Breaking the Trauma Bond with Kate Anthony
When we are trauma-bonded, it's nearly impossible to see the truth. By design, isolation and self-doubt are an intrinsic part of a trauma bond, which is why it's so hard to extract ourselves from the patterns of toxicity and abuse. Today’s guest on the Radical Intimacy Podcast is Kate Anthony, host of the critically acclaimed New York Times-recommended podcast, The Divorce Survival Guide Podcast, and creator of the groundbreaking online coaching program, Should I Stay or Should I Go? in which she helps women make the most difficult decision of their lives using coaching tools, relationship education, geeky neuroscience, community support, and deep self-work. Kate empowers women to find their strength, passion, and confidence, even in the most disempowering of circumstances, helping them move forward with concrete plans and see that they can put their children at the center of their decisions, not in the middle. In this episode, we talk about trauma bonding, an emotional attachment formed by a cycle of abuse, devaluation, and positive reinforcement, and how to break free.
Key Points From This Episode:
· The physiological and emotional addictions inherent in trauma bonding.
· Some questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re in an abusive relationship.
· Understanding the difference between narcissists and abusers.
· Kate highlights the trauma bond in the story of Beauty and the Beast.
· What Kate believes the ‘men’s movement’ is missing: women’s voices and doing the work.
· How trauma bonds go both ways and the difference between ‘reaction abuse’ and trauma.
· How your childhood trauma informs your chances of ending up in an abusive relationship.
· Find out why Kate believes that abusers can’t change.
· The first step you can take to get out of an abusive relationship: educate yourself!
· The value of finding a therapist or coach who specializes in emotional abuse recovery.
· Kate’s advice for victims of abuse: remember how many times this has happened.
· What to do if you are the victim of physical violence and where you can get help.
· Tips for survivors of an abusive relationship: do the Self-recovery work.
· The importance of going where the energy feels good; where feels like home?
“[Trauma bonding] is the result of a series of tactics that abusers use to keep power and control. It's misunderstood because we go, ‘Why does she stay?’ A trauma bond is one of the answers to that question.” — [0:05:04]
“Abusers only abuse to the degree that they need to in order to maintain control. When they start to lose control, they escalate the abuse. When we leave them, that is when the physical violence can get far worse.” — [0:35:35]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Zoë Kors’ Links:
Zoë’s Book: Radical Intimacy
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: You are listening to the Radical Intimacy Podcast with sex and intimacy coach, Zoe Kors.
[00:00:14] ZK: I've known Kate Anthony for at least a decade. We both trained with the Co-Active Institute, and share an abiding love of self-development in the context of relational dynamics. Kate is the host of the critically acclaimed and New York Times recommended podcast, The Divorce Survival Guide Podcast. She's the creator of the groundbreaking online coaching program, Should I Stay or Should I Go? in which she helps women make the most difficult decision of their lives, using coaching tools, relationship education, geeky neuroscience, community support, and deep self-work.
Kate is a marvel. She empowers women to find their strength, passion and confidence, even in the most disempowering of circumstances. She helps them move forward with concrete plans, and helps people see that they can put their children at the center, not in the middle, but in the center of all their decisions. Kate also works privately with clients all over the world. I asked her to come and speak with us about a phenomenon called trauma bonding, which is essentially an emotional attachment formed by a cycle of abuse, devaluation, and then positive reinforcement.
When we are trauma-bonded, it's nearly impossible to see clearly the truth of what's really happening. By design, isolation and self-doubt are an intrinsic part of a trauma bond. This is exactly why having this conversation here feels important. If any part of this episode feels familiar, or is hard to hear, or shines a light on what you're experiencing, check the show notes for resources and support. You are not alone. Let's hear what Kate has to say.
[00:02:12] ZK: Kate Anthony.
[00:02:13] KA: Zoe Kors.
[00:02:15] ZK: Welcome to the Radical Intimacy Podcast.
[00:02:17] KA: I am so excited to be here. I am so excited that this podcast exists. I am so excited to be here with you, my friend.
[00:02:27] ZK: Yeah, well, the feeling is very mutual. I'm a big fan of yours. We're personal friends, we're colleagues, and I'm a fan.
[00:02:36] KA: Should we tell everyone how far back we go? To the beginning, we trained in the same institute. Then we just became fast friends. We met at Barnes & Noble ones at The Grove in Los Angeles. Because we were going to write a book, or we're going to write our books, and we were going to be partners and buddies, right?
[00:03:02] ZK: Yeah.
[00:03:04] KA: That was 10 years ago.
