A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Chains that bind us to betrayal and the key to being set free

A guest post by one of our Anon 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, by Patrick Carnes [*affiliate link], 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!  : )

 ******

UPDATE — here are some other comments on this blog which mention The Betrayal Bond:

https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2014/04/09/total-depravity-of-the-saints/#comment-32211

https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2014/03/21/family-scapegoating-part-2/#comment-31452

https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2013/11/14/my-secret-hope/#comment-25204

*Amazon Affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link. 

31 Comments

  1. Heather2

    Amen for a well thought out and written article.

    Your words give so many hope! Thank you for sharing this book and the journey you lived which brought you healing and on the road to complete wellness.

  2. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    This sentence : “He does not reconcile all people to Himself and does not expect us to reconcile people to ourselves, who have nearly destroyed us.”. Wow, light bulbs went on, thunder sounded. The truth of this was so mind blowing. Thank you!
    Added to the already bell ringing truth about know what your abuser is thinking/planing/ feeling. I was told over and over that I couldn’t “know that” and yet when he would react how I said he would, I was somehow at fault because I “guessed” how he would respond and must have “set him up”. More and more I am recognizing the 17 years of married abuse and at least one more of abuser by the counselors. ( We are not even going to discuss the continual trauma of no child support and emails demanding things and hacking of email and recording private conversations. ) If you think of it, pray for me, so weary of no child support. How does one recover when there is no time because you are working overtime and still don’t have enough left over to pay for all the bills. As someone has said, not PTSD but Continual Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    • I’m not sure where pastors get that whole idea that we can’t know what a person will do or think. Maybe, in a strictly technical sense, we can’t be 100% sure, but by golly, once an abusive scenario is replayed over and over again, we sure can predict with a high level of certainty what will happen given a certain set of circumstances.

      When God says that we cannot know the heart, I really believe He is talking about salvation more than anything else. Even then, their behavior gives strong indications as to the state of their souls.

      • Wendell I can tell you at least on place pastors have got that idea from. Here is Dr John Street, lecturer on counseling at The Masters Seminary, which is connected with Grace To You (John MacArthur’s ministry). You can see the video at the TMS site here, but the following link is where it is on YouTube, one hour and nine minutes into the lecture:

        http://youtu.be/u7zCpftQiFc?t=1h9m6s

        The part I have difficulty with is where Dr Street says

        There are some women who want to give you the impression that by virtue of the fact that they are female they have a special extra-sensory perception. They don’t. Shh! I just let the cat out of the bag!

        He bases this on 1 Cor. 2:11 which says that For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of man which is in him.

    • Anonymous

      This: “so weary of no child support.” This is proof positive of an abusive entitlement mentality. “I’m entitled to have kids and I’m entitled to decide not to take care of them.”

      Is there a center there that could offer some financial support to you? I know that some Centers for Prevention of Abuse help financially with rent, utilities, food and gas! Maybe check that out.

      Hacking is illegal and a federal offense. Call your local FBI and report it. They will investigate. A federal offense with intent to cause harm, climbs up the scale rather rapidly. Recording is illegal too, but cannot be used in Court anyway, so he is just tormenting you. See if someone will aid you in have a home sweep done. Other than that, moving is an option, if you can. Praying…

      • What good suggestions, Iamhis.

        I’ll add here that we have recently put a few links on our Resources pages about the legalities of recording a conversation if the party being recorded is not aware the recording is being made. You can find them if you go to our Legal Issues page and scroll down a bit.

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        His reason, currently( it changes) , is that I haven’t signed a changed agreement. Changes that he wants, not that I agree too. Typical, If I don’t agree to accept what is leftover in his budget I am obviously a narcissist. Also, I am not supposed to let any of my teens know that he isn’t paying…so you don’t think they notice all the overtime I am doing( normal weeks for the past year + have been 70-80 hours) or am I supposed to just tell them I am a horrible money manager which is why I can’t get the eye glasses they need or driving instructor( not a luxury in our state, required).

