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The Love Trap

The Most Insidious Cycle of Abuse

Have you ever wondered why some people fall prey to abusive relationships and remain in them? Although the answer is complex, it's important to recognize that there are different forms of abuse. The sad truth about cycles of abuse in intimate relationships is that there are more subtle and insidious cycles of abuse than the commonly recognized domestic abuse cycle.

Regrettably, victims and survivors of pathological abuse are often marginalized and lumped into the category of domestic abuse, despite the fact that the motivations, intentions, and tactics of pathological abusers are different from those of domestic abusers. It is important to recognize that these two types of abusers have different strategies and tactics for perpetuating their cycles of abuse and that victims of pathological abuse require a unique approach to healing and recovery.

Love as a Trap

Pathological abusers are individuals who often exhibit an underlying personality disorder, such as narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder, which impairs their empathy and emotional regulation. In this insidious cycle of abuse, referred to as the Love Trap, such abusers use a range of complex tactics to manipulate and control their victims, which may include emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, psychosocial, or physical abuse.

The Strong Emotional Connection

The pathological abuser aims to establish a trauma bond with the victim, which is a web of emotions such as love, admiration, loyalty, and devotion. Power and control are just meant to achieve this goal. Victims of the Love Trap may feel confused, trapped, and powerless, which can lead to cognitive dissonance and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Various Phases of the Love Trap

The Love Trap cycle involves different phases with specific intentions by the abuser. The cycle starts with the Love Bombing phase, where the abuser showers the victim with attention, affection, and gifts to gain their trust and create a sense of dependence. As the relationship progresses, the abuser shifts to the devaluation phase, where they criticize, belittle, and demean the victim to break down their self-esteem and confidence. This phase is followed by the discard phase, where the abuser withdraws affection and attention to create confusion and a sense of rejection in the victim, making them more vulnerable.

In some cases, the abuser may engage in hoovering, where they try to re-engage with the victim after the discard phase by promising to change or showing acts of kindness to regain their trust. This is meant to lure the victim back into the relationship, making them more susceptible to the cycle. Additionally, the abuser may engage in stalking behavior to monitor the victim's movements, excessively contact them, or even physically follow them, further reinforcing their power and control over the victim and making it harder for the victim to break free from the Trauma Bond.

Conditioning Victims to Accept Abuse

The Love Trap is insidious, and victims may find it challenging to discern reality from fiction. Pathological abusers create a false sense of security and love, drawing the victim in with promises of a happy and fulfilling relationship. But, when the illusion wears off, and the victim realizes they have been deceived, their sense of reality has already been distorted.

Some pathological abusers, especially psychopaths, may resort to even more severe strategies such as brainwashing, especially through crazy-making and "perspecticide". These methods can be particularly harmful as they can condition even the mentally strongest victims to end up as codependents who feel hopeless and powerless and eventually become mental hostages to their abuser.

Through these strategies, pathological abusers condition their victims to accept abuse and view the abuser positively, despite their cruel and harmful actions. Victims may become so accustomed to the abuse that they feel guilty or ashamed for misinterpreting their abuser's intentions or behaviors. They may even believe that not resisting keeps them safe or feel grateful for brief periods of kindness. However, this idealization is often short-lived, and the cycle of abuse continues, leaving victims confused, hurt, and powerless to break free.

Recurring Cycle = Trauma Bonded

The Love Trap cycle of abuse involves four, sometimes five, phases that make it difficult for the victim to recognize the abuse and leave the relationship. Moreover, when the cycle ends and starts anew, the victim becomes trauma bonded, which is a component of the larger trauma maze. This psychological response to abuse creates a strong attachment to the abuser and a belief that the abuser is the only source of love and support.

The victim may also experience feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame, which further reinforce the Trauma Bond. To break free from the Love Trap cycle, victims must first break the Trauma Bond. However, even after leaving the abusive relationship, survivors often have to cope with the aftermath and lingering effects of the Trauma Maze.

The Love trap

Illusions of Affection and the Dark Reality

Phase 1: Idealization - The Grand Charade

In the idealization phase, pathological abusers put on a charming and charismatic facade, showering their victims with attention, affection, and gifts. They may use soulmate claims, isolate their victims from friends and family, and employ love bombing tactics to create a false sense of security and attachment. This phase is designed to create a sense of euphoria and attachment in the victim, making them feel loved, valued, and special.

Phase 2: Devaluing - The Descent Begins

In the devaluing phase, pathological abusers begin to undermine the victim's sense of self-worth and confidence, often by criticizing, belittling, or insulting them. They may use gaslighting, emotional manipulation, triangulation, infantilization, crazymaking, and perspecticide to break down the victim's self-esteem and sense of worth. This phase is designed to create self-doubt and dependence in the victim, making them more vulnerable to the abuser's control.

Phase 3: Discarding - The Brutal End

In the discarding phase, pathological abusers abruptly end the relationship or withdraw completely, leaving the victim feeling discarded, abandoned, and alone. They may use tactics such as ghosting, silent treatment, threats, flying monkeys, DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender), or stalking to make the victim feel unwanted and unimportant. This phase is designed to create a sense of loss and longing in the victim, making them more likely to accept the abuser back into their life.

Phase 4: Hoovering - The False Promises and Lures

In the hoovering phase, pathological abusers attempt to lure the victim back into the relationship with false promises of change and affection. They may use apologies, future-faking, flattery, guilt-tripping, shaming, and creating cognitive dissonance to lure them back into the relationship. This phase is designed to create a cycle of hope and disappointment, which can be difficult to break without outside support.

Phase 5: Stalking - The Final Act of Control

When hoovering fails to re-engage with their victim, some pathological abusers may resort to stalking. This behavior can be incredibly distressing and traumatic for the victim, as it can create a sense of fear and intimidation. Narcissists may attempt to hoover but quickly give up and seek out new targets if their attempts are unsuccessful, as they need a constant narcissistic supply. Sociopaths may turn to stalking primarily to instill fear, control, and aggression due to rejection and jealousy. Psychopaths can also resort to stalking and add to the trauma by repeatedly disappearing and reappearing, instilling a constant fear of the unknown in their victims.

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