[00:03:07] ZK: Yeah. Now we're both writing books.
[00:03:09] KA: Now we're both writing books.
[00:03:11] ZK: For real.
[00:03:11] KA: For real. Right. We both have publishing contracts and everything. It's been, God, what a journey. It's unbelievable.
[00:03:21] ZK: Yeah. Do you have a publication date, or a general timeframe?
[00:03:24] KA: I don't even have a contract for my publisher yet. Publishing time, like, hello? I mean, I said that I would have my completed manuscript by September of 2022. That's where we're at. I don't have anything beyond that.
[00:03:39] ZK: That means your publication date is probably going to be spring of 2023.
[00:03:45] KA: Yeah. I assume something like that.
[00:03:47] ZK: That's actually a very similar timeframe. Only, my book comes out April 2022. That's moving forward. I can't wait. I can't wait for your book. I can't wait for the world to have your book.
[00:04:00] KA: I'm so standing at the bottom of this enormous mountain and terrified of it every day. We'll get there. Figure it out.
[00:04:14] ZK: I invited you on the podcast today, and I have a feeling this is one of many episodes that we'll be recording together. Specifically, I've heard you talk about trauma bonding. I don't know that many people really understand what that is, or have even heard that term. It seems to me that it is incredibly common. I see many, many relationships – yeah. Even in the media, even in reality TV, and it's really portrayed and highly misunderstood, or highly mischaracterized, right?
[00:04:54] KA: Yes. Well, first of all, there's the ‘why does she stay?’ If we actually put a framework around trauma bonding, is a form of abuse. It's a tactic. Well, it’s not a tactic. It's the result of a series of tactics that abusers use to keep power and control. It's misunderstood, because we go, “Why does she stay?” A trauma bond is one of the answers to that question. There are many answers to that question.
Then it's like, well, we all have power and agency in our lives. Why does she make that choice? Why is she choosing? I think, understanding what a trauma bond is, enables you to understand how little choice there actually is.
[00:05:38] ZK: Yeah. What do we need to know about trauma bonding? Is that the definition of trauma bonding? What is it?
[00:05:45] KA: Okay, so the definition of a trauma bond, it's complex. I don't think it's one sentence. If someone's broken it down to one sentence, awesome, but I have not. Some people call it the cycle of abuse. In this context, what it means is, if abusers abuse all the time, we wouldn't stay. What happens is, when someone is abusing you, then they stop abusing you, and they are kind to you, and they love you – Lundy Bancroft talks about this about, if you've been crawling through a desert, and you are dying in the desert, and then someone gives you a glass of water, it is a relief. You get a cert, a dopamine hit and the gratitude and the relief that someone has heard your cry and giving you water.
The problem with a trauma-bonded relationship, an abusive relationship, is that the person who is dragging you through the desert and giving you water is the same person. This person who has given you water, you become attached to them. You become attached to your savior, except your savior is the same person who's abusing you. There's no other relief in sight, because in the dynamic of an abusive relationship, is one of the dynamics of an abusive situation is isolation. You are in this constant cycle with this person, of they're abusing you, and they're saving you.
Every single time they save you, you get a physiological thing that happens in your brain where you do get this dopamine hit. As we know, we are extremely addicted to dopamine. Our brains crave the dopamine. Also, because we've started in this relationship with someone who is probably love-bombing us, which is what had us attached to them in the first place, so many hits of dopamine, all the dopamine, all the dopamine, they’re love-bombing. They’re buying us presents. They love us so much. We’re the most beautiful thing in the world and all the things. We are addicted to that.
It is a constant race and fight to get back to that, because surely, that's the real person. Surely, that is the real relationship. These moments of abuse are simply an anomaly. He didn't mean it, because he says he doesn't mean it, on the flip side. It is actually a physiological addiction. I think that that's really important, really important to understand is that there's a physiological addiction, as well as an emotional addiction.
[00:08:20] ZK: Right. The physiological addiction has to do with what is happening in your brain.
[00:08:25] KA: Yes. It is the dopamine rush. That's right.
[00:08:31] ZK: Yeah. Then probably throw in a little bit of oxytocin once the love-bombing, the apology, the love-bombing starts, right?
[00:08:39] KA: And makeup sex. I mean, we all love some makeup sex.
[00:08:46] ZK: Can you give us some real-life examples of what this might look like? How do we know if we're in an abusive relationship, and we're trauma bonded?