      • Jeff Crippen

        Still Scared – I hope those horribly long workweeks come to an end soon. You are a brave person.

  3. THANK YOU…Will talk with the Lord about reading this as just last evening I bumped into a fellow survivor and we had a conversation about our continued journey of overcoming and some of the things we each are struggling with, I, and I imagine all survivors, are willing to walk through the fire so that those bonds that bind me are loosed.

  4. Wendell G

    “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.”

    I can relate to that. Even now, at 57, I have a higher need of confirmation that I am doing well than I should. I have lived most of my life with an undercurrent of thinking I am a failure and can’t do anything right and the root of all that stems from childhood emotional abuse inflicted by my mother. I was the oldest, so I got the brunt of it. I think it was also a contributor to my previous problems with porn, using it as a salve to cover the wounds that were inflicted on me at an early age.

    • Anonymous

      Yes Wendell. Your prior problems could have been a coping skill. Even though a lot of the coping skills are sinful, they are there because of abuse and learning to survive by coping. That makes them no less sinful, but at least we can know that we can truly be set free from them and it is easier if you understand why you do what you do in the first place, and how you got where you are in life. The book should help you determine that, as you work through the pages of it. As victims, we may have learned coping skills and mechanisms because of traumatic bonding, and I know that there are a variety of them. I would suggest getting the book and seeing if there is a place where this applies to your individual situation. Thanks for being so brave to share your past with us.

    • And that, Wendell, is one of the reasons you are such a great help and supporter on this blog.
      it’s a perfect example of how God works everything together for good for those who love him

  5. Brenda R

    The work is not yet complete, nor will it be for awhile….Not until He comes again. We just keep working on it a little at a time.

    Is there a list of all of the books that ACFJ recommends and Amazon gives back to?

    • TWBTC

      Brenda,
      The RESOURCES tab at the top of the page contains a complete list of ACFJ recommended books. The books are listed by author, title, or topic. All the book titles are direct affiliate links to Amazon, so when ordering a book just make sure you access Amazon through the affiliate links on this website, and ACFJ will receive a small percentage. Thanks for asking.

      • Brenda R

        Thank you.

  6. Friend of the Oppressed

    Thank you for the recommendation. This could be the help I’ve been praying for as I wish to evict Mister Man from my head.

    • Anonymous

      One thing that helps to evict the abuser, is to really truly recognize all the cycles, so that you can pinpoint what is happening when. For example, knowing that an abuser likes to give gifts or do nice things, after they have bombed you with some form of abuse, helps to not get distracted or confused about what he is doing. The gift isn’t really a gift, it is a marker in the cycle. Everything is about abuse, control, power and entitlement and if you can peg these things down, it brings you out of his reality he has had you living in and brings you to the reality of “Oh. That’s where we are now. I see it.” It brings healing and strength to be able to follow the cyclic pattern.

      What is keeping Mister Man in your head, if you don’t mind sharing?

      • Friend of the Oppressed

        Sitting here for a while pondering and I do not know the answer to that question. Perhaps a very, very long marriage and a separation of less than a year. Still peeling the onion. I have learned a lot but feel I’m very late in doing so. Today, I feel healing is happening. Tomorrow may be a different story. I thank God for the healing and for rescuing me. It will be interesting to ponder this some more and find the answer.

      • Anonymous

        That’s okay, FOP. There are good and bad days and there are times of learning and then just absorbing what you’ve learned and practicing it. Don’t feel that you are “late” in learning. It just takes time for all of it to come together and to sort through it all.

        I think it is probably just from being in it so long and there has not been enough time to sort through the onion layers. God will gently peel those back for you and heal each area. I would recommend using the Centers for Prevention of Abuse to get counseling, because they are very focused in explaining what is happening and also because it is a free service. This may help speed up your healing, but don’t do it if you are not ready. There is a grieving process that goes on and that may be what you are going through as well. There are stages in that, as well as in healing. Praying for you.

