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In his book, Dr. Carnes discusses five realities about trauma bonds: Trauma bonds have multiple coping styles alongside them; Trauma bonds can be a life-long pattern of relating to others; Trauma bonds are durable and can last forever; They can happen to any one; and Trauma bonds are not always bad, but they are about survival.

He states that in betrayals there is a promise to fix, to heal, to resolve, or to make up for what has happened. He lists five main ways promises are used to betray others. Dr. Carnes discusses eleven ways betrayal bonds are made stronger. This is a very interesting section of the book.

He writes that in addictive relationships, for most people, there was an original trauma that occurred. Compulsive behaviors often began after the original trauma, such as compulsive masturbation, or compulsive care-taking of the abuser to keep his emotions controlled, and to lower the survivor’s anxiety. Reality was distorted and trauma solutions were used in such a way to keep the relationship going.

Dr Carnes writes that to get well, the survivor has to gain insight into how he got into such a relationship,  and identify the triggers or characteristics the betrayer had that caused him to bond in the first place, even pin-pointing the original trauma. The survivor has to look at the trauma solutions he is currently using and ask himself if they are causing more problems and chaos in his life than being helpful. He has to focus on the immediate source of the chaos. When the survivor stops using the trauma solutions that are no longer working for him, the denial and repression fade away. He is able to see reality as it really exists instead of what he hopes it will one day become if he works hard enough to make it happen. The true reality becomes frightening to him. He becomes aware how  high the cost has been to stay in the relationship. He begins to look at the possibility of leaving it and what losses that will entail. This becomes the beginning of the grief process. He no longer has the old strategies to cope with the loss and pain. His relationship has been bound in secrecy, shame, and betrayal. He has carried it on his back alone.

Anger will enable him to destroy the secrecy and dissolve his loyalty to the betrayer. Opening up, becoming honest about the relationship, revealing the shame inherent in it, to a therapist or a support group can help expose the relationship for what it really is.

Dr. Carnes describes in great detail how to break free of the betrayal bond. He offers several tools in his book for helping someone who wants to break free. He takes one through the recovery process step by step. The survivor will be able to recognize compulsive patterns he is using, pinpoint the trauma solutions he needs to avoid, evaluate the costs of staying in such a relationship, talk about his hurt to an objective person who can help him break through the denial, and find a way to transform his suffering into meaning.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has gone through some type of betrayal. It has the skills that will help a survivor finally break free.



1 Carnes, Ph.D. Patrick J. 1997. The Betrayal Bond. Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Deerfield Beach, Florida. Health Communications, Inc.