[00:08:55] KA: If you're in an abusive relationship, you're probably trauma bonded. Because I don't know an abusive relationship that doesn't have that component, because it is part of it. I think that the questions to ask yourself are, am I dependent on this person for feeling like they're saving me from the shit that they're doing? Do I feel safe? Do I always feel safe in this relationship? If the answer is “No,” or “Sometimes,” or “But he really loves me,” or “But I love him.” If there's a but, right? Some real-life examples of a trauma bond, gosh –
[00:09:38] ZK: I mean, think of the media. Think about, does that help some relationship that we watch play out?
[00:09:46] KA: Well, I don't know. Because I actually have no idea about these relationships. I literally don't know. I'm not inside them. None of us are, so I couldn't say. Or you think you're thinking of one or two? What are you thinking of?
[00:10:00] ZK: No, I don't know that I'm thinking of one. I'm just thinking of, for instance, I was waiting for one of my shows to come on last night. I was hanging out, channel surfing. I caught literally 10 minutes of 90 Day Fiancé.
[00:10:16] KA: That’s just bullshit to begin with. Give me a break. I can't even watch it, but go on.
[00:10:21] ZK: Okay. Well, I've never watched it before.
[00:10:23] KA: I haven't either, because I'm like, already, I'm like, fuck you. Fuck you, that you think you're going to choose a partner in 90 days. it goes against everything that we're trying to unravel and undo in this world.
[00:10:35] ZK: That's right. Oh, my gosh. This is another episode. What I encountered was people behaving very badly. Very abusive. Mutually abusively. I guess, what I'm getting at is we tend to have very funny ideas about passion and love, and this, he gets so angry at me, or he gets so jealous, because he loves me so much. Yeah. Or, I see a lot of women who see through narcissistic behavior and controlling behavior and anger issues. They see through that as something that their partner is dealing with.
[00:11:23] KA: Yes. Oh, this is so great. Lundy Bancroft, who I already mentioned, he wrote this incredible, the seminal book called Why Does He Do That? He was a counselor for abusers. He counseled male abusers, specifically. He really talks about the cishetero dynamic from the perspective of men abusing women. He was breaking down – he just wrote a blog post about this, and part two came out yesterday, about the difference between narcissists and abusers. Because in my line of work, everybody's divorcing a narcissist. Every abuser is a narcissist.
Here's the thing, there's actually a very distinct difference between abuse and narcissism. Not all abusers are clinical narcissists. What he said was that, and I think this is so important, that if we focus on them all being narcissists, then at the end of the day, we are responsible only for the way boys, or men are raised, primarily by their mothers. It goes back to blaming the mother. Oh, he had a terrible childhood. Therefore, he's a narcissist, and that's why he abuses. That may be true, but not all abusers are narcissists.
If we focus on abuse, then we actually have to focus on the systemic ways in which we are raising men, as a culture, and how they view women culturally. By saying that they're all narcissists, we let culture and society off the hook, and we again, blame the mother.
[00:13:05] ZK: Oh, hear, hear.
[00:13:07] KA: Right. I think, we have to separate them out. That's not to say that there are not abusers who are narcissists, and it is absolutely narcissism is caused by trauma in childhood. Absolutely. Totally real. Totally real. Those people may go on to abuse. There's also a large portion, if not larger, portion of abusers who are not narcissists. They're just simply abusers.
[00:13:32] ZK: Yeah. Where does that come from?
[00:13:35] KA: That comes from a society that teaches men that women are their property, that there's ownership, that there's a power imbalance and dynamic, that they're in control. That, If anyone steps out of line for the way that they need them to be, to serve them, that they have to be punished.
[00:13:57] ZK: Right. The cultural narrative about masculinity, and what it means to be masculine, and what it means to express yourself as a masculine being.
[00:14:09] KA: Yes, exactly.
[00:14:12] ZK: For that matter, what it means to be a feminine being, what it means to be a woman.
[00:14:17] KA: That's right. That's right. Right, because this is what we deserve, or this is what we expect, or this is what culture tells us we should be. We should find a prince who's going to save us. We don't go any further than that. When the prince comes and he saves us and he love-bombs us into a quick marriage, we don't ever follow up the fairy tale with like, “Well, what was that marriage like? What was that relationship like? How is the day-to-day in your castle, queen?”
[00:14:54] ZK: That's a wonderful idea for a film, or a project, right? All the Disney princes and princesses.
[00:15:01] KA: Have you seen the Disney princesses in therapy?
[00:15:03] ZK: No. I was just about to say those words.