  7. undermuchgrace

    The Betrayal Bond is one of my favorites. Good review.

  8. Anon

    Thanks for that post. I should pick up that book again. Strangely, it was one of the books that I didn’t really get a lot out of. Maybe it’s the author’s reference to co-dependency that put me off, or maybe I took offence to what I saw as victim-blaming. Anyway, your post has piqued my interest again, and I think there is a lot to glean from it, so thanks.

    • Anonymous

      Anon- there is a blog post link above for a post on co-dependency that is much better than the book. Because the book does focus on addiction, they speak on co-dependency. As I said, not all of it is what I would take and apply. For me, it is learning to take what God uses in a book like this and leaving the rest. Allowing Him to use what He has in it to bring me to steps of healing, and leaving the rest behind. I have also found, that I may initially not get much out of a book, but then later in the process may find that it is a more appropriate time to pick it up again.

  9. AJ

    Thank you for all your work on this. This book although not Christian, has totally ministered to me. After I read a long list of books to help me really understand my spouse God gave me this book to help me understand me and my own healing process. It was not an easy read, lots of hard work but very helpful.
    Blessings.

  10. His beloved

    I got this book after reading this post. I remembered reading about traumatic bonding several years ago when reading all about abuse and sexual addiction when I was trying to figure out what was really going on in my husband (now ex).
    This post was timely for me. I have done several exercises and found through the illumination of the Spirit the patterns/ wounds in me that made me vulnerable to abusers/seducers. It had been wonderfully eye-opening.
    God has had me in a long and occasionally lonely season of basically no close friends. And I knew that it was His working in order that I could come to know HIM as my all in all. I knew that the close friendships I had had were not healthy for me (after they betrayed me it became very obvious!) and I had wanted to see what had made me vulnerable to such untrustworthy people. God is connecting many dots for me and I am so very grateful. I have a glimmer of hope of being able to have healthy relationships in the future, but it will take great discernment, learning to read people and watch for signs, and to stay in touch with myself and see if I am seeking their friendship to meet a need in me that God is meant to meet.
    I agree that Carne’s view of addiction and co-dependency is not the approach I am taking but being forewarned by your comments has helped be able to sift through the book to get the nuggets- and there are many nuggets. It is also good practice in sticking to what I believe God is saying to me rather than being a guppy and taking on other’s ideas wholesale- great practice since that is one of the many things that has made me vulnerable in the past- thinking others know better than me and have the answers I need.
    Thanks for posting about his book.

    • Anonymous

      So glad you are reaping some good things from it, His Beloved. You are right, as a victim of abuse, we tend to “follow the leader” instead of waiting on God and seeking out His voice in our lives. But in the end, we are all the closer to Jesus, for having had to learn to tune our ears to hear Him first, and we have learned not to just go with the flow. We have learned to do battle for the Kingdom. Yes, that’s right. The battle in the Kingdom is for justice – God’s way. The battle is to end evil and that is what we are all doing here – ending the evil that has beset us all, by God’s grace and hand.

      I agree, I do not endorse the approach concerning addition and co-dependency. There is a link on this post (above) for a good reading on that. So glad you are able to read through and sort out what is good and what is not.

      So glad you are getting free –

  11. Charis

    I needed this today: “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.”

    I know this Truth. Have had it confirmed myself; even said it to others. I…just needed to be reminded of it again. Having a rough go of it after receiving an email from my husband last night: visitation fighting, begging for couple’s counseling, saying how much he loves me, implying or blaming that the separation is hurting Jonah – our son, insisting on reconciliation, etc. I don’t know why this tends to pull me so quickly back into self-doubt & confusion. But it does! So deeply.

