Temptation (1946 film) – The Trauma Bond Experience

Last night I went on Youtube to look for something interesting and different to watch. I had no idea I could actually watch an entire film without advertising, while not being a payer. I clicked on the link thinking it was a critic engaging in a discussion of the film and ended up watching this wonderful storyline.

The film stars Merle Oberon who was a British-Asian actress (her Asian heritage was a secret to the audience in that time period). This was my first time to see her in a movie other than Wuthering Heights. In Temptation, a woman named Ruby is looking to strengthen her financial picture, and goes after an Egyptologist, Nigel. She shares her secret ambitions with her doctor, assuming that he must keep this secret. She assumes he does. Her marriage takes her to Egypt, and she leads a very boring life until she meets Mahmoud Baroudi. This is when the trauma bond begins.

A trauma bond exists between a man and a woman (one of them most likely a narcissist or an uncaring partner with no scruples), who are in a relationship. In this bond, the woman or the victim, checks out of reality to do whatever it takes to fulfill her romantic delusion for this partner. Often, this means something illegal or unethical that the perpetrator is not persuading against or is encouraging. A romantic delusion is when a woman has created an illusion (in her head, or an elaborate storyline she tells herself), that this man is the best thing for her. The delusion she has created puts her in a world where she is not completely focused on right and wrong. The bond is created in the relationship but can continue as a result of the failed relationship, after being gaslighted (a shocking conclusion after much love bombing), for example. It is also continued after the relationship while the victim is healing and dealing with any returns from the perpetrator (best to just block them to avoid this after the break-up).

The characters in this trauma bond are Mahmoud, a player/NPD (narcissistic personality disorder), who Ruby has just rescued a young girl from; in one of his blackmail plots. While it is obvious from day one, that he is a scheming male out for money, Ruby senses a kindred spirit (since they were both out for the same thing) and figures she can use him as she is clear what the game is. Unfortunately, she begins to delude herself into believing he is someone she loves. Even though he never tells her this, she pretends to believe he does. She says out loud one afternoon “I wish he were dead,” (in reference to her husband) and Mahmoud begins to saver this idea.

In this case, it is different from Double Indemnity where both parties are actively involved in the reality of the scheme. Ruby (Merle Oberon’s character) is lost in her own delusion. She becomes careless and focused on her own needs. Ruby is much different than the Barbara Stanwick character in Double Indemnity. She begins to question her choices, in various scenes (through body language), whether she is doing the right thing. In the end, she makes the right decision. Barbara’s character does not.

The scenes leading up to the tragedy, between her and Mahmoud seem cold and calculating. She seems to be in on it too, though you can see she is not. She tries to take it back, early on but he latches on to the idea, realizing it is a way for him to get money. He knows she won’t go through with the scheme, so he arranges things through the kitchen helper. The plot is to poison her husband, she becomes a wealthy widow and will give him money that he needs for gambling debts. Of course, we can assume it won’t stop there.

As Ruby watches her husband slowly withering away, she struggles emotionally with the guilt she feels – knowing she has colluded with Mahmoud. She and Nigel (her husband) are talking when he realizes he is about to die, and he confides in her some things. He tells her the doctor told him everything and he married her anyway. Ruby is finally awakened from her delusion. She sets up a plot to rid herself of Mahmoud. The ending is quite interesting. Not what I would have expected but as if Hollywood is saying – karma gets you in the end. Please don’t try this at home though ladies. I am not advocating for the conclusion.

A trauma bond between a couple can take all sorts of directions. It depends on the narcissist and what they feel comfortable getting away with. Some are focused on gaslighting, as we see in Corridor of Mirrors and Gaslight (the film the term was named after). Others are focused on using the woman’s love to get what they want, as with the pedophile in the French film Un Amour Impossible. I have seen, in my psychotherapy practice, men becoming pimps to the partner, on multiple occasions. I have also seen the male using S&M in the bedroom and taking it to quite a manipulative direction – the woman not being a willing partner (in either of these situations) but a romantically deluded person who ends up with post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you feel you are in a trauma bond experience, either during the relationship or post-coital and realizing you need help, it is important to reach out to a psychotherapist who specializes in narcissists or working with the survivor of this. You don’t want to end up having criminal charges on your record. The longer you are in the bond, the more his demands will escalate. This is because, the more he realizes what he can get away with and feels comfortable going to the next level, the more he will. You won’t know how far he will go until he does. No matter how cunning and smart you think you are, he is so much more. This is because he is NOT going through a romantic delusion as you are.

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