[00:15:06] KA: Oh, my God. There is an amazing series of memes. I'll have to find it, so we can link to it in the show notes. There's an amazing series of memes. It's like, you've got Belle, for example, from Beauty and the Beast. The therapist is like, “So, he kidnapped you and held you hostage, and then, you fell in love with him?” By the way, that's a great example of a trauma bond. The Beast literally kidnaps her. He holds her hostage. He's really mean to her. Then she's like, “Well, if I just am nice enough, or if I –” Well, there's a tender side. There has to be a tender side.
She has no idea that this is a prince with a spell that can only be broken by true love. All she knows is, “Oh, he must have a tender side. If I just appeal to his tender side enough, then he'll stop being so mean to me.” Then, they get into this thing where they “fall in love.” What? What? It’s Stockholm Syndrome. I think, what they talked about in that thing is it's like, oh, so that’s Stockholm Syndrome.
[00:16:22] ZK: Right. Exactly. Exactly. The thing is, is I want to say like, okay, well, that's not realistic. That doesn't happen in real life, but hello, this is what we're talking about.
[00:16:32] KA: I mean, it literally does. It literally does. Especially in other cultures, with arranged marriages and girls are being married off at the age of 14, there's no choice.
[00:16:43] ZK: What about the cultural narrative that we as young girls, at least in this country, in the United States, if a boy is mean to you, it means they like you.
[00:16:52] KA: They like you. They only hate you, because he loves you.
[00:16:55] ZK: Yeah. Terrible.
[00:16:59] KA: Also, the whole boys will be boys thing, right? No. No. There's a bumper sticker that said, this is Lundy Bancroft again. He's in my brain, because I've been reading him so much. He says, his favorite bumper sticker is, “Boys will be men.”
[00:17:15] ZK: Yes. Please.
[00:17:17] KA: Right? Because the boy that we’d give a pass on all of this behavior, grows into a man who indulges in this behavior.
[00:17:29] ZK: This is a little bit off-topic, but I'm going to ask you –
[00:17:33] KA: Go ahead.
[00:17:34] ZK: What do you think the men's movement is missing?
[00:17:37] KA: Women's voices? Probably. I don't know, because I don't know enough about the men's movement. I do know that a lot of it is what I've seen, is steeped in things like, going out into the desert and going on a journey with their peyote, or ayahuasca, or whatever. That's not doing the work. That's getting high. Okay, I'm sure there's a whole thing. I don't know enough about it, and there's a whole thing. also, whatever the whole thing is, you have to take that back somewhere.
[00:18:17] ZK: Andrew and I went out to dinner last night, Andrew, my husband. We were talking about the men's movement. Without the peyote and ayahuasca, that is a whole faction of that experience. There are the Good Men Project. There are a bunch of men's coaches, gurus, self-help leaders, who are there to help men become whole. There's an aspect of that that I think is really great, men being together.
[00:18:49] KA: Absolutely.
[00:18:51] ZK: The industrialized era, when men leave the house, and the kids, the boys are raised by women, by their mothers. We've lost a little bit of those rites of passage and that masculine role model thing.
[00:19:08] KA: Right. Absolutely. Absolutely.
[00:19:10] ZK: That's all great. One of the things that is missing, according to husband, dear husband, is the integration. They're taught how to feel with each other. That's one of the things is that they become vulnerable with other men, and then go back to their relationships with women and are not vulnerable.
[00:19:33] KA: They don't know how to do it. Because there haven't been all of these safety nets created by circle time, or whatever those things are. I'm not saying that facetiously. I do mean like, the sitting in the circle and holding space for each other. I honor that. I'm not trying to poo-poo that. Circle time, that sounded really infantilizing. I did not mean that at all. I do think, it's not a skill that they've learned how to take home. I think that's great. I think, that's a great point. Absolutely.
I think, a lot of men, and I'm sure women feel this way, too, but we don't trust each other. Generally speaking, I don't think that men and women go into relationship with each other, trusting each other. There's always this like, “Huh, huh, huh, huh.”
[00:20:23] ZK: A 100 percent. A 100 percent. Yeah. Is trauma bonding this unidirectional abuse?
[00:20:32] KA: You mean, does it go both ways? Yeah. There's something called – I think, it's a terrible name for it, but it's called reaction abuse. This happens all the time. I have an episode on my podcast called Am I the Abuser? Because as soon as someone learns about toxicity in relationships, and emotional abuse in relationships, and trauma bonding, the first thing that I hear for women is, “Oh, my God. But wait a minute, am I the abuser? Because I'm doing all these things to him.” The short answer to the question is, if you're asking the question, you’re not the abuser. The longer answer is, just because you're reacting to someone treating you terribly, with anger, with isolation, with running away, with whatever your trauma response is, you are having a trauma response.
