How A Trauma Bond is Formed

Scaly grey snake heads with the dead black eyes of a reptile weaved back and forth. Bright red tongues darted to and fro. They covered the Uhaul. I couldn’t look away. Out on my daily walk with Tiny, the chihuahua, I pulled my wheelchair next to the truck and stared. The snakes were only a picture on the side, but they were so creepy, that I could not look away. What the owner of the Uhaul rental said next was worse than the picture.

“Have you heard about the gathering of snakes in Manitoba, Canada? They go there by the hundreds of thousands.”

“What?” I looked it up as soon as I got home. Sure enough every spring in Manitoba, Canada, between 100,000 & 150,000 red-sided garter snakes gather in the Narcisse Snake dens. The slithering sounds like wind blowing as the scales rub together. 

Trauma bonds are exactly like a nest of snakes. Complicated and confusing, the truth slips away as easily as a snake slithers into a cave. And just like the snakes, abusers dwell in narcissistic dens, focused only on themselves. At the core of all manipulation, intimidation and domination are self-centeredness or narcissism. 

Trauma bonds are powerful because they use our natural desire for relationships against us. When it happens between a parent and a child it is doubly devastating. A child must depend upon the abuser for life. There is nowhere to turn and the narcissist knows this. Trauma bonds that are laid down in the foundational years of life are very difficult to break.

Using a cycle of kindness mixed with manipulation and devaluation, an abuser forms a bond in order to gain power and control. Cult leaders use it. Abusive partners use it and devastatingly, parents use it. In fact, if you struggle with being in an abusive relationship as an adult, you can often trace the pattern back to your family of origin. 

In one family, the siblings were isolated from any other relationships. It wasn’t that they weren’t allowed to go anywhere. It was the way the parents spun the lie that everyone outside of the family was less than others. The father was the sole authority on everything. There was no disagreement, no expression of individuality, no personhood. Even the parents had only surface relationships with outsiders. The children in the family were made to feel responsible for the emotions of the adults, and had the full-time job trying to keep the adults happy. 

This same family was punctuated with emotional and physical abuse. The carrot of unconditional love was always just beyond reach. Perhaps next time the children could get straight A’s. Maybe if they figured out what the parents wanted, all would be well. And that was the problem. The parents kept moving the goal post. 

Trauma bonds are tightly woven. Abusers use them to cope with their own dysfunction and need for control. Of course, abusers often come from trauma and have learned this type of pattern from their own childhood. But this is no excuse. The refusal to take any responsibility for their behavior or even acknowledge it in any way weaves the trauma bond that much tighter and makes it that much more difficult to escape.

Do you see yourself in the above story? If you do, remember, there is hope. You can break a trauma bond and go on to live a fulfilling life…defying trauma and embracing joy!!!

You may contact the author at:

Guest Post Disclaimer: Any and all information shared in this guest blog post is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog post, nor any content on, is a supplement for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers. Thoughts, ideas, or opinions expressed by the writer of this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of CPTSD Foundation. For more information, see our Privacy Policy and Full Disclaimer.