Understanding The 7 Stages Of Trauma Bonding - SACAP
Applied Psychology

Understanding the 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding: A Psychological Journey

Jun 05, 2024 | By Bev Moss-Reilly
Counsellor explaining the 7 stages of trauma bonding to a client

Dive into the intricate dynamics of trauma bonding with an exploration of its 7 stages. Discover the psychological insights behind this complex phenomenon and its impact on individuals and relationships. 

Unveiling the 7 Stages of Trauma Bonding 

Trauma bonding, ​a psychological phenomenon​, elucidates the intricate dynamics between individuals and their abusers. It’s a process that unfolds in seven distinct stages, ​each playing a crucial role in​ forming and perpetuating the bond.  

Let’s delve into these stages to understand this phenomenon more deeply. 

Stage 1: The Idealisation Phase 

At the onset, the abuser presents an idealised version of themselves, captivating the victim with charm, affection, and promises of a fulfilling relationship. This phase often leads victims to believe they’ve found their soulmate or saviour. Thus fostering a sense of euphoria and attachment. 

Stage 2: The Devaluation Phase 

Gradually the abuser’s facade begins to crumble, subsequently revealing their true nature. Criticism, manipulation, and emotional abuse become prevalent, shattering the victim’s self-esteem and sense of worth. Despite the mistreatment, victims may cling to the hope of restoring the initial bliss, fuelling a cycle of emotional turmoil. 

Stage 3: Cognitive Dissonance 

As the abuse intensifies, the victim experiences conflicting emotions, oscillating between love and fear, affection and resentment. This internal discord fosters a profound sense of confusion and self-doubt, further deepening the bond with the abuser as they struggle to reconcile the disparity between the idealised image and the harsh reality. 

Stage 4: Trauma Bonding 

In this pivotal stage, the victim’s emotional dependence on the abuser solidifies. It is fuelled by intermittent reinforcement and the perceived scarcity of positive interactions. The cycle of abuse becomes normalised as the victim internalises the belief that they are unworthy of love and incapable of escaping their tormentor. 

Stage 5: Enabling Behaviour 

Driven by a desperate desire to maintain the illusion of love and security, the victim engages in enabling behaviours, sacrificing their own well-being to appease the abuser. This self-destructive pattern perpetuates the cycle of abuse, reinforcing the power dynamic and further entrenching the trauma bond. 

Stage 6: Isolation 

The abuser exerts control by isolating the victim from external support systems, exacerbating their sense of dependency and helplessness. With limited avenues for escape and validation, the victim becomes increasingly reliant on the abuser for emotional sustenance, deepening their entrapment within the toxic relationship. 

Stage 7: Empowerment and Healing 

Entering the stage of emotional addiction can become a significant hurdle, and not everyone manages to navigate beyond it. This emotional dependency intensifies the trauma bond, rendering it challenging to break free. In considering the seven stages of bond formation, particular attention to the emotional addiction phase reveals its pivotal role. True healing and empowerment only unfold when individuals summon courage, inner strength, and seek therapy to liberate themselves from this bond. 

Are you Considering a Course in Psychology? 

By unravelling the 7 stages of trauma bonding, one gains profound insights into the complex interplay of psychological, emotional, and interpersonal dynamics. Through psychology courses at the SACAP, students embark on a transformative journey, equipping themselves with both knowledge and skills to understand and address the multifaceted challenges of human behaviour.  

Click here to learn more or apply now.

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