If you are fighting back, because that is one of the trauma responses, fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. If you're fighting back, that's not abuse. That's trauma. Part of the bond, by the way, is you're bonded by the trauma, by this horrible experience that we both went through. I'm so sorry that I did that, and I'm – You're bonded in this way of this war that you've been through as a couple, and now you're on the other side of it, over and over and over again.
Look, one of the next questions that I often get asked is like, well, how do I know if his apology is real? Or if it's part of the trauma bonding cycle? The short answer is, if he does it again, then it wasn't real. Because an apology is not words, it's amended behavior. If they take responsibility, and then actually go and do something about it – If someone says, let's say, they're a narcissist, and they're like, “Hey, actually, it's my childhood trauma that's making me do this, and blah, blah, blah.” Great. Then they need to go call a trauma therapist, and get into intensive trauma therapy to heal those wounds, or work them out, work on those wounds, so that they don't keep inflicting it on you. If they're using those like, “It's just my childhood trauma,” and then they're going back right into the relationship. No. They're going to do it again, and again and again and again.
[00:23:00] ZK: Yeah. That's called doing the work.
[00:23:02] KA: That's exactly what that is. I think, that's one of the biggest things that is missing from the men's movement is doing the work, because we talk about it, or The Good Men Project. God, I love them. They're amazing. It's a bunch of men who are doing the work and then talking about the work, but are the men who are consuming this information then, actually hiring the therapists and the coaches to do the work?
[00:23:25] ZK: Yeah. The work doesn't happen in a three-day retreat.
[00:23:28] KA: That's right. What opens up, and this is what I mean by the ayahuasca thing, the journey. What opens up in that journey may be a decade's worth of information that has been repressed and all of that. Then, you got to go do something about that. You have to take that somewhere else.
[00:23:48] ZK: Yes. To be fair, an abused partner has work to do as well. I'm not victim blaming, but there's recovery, and there's a wholeness there. I often say to women who have been victimized, or people who have been victimized, it's not that you caused this. This is not your fault. There are things in your makeup and the way you inhabit your body and your life that are worth exploring.
[00:24:24] KA: Yes, that's right. Yeah, because many of us, not all, but many of us who have gotten into abusive relationships or found ourselves in abusive relationships got there really naturally, because there was a lot that was familiar about our childhood homes, about the relationships that we were modeled, about the dynamic between our initial caregivers, our attachments, all of those things. All of that put together in a pot we talk about as codependency. Codependency is not a bad word. It's actually a very freeing diagnosis, that gives us a path towards healing. That is our work to do.
Just because, when I say to a client like, “This is your own codependency,” I'm not saying you're on the hook and he's off the hook, by any stretch. I'm actually giving it to you as power. Okay, this is now the work that you get to do to empower you, better understand all of your systems that had this thing feel really familiar.
[00:25:30] ZK: That's right. That's exactly right. For someone who is listening, and who recognize this, this all sounds very familiar, they're in a relationship like this, what steps can they take to start the process of extraction, either extraction from the relationship, or extraction from the dynamic?
[00:25:53] KA: The dynamic and the relationship are inextricable. I think, that is really important to understand. I know it's heartbreaking. I know anyone who hears that is going to be really devastated by that information.
[00:26:10] ZK: Are you saying that an abuser can't change?
[00:26:13] KA: That's right. Yes, I am.
[00:26:15] ZK: Wow, that's a big statement, Kate.
[00:26:17] KA: Yup. Yup. A narcissist may be able to go into a lot of therapy, but the dynamic – but you're shaking your – Dear, dear listeners. Zoe's shaking her head. Because look, it is possible that a narcissist might be able to get into enough therapy to be able to heal the childhood wounds, the narcissistic wounds that caused the narcissism, but the very makeup of a narcissist makes it so that they don't think that they're the problem, so it's very unlikely that they're going to get the help that they need. An abuser is the same way, and just a straight-up abuser who's not a narcissist, same thing. They’re not the fucking problem.
[00:27:00] ZK: Right, right. Well, and if you look at it, if the wake-up call is abusing my partner, and that isn't enough, the realization that I've been –
[00:27:12] KA: Hurting. Hurting that partner they claim to love the most.
[00:27:16] ZK: Yes. If that's not enough to drive them into therapy, to do the work, then there's no –
[00:27:23] KA: That's right. Here's what I want to say, if by some miracle, somebody does get driven into therapy, you need to take at least six months separation from them. Because first of all, when you dive into this stuff, it comes up more. You need at least six months to be completely free and clear. Their process should not be your process. You need to get to safety, emotional safety. If there's physical stuff going on, that's a whole other thing. I'm not talking about physical abuse.