    Thank you for being a source of Truth for me today.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Charis – there is an article coming in about a week or so, that may help you resolve some of these issues. I wrote this article you are reading today and I have finished this book. These bonds are so difficult to break that sometimes we need help, counseling and continual support in order to stay on the side of breaking free and not become entrapped again.

      There is also an element of dealing with an abusive narcissist, (another book review hopefully coming soon) that will cause these feelings to revive when speaking or dealing with them. Perhaps it pulls you back so quickly into self-doubt because it is so hard to become truly free in the first place. There is a lot of work and self talk that has to take place in order to become truly free. These can be things we will work on for the rest of our lives – but it gets easier and you will become stronger over time. I don’t know how long you have been working at this – getting free – but it can take a long time.

      It is probably important for you at this point, to have a list of why you left to begin with. Post it where you can easily see it. I assume there was abuse, so list it out. I think sometimes we believe that our lives are not any better for leaving, because we end up dealing with more financial abuse, visitation, custody and other issues that leave us feeling powerless and abused all over again. But, those issues will end at some point. I remind myself that I only have so many years left to deal with those issues. Strength was not my forte in all of this – but I am learning and becoming stronger and wiser through the grace of God and gaining back the power over my own life in Christ’s will. You will too. Praying God will cloak you in His peace today.

      • Charis

        Thank you for your encouragement…and recommendations. I have already reviewed my log (of abuse) and asked my counselor when I might I have another session with her. I have spent time in prayer, grieving, listening to worship music and just being emotionally authentic with Jesus. I also did as you suggested and read through my journal where I have listed reasons why I am leaving – and the journey I have taken to get here. These do help.

        In total, it has been an 18mos process but less than a year since the fog around abuse lifted and we have only been separated since the middle of May. It has been rough going: my son & I stayed in the shelter for a very short while, then transitioned back home when my husband promised to leave the house. I have yet to find a job and am hitting snags along that path that frustrate my efforts to free myself and be financially secure. Still, I am doing all I can: taking classes at the DV Shelter, counseling, community of Safe Friends, art journal, reading books, working on boundaries, submitting application for metro housing waiver & cash assistance. As you indicated – it is hard work to gain my freedom and it is not happening the way I would like it to, along my timeline. I know God has it all worked out and I need to rest in that.

        Thank you, again, for your sound advice and comfort today.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Charis – You are doing very well. That has been a short time (May) so I think you are doing really well, even if it does not “feel” like it. Grieving is hard and grouped with a mixed bag of emotions. This may be a good thing to remind yourself of too, when your emotions topple – that you are grieving and part of what you are experiencing emotionally is from that. Confusion comes and goes even after the fog lifts, so it is all normal. I think sometimes that is one of the assurances we all need – that what is happening is normal (for abuse) and just part of the process.

        Also please rest in Christ, knowing that He will take care of you financially, even if things are very tight. There are lots of places to go for help, although just applying for all of that can be exhausting. If your son is a minor, you could possibly get some legal financial aid through the Shelter, in order to get child support and/or maintenance going.

        Just know you are doing everything right and it is a process and sometimes a long process. Just keep setting those boundaries and abide by them, even if he does not. Barb is right. No contact is the best, but sometimes that also takes time for us to gain strength not to read those things. Maybe before opening and reading, you could do some self talk that says something like “remember what happened last time you read one of these” or “I don’t believe that reading this would be God’s will for me”.

        Praying~

      • I read somwehere that PTSD is actually just unprocessed grief.

        Wish I could remember where I read it!

    • Charis, I think every one of us survivors can testify that when we hear from the abuser (by SMS, email, letter, phone call, or a message conveyed by a third party) it sends us into anxiety and throws us back into all the emotions of anger, self doubt, etc. So you are not alone. Try not to be too hard on yourself for having these reactions. If you can recognise that they are normal reactions, it may be easier to ride the waves until they subside.

      No contact is the best way to avoid this stuff. . . but we all know that no contact is not always achievable. Probably you are doing the best you can under the circumstances 🙂

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