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3 Things Rewatching Big Little Lies Taught Me

What the Trauma Bond means, how to break it, and how to thrive afterwards.

Big Little Lies from HBO, what they should have known.
Big Little Lies from HBO, what they should have known.

On June 9, Season 2 of HBO’s series Big Little Lies will return with “the Monterey Five”: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz. These are the ladies left over from the first season when someone’s husband met a bad end. Suffice it to say this is not the place for spoiler alerts. But it is the place where we can learn to thrive from our TV characters Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Witherspoon), Celeste Wright (Kidman), Jane Chapman (Woodley), Renata Klein (Dern), Bonnie Carlson (Kravitz) and their biggest mistakes.

Big Little Lies (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon)

Rewatching season one, you’ll note the escalation in the relationship between Mr. Wright (that’s Alexander Skarsgård aptly mis-named) and Celeste Wright played by Kidman. The entire arc of this drama between them and their “dirty little secret” has been mined for its explicit depiction of partner violence. They know a reckoning is coming. But whatever season two will offer, it is likely not going to be how to avoid such situations, even with powerhouse Meryl Streep joining the cast. So here’s what Season 1 taught me, and now teaches you.

First, Celeste should have known about “the Trauma Bond.” What is the trauma bond? Sam Vaknin, Ph. D., author of “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited” may have coined the term with that book, but there is a prior reference to something called the trauma-bond from writer George Orwell’s “1984.” Others suggest the originator is Dr. Patrick Carnes, who wrote “The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships.” Dr. Carnes has held rehab seminars in conjunction with co-occurring conditions. Since Sam Vaknin is himself a self-professed narcissist who was lucky enough to recognize his condition, he is more of an expert in partner issues as depicted in Big Little Lies. That said, Vaknin’s definition takes direct aim at bad relationships.

From his Instagram, @samvakninnarcissist explains that “In a trauma bond, the introject is negative and sadistic but it is a part of one’s self-perception of who one is, one’s demarcated identity (as a “bad, worthless, malicious, crazy object”). This is why any change to the status quo is treated as a threat and the relationship is remarkably stable despite the copious amounts of mind altering abuse.” For those not up on psychoanalysis lingo, “introject” means to “unconsciously adopt the ideas (beliefs) and attitudes of others.” Thus breaking the trauma bond is the only way out of a situation like this, despite whatever deus ex machina TV shows provide us.

Big Little Lies from HBO, and what they should have known.

Which brings us to item number two, how to break the trauma bond. No big little lies or lying to ourselves or anyone else in this phase. Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Expert Kim Saeed wrote “How To Do No Contact Like a Boss!,” which pretty much explains the painstaking process of recovery right in her book title. Her theories include one term used by a lot of relationship coaches: the Gray Rock Method. Gray Rock may have been coined by a blogger who goes by the handle “Skylar,” but whoever came up with it, it is very effective. Gray Rock means the total absence of information or details about your personal or professional life, so there is no way back in to harm you. Saeed followed up with “10 Essential Survivor Secrets to Liberate Yourself from Narcissistic Abuse.” There are many of her “Let Me Reach” free videos on YouTube to learn how.

Last episode beach scene from Season 1.

And finally, item number three is how to thrive after you break the trauma bond. Which brings us to Meredith Miller, and her Inner Integration SANA program. Miller is life coach based in Mexico who offers both English and Spanish versions, and coined the SANA acronym from Self-healing After Narcissistic Abuse. Her journey into the topic includes a near-death experience, a trip to Peru, and writing “The Journey: a Roadmap for Self-healing After Narcissistic Abuse.” As with Vaknin and Saeed, Miller offers dozens of YouTube videos at no charge for DIY soul patches.

If Nicole Kidman’s Celeste Wright and her friends would have had this trio of pointers, maybe the plot of Liane Moriarty’s book “Big Little Lies” would have been altogether different. But then showrunner David E. Kelley would not have brought us all these life lessons. Fortunately, you’ll now be able to enjoy Season 2 with the ladies and legend Meryl Streep, but without the drama in your private life. Tune in June 9 on HBO. 

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