You need to get to emotional safety, and they need to earn you back. You need to feel, there needs to be tangible proof that there is progress, and they process before you go anywhere near it. I have so many women who are like, “Well, he started therapy, so I guess, we're going to be fine.” No. Because two weeks later, they've quit therapy, because they don't like what they're hearing, and then they're still in the dynamic. Yes. The first thing is, yes, I think that it's a catch 22. It's like, you got to get out of the relationship. It's not going to get better, period. End of story.
What I urge you to do is listening to this podcast, if you're having aha moments. Read Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That? Get yourself educated. Look up #traumabond, #emotionalabuse, all of the things on all of the platforms. It's all over my Instagram. It's all over my TikTok. There are so many amazing people out there talking about this. Educate yourself, because it's one of those things that once you see it, you can't unsee it.
[00:29:04] ZK: Yeah. I would imagine, too, that this is a particular – I mean, we talk about the importance of community and support. One of the things that I think is really important in this situation is to surround yourself with people who can keep you rooted in the perspective of what's really going on. Because part of the trauma bonding is predicated on a certain level of isolation, which you've referred to several times now.
[00:29:30] KA: That's right. Yes. I will say, shameless plug for my Facebook group. If you go to Facebook and type in “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” it should be the first thing that comes up. There are 8,000 women in there doing this work, and they are an amazing community of truth-tellers, and truth seekers and women who are sharing their stories and other women holding up a mirror to them and saying, “This is what is actually happening. This is the truth.” In the most kind and gentle ways possible.
I highly recommend, either mine, or any other community, minus special, because we monitor the crap out of it, so it doesn't get into a total shit storm, that these groups can be. Really, take your time to get into community, as you said, it's a great way to do it. It's a great way. Then also, hire a therapist, or a coach who specializes in this. Not all therapists, or coaches are created equal.
Zoe and I both have advanced training in our specific modalities. That's what you want. Same thing with a therapist. You don't want a therapist who just came out of therapy school and then hung up their shingle. You want someone who specializes in emotional abuse recovery.
[00:30:47] ZK: Yeah. I mean, even established, seasoned therapists are – some do this, and some don't do this. It's like, you wouldn't go to a cardiologist to look at your liver.
[00:30:59] KA: Exactly. That doesn't mean that a cardiologist isn't good at what they do, this is just not what they do. You want someone who is trained in trauma, and emotional abuse recovery, for sure.
[00:31:11] ZK: Kate, what do you want victims to know about those moments, where there's been an event, they've suffered another round of abuse, and now their partner is coming back to them and apologizing?
[00:31:28] KA: I want them to think about how many times this has happened. I really want them to know that, first of all, know that this isn't your fault. I know that sounds cliche, and it's what everybody says, but it's not. It's not your fault. Abusers abuse. That's what they do. I want you to actually notice how many times this has occurred. I sometimes have clients actually write out the cycle, what it looks like. What is his brand of the cycle? What does he say? What do you say? How does it go? Because then, you're going to start to notice it coming much sooner.
The other thing I want victims to know is that you don't get to take this podcast episode and send it to him, so that he gets it. He gets it. This is not about making him see, because this is the biggest thing, right? “If he just understood that he was abusing me, he would stop.” That's not true. That's literally not true. They know. They know it's not okay. I did this with my ex all the time. I was like, “Don't you understand? Don't you see?” Then, I was pulling the trump card, because I was using the A word. It is not him that needs to see. It is you. It is you that needs to see clearly what is happening in your relationship. Not him.
[00:32:59] ZK: Yeah. The scary part about that is that if we're really honest with ourselves in that situation, we're going to lose the relationship.
[00:33:07] KA: That's right. That's right. That's right. You are. I know, it may not feel like it right now, but that will be the best gift you ever gave yourself. It is a hard road. It is a long road. It is a treacherous road. This is the work that I do. I am here to support anyone through this. Because yes, you will lose the relationship, because you should. Because you should.
[00:33:33] ZK: Yeah. Beautifully put.
[00:33:35] KA: Hard truth. Tragic, tragic. Hard truths. That's right. Hard, hard, hard truths. If you are spending your life in agony and anxiety – Listen, emotional abuse has physical ramifications. We have anxiety disorders, depressive disorders. There is evidence to support that it actually affects our physical well-being with chronic illness. Many people who have had chronic illnesses in their marriages have had them cured when they left their marriage, miraculously, their abusive relationship. I had a decade's worth of chronic back pain that completely evaporated when I left my husband. This is real. It is psychological, but not just psychological.
