t have a problem. I always thought I just had something wrong with my faith; that I wasn’t like other people; that I was just so different that I could not fit in; that I was so worthless, that I just could not get anything right, including whatever it was God wanted me to be, even though I have great faith and I know that He has given it to me. I just felt that something was wrong. Well, something is wrong all right, but it isn’t between God and me. It is because of the trauma I have been through in my life, from lots of people, not just parents or spouses. I finally can see that God drove me out of it so He could free me and heal me, and that there is nothing at all wrong between Him and me.
I need to learn, and He has provided me the keys, to unlock these chains of traumatic bonding and shake loose from what has held me so tight — and to be free — knowing I have all these things behind me and around me and trying to cling to me, but that I am truly free, because those things cannot bind me or come between me and my great God, nor could they ever. I am free.
The work is not yet complete, nor will it be for awhile, but I can at least look now, and say with great godly confidence, that all those people who wanted to hold me back from Christ and His truths and put their yokes around my neck and drag me down, are just godless people, who do not know nor hold the truth, but who are blind and unless they repent, they themselves will never be free. But this one thing I know, they will not ever be bound to me again. This is what needs to be done with all traumatic bonds. They need to be cut off and put away, forever. God does not hold us to a higher standard than He holds Himself. He does not reconcile all people to Himself and does not expect us to reconcile people to ourselves, who have nearly destroyed us. If those people come to true repentance, they will come to you and repent and acknowledge their horrid sin. But, that does not mean you need to re-bond with them. To recognize that you are true brothers and sisters in Christ, does not mean that you are required to form a bond with someone. We are bonded by the blood of Christ. He is the One Who makes all things right in the end.
The chains of life apart from Christ were broken in my life around the age of 4, but now my other chains are gone, in more than one way, and I owe all of that to Him. I am just so happy, that He put all of that in its rightful place – outside of my relationship with Him; and I am so thankful for Him using this book in that way. I will keep you posted, if there is more that I learn from Carnes’ book, The Betrayal Bond [*Affiliate link]. I hope someone is benefited from this post, but the truth is, you all may have already known this — and I hope you did! : )
[August 11, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to August 11, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to August 11, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to August 11, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (August 11, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and how it was invented to silence an indignant young woman — Comment by Barbara Roberts in which she discusses the use of the term “bonding” with an abuser.
And are we wise to use the term ‘trauma bonding’? Maybe not: even that term is problematic. I’d like to keep the conversation open on this question. Could it be that even the term ‘trauma bonding’ has shades of maligning victims?
After all, the experience you’ve described….and which many of our readers describe, is one of trauma. Yes! Trauma is real! And as victims / survivors we know that right deep down at the visceral, cellular level: when we are reminded (triggered) of past trauma that for whatever reasons we have not yet been able to fully process emotionally, we shake, we sweat, we feel scared, we feel all the trapped and paralyzed and conflicting feelings which we felt when the trauma was originally happening….
But is that ‘bonding’? Bonding to what? To the abuser? Hardly: victims always resist abuse. To the extent that it may look like they ‘bond’ to the abuser, that is only superficial appearance, and people jumping to conclusions which unfairly denigrate the victim. [Emphasis original.]
Some other comments on this blog which mention The Betrayal Bond:
Total Depravity of the Saints — Comment by IamMyBeloved’s.
Family Scapegoating – Part 2 — Comment by Barbara Roberts.
My Secret Hope — Comment by His Beloved.
Interview With Catherine DeLoach Lewis Part 2 — Comment by AJ.