This is a survival mechanism known as ‘trauma bonding,’ and victim-blamers ought to educate themselves on it, because anyone can be made to ‘act’ or ‘appear’ codependent simply by being traumatized in the first place. As I describe in my article, Your Brain on Love, Sex and the Narcissist as well as my book, Becoming the Narcissist’s Nightmare, abuse has traumatic effects on the brain, tying us psychologically, biochemically and psychologically with our abusers. This bond has very little to do with codependency, and everything to do with the traumatic effects of abuse. Even a highly independent victim who is strong-willed at the beginning of the relationship can begin to demonstrate symptoms of the trauma bond, PTSD or Complex PTSD – because it doesn’t have anything to do with the traits of the victim when it comes to trauma. No one is immune to the effects of severe, life-changing trauma and chronic abuse – no one.
Even if you feel you have codependent traits or were ‘primed’ by childhood abuse, the abuse you’ve experienced in any stage of your life is still not your fault. You are not an “enabler” of the abuser. You are a victim who has been traumatically bonded to an abuser as an effort to survive. Understand the trauma bond, and you will understand how it is different from your actual feelings of disgust, anger and pain towards your abuser. Your authentic feelings about your abuser are buried beneath the apparently inextricable bond. In order to extricate yourself, you must develop a separation between the bond and your actual reality of the abuse. Write about the abuse when you feel safe to do so; consult a trauma-informed, validating mental health professional; speak with other survivors to validate the manipulation and mistreatment you’ve endured.
Holding onto the reality of the abuse, as well as your true feelings about it, is one of the most important things you can do in order to resist the gaslighting effect, release self-blame and begin to break the chains of the trauma bond. The bond may keep you attached to your abuser, but it is possible to sever it and regain your power.