[00:34:23] ZK: No. I feel it important to just mention here that if the abuse is physical, like, not just anxiety disorder, or physical pain as a result of – if there's actual violence, physical violence going on, I'll put in the show notes, of course, places to contact.
[00:34:45] KA: A hotline. Yeah. Go to thehotline.org. That is your resource for everything. The National Domestic Violence Hotline. I'll tell you what, guys, that website is brilliant. Brilliant. You want to learn about domestic violence, emotional abuse, because by the way, emotional abuse is a form of domestic violence. It is now absolutely accepted as a form of domestic violence. When I left my emotionally abusive marriage, it was not. It is now. Thehotline.org is an amazing place to get clarity and understanding and research and help. They are there to help.
[00:35:22] ZK: In a real way.
[00:35:23] KA: In a real way. It is really important for you to not just pack your bags and leave physically, a violent relationship, because that is the most dangerous time. When you start to wrestle control back. There's a saying in the DV world, that abusers only abuse to the degree that they need to in order to maintain control. When they start to lose control, they escalate the abuse. When we leave them, that is when the physical violence can get far worse. 72 percent, I think it's 72 percent of women who are murdered by their domestic partners are murdered when they leave.
[00:36:04] ZK: Ooh, I'm just breathing that in for a moment.
[00:36:06] KA: It's very serious. Never leave without a safety plan and an exit plan, created with the help of your local domestic violence shelter.
[00:36:15] ZK: Yeah. Can you offer some self-care tips for people who are survivors of a trauma bonding, abusive relationship?
[00:36:27] KA: I think, it's really important for you to do the work to reclaim yourself. I know that I'm saying that, and it's like, “What does that mean?” Easily said than done. Journaling about the ways that you have become dependent on this person, and maybe it's a two-column. I become dependent on this or this way. How can I start to regain my sense of self and independence?
Doing some self, capital S Self-recovery work in therapy, or with a coach is really important. It takes a while. It takes a while to relearn who you are, because the whole design of an abusive relationship and a trauma-bonded relationship is to strip you of yourself, so that you become completely dependent on this other person. Yeah, so it's a process to regain that.
[00:37:18] KA: Often, again, with the isolation, often, the relationships close to, relationships outside of the abusive relationship; family, friends are often minimized. You might find that you're now out of the abusive relationship, but you've let a lot of the close relationships in your life go. There's also shame to deal with, there's embarrassment, there's all kinds of stuff that's going on.
[00:37:49] KA: That's right. The other thing that happens is, so finding your people is a really huge part of self-care in this. Because they may not be the same people, because the same mechanism that chose this person, possibly chose other relationships and friendships that had some of the same dynamics. I know that was true for me. My best friend of 20 years, that relationship ended, because I was like, “Well, I'm not taking it from him. I'm sure as hell not taking it from you.” I'm not doing that anymore. It's an important thing to start to look what other relationships. Maybe that you end up with all new relationships, but should be formed and made in places that are healthy and trustworthy.
[00:38:34] ZK: Yeah. What I often tell people, clients, friends, whoever is coming to me to work some of the stuff out, what I often say is, go where the energy feels good. Where do you feel safe? In what relationships do you feel safe? It might be a neighbor. Your neighbor might feel safer than a friend that you've had for 10 years at this point. What feels like home? Where do you feel like you?
[00:39:06] KA: Yeah. I think, for someone who has been in this relationship, even that can be like – I don't know. I don’t feel, because, first of all, they don't know what safety feels like. Also, because they have been stripped of their ability to trust their own instincts, or feelings. Everything is shut down. This is a process, and I think meditation and just doing some body scans. I remember doing things with my therapist like, this is my hand. This is my hand. This is my left hand, and actually, reconnecting with body parts, body part reclamation, which sounds so – I was like, “Why am I doing this? I don't get it.” Then I was like, “Oh, because I'm so disembodied.” I am so disembodied, that I don't even – the idea that this is my hand is weird. The idea that like, where do I feel safe? We may not know what that feels like in our own bodies at this point, right? Learning to check in with your body.
[00:40:04] ZK: Body is such a primary indicator of wellness. Mental health, mental wellness, emotional wellness. The body gives us that feedback.
[00:40:17] KA: It does. It does. It's often the first thing that we disconnect from when we're in these relationships, because the cognitive dissonance is so great that we're like, “It feels really uncomfortable, but I love him.” Let me just shut that part down, so that I can just continue to be all happy and love.
[00:40:37] ZK: Yeah. Right. Denial. That's called denial.
