Trauma bonding (also known as Stockholm Syndrome) is a fascinating phenomenon. Although I have personally experienced a trauma bond, it still feels counter-intuitive and often strange when I observe it in other’s relationship. Approaching the issue through a human approach helps to better understand how it works.
People are pack animals. We need each other to survive, and we need each other to learn how to be ‘human’. Think about it – how would you know how to speak language, get dressed, use the post office, or acquire food without another person teaching you these things?
Because we are pack animals, our brains give us huge rewards when we bond with others. When babies are born, mothers are flooded with a bonding hormone called oxytocin. Babies themselves are hardwired to bond with their primary caretakers, the ones who feed and protect them. As we grow, we bond with the people we spend time with, share meals with, and experience new things with. This is involuntary; you cannot turn this primal reaction on and off at will.
People who experience intimacy together, travel to foreign lands together, or survive something scary together bond even more quickly and securely. Again, this is a primal, survival aspect of being human. If you and a friend travel to a place where you don’t speak the language or know your way around, you will grow close as you learn to survive in your new surrounds together. If you and a friend are robbed at gunpoint, you will never forget the person you survived with.
Experiencing violence perpetrated by a caretaker or someone you care about or love is very confusing for the human mind. This is especially true when the perpetrator is kind before and after the violence is committed. The primal part of the brain does not know how to ‘turn off’ the mechanism that bonds to another person you survive violence with.
Traffickers understand this bonding method, and they use it to their advantage.