[00:40:41] KA: That's what that is.
[00:40:42] ZK: Kate, you are a marvel. What a gift you are.
[00:40:46] KA: Oh, I love you.
[00:40:47] ZK: Oh, I love you, too. Thank you so much for coming, and so beautifully and articulately reflecting back what many, many, many people are experiencing. I'm going to end this episode the way I end all my episodes, with the tradition of James Lipton and Inside the Actors Studio by asking you the French journalist, Bernard Pivot’s questions from his show Apostrophe.
[00:41:12] KA: Yes.
[00:41:14] ZK: What is your favorite word?
[00:41:16] KA: Fuck. I hope you’re having an explicit rating on your podcast.
[00:41:21] ZK: Absolutely. Could I do it any other way? Could I fucking do it any other way?
[00:41:26] KA: Exactly.
[00:41:28] ZK: What is your least favorite word?
[00:41:30] KA: Oh, God. I had this. I thought of it earlier and then I forgot. Pass. I'll come back to it.
[00:41:38] ZK: What turns you on?
[00:41:40] KA: Intellectual communication and a give and take. I'm such a sapiosexual. What turns me on emotionally, intellectually, physically, is intellect and exchange of ideas.
[00:41:54] ZK: What sound do you love?
[00:41:57] KA: I love the sound of rain and thunder. The brewing thunder far away when you know that it's coming, and the temperature is rising and the humidity is getting thicker and thicker, then the skies open up and the rain comes down.
[00:42:18] ZK: You're a fellow East Coaster transplant, right?
[00:42:21] KA: It's like, we don't get it here.
[00:42:23] ZK: No. We're both in Los Angeles, and we don't get those East Coast summer thunderstorms. I miss them.
[00:42:30] KA: Summer thunder. That's my favorite smell, too, is the smell of hot, wet concrete.
[00:42:34] ZK: Yes. Yes.
[00:42:36] KA: It's the New Yorkers in us.
[00:42:38] ZK: Yeah. What sound do you hate?
[00:42:45] KA: Oh, that's awesome.
[00:42:46] ZK: Are you one of those people that it bugs you when people eat?
[00:42:50] KA: No, it doesn't. I do not. There's something about that sound.
[00:42:55] ZK: Mealy mouth.
[00:42:55] KA: Too much of the mealy-mouthed. Yes, yes. Mealy mouth.
[00:43:00] ZK: What's your favorite curse word?
[00:43:02] KA: Fuck.
[00:43:05] ZK: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
[00:43:09] KA: I have two for this. One of them is that I want to be a waitress at a truck stop diner in the middle of nowhere, that I don't have to carry the burden of what I do. Really simple life. Then the other is that I would actually love to, except that I hate school and studying, because I'm not a traditional learner. I would love to go back to school and get an actual psychology degree in all of this stuff that I've learned about and I know about and I'm a lay expert in. Yeah, I want that, but I don't want to actually have to go to school to do it. I want to have the learning just like, I go take a pill, and then –
[00:43:55] ZK: What profession would you not like to participate in?
[00:43:57] KA: I don't want to be a politician. They’re gross.
[00:44:03] ZK: Especially in 2022, in United States, they’re gross, right?
[00:44:08] KA: Yeah, exactly.
[00:44:09] ZK: Finally, if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
[00:44:16] KA: Well done. Well done. I mattered, and that I made a difference.
[00:44:22] ZK: Beautiful. Well, I can tell you in advance of that occasion, that you definitely matter, and you definitely make a difference.
[00:44:31] KA: I love you. Right back at you, babe.
[00:44:34] ZK: Yeah. Kate, where can people get more of you?
[00:44:38] KA: Yeah, they can get more of me in multiple places. Everything is on my website, which is kateanthony.com. My Facebook group, like I said, Should I Stay or Should I Go? on Facebook, on the Meta, in the Metaverse. On Instagram, I'm @thedivorcesurvivalguide, and on TikTok @thedivorcesurvival guide as well.
[00:44:56] ZK: Great. You have a podcast.
[00:44:58] KA: Oh, right. Sorry. Yes, I do. I have a podcast. My podcast is The Divorce Survival Guide Podcast. You can find that in all the places, all the places.
[00:45:10] ZK: Perfect. We'll put all of it in the show notes, so you can click right through. It's always a pleasure to talk to you. So much fun. I look forward to more.
[00:45:22] KA: Me too. I adore you. I adore you, Zoe, and I'm excited for this podcast, because you're a great interviewer. This is going to be good.
[00:45:29] ZK: Thanks, Kate. Right back at you.