Flashbacks and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not just for soldiers. These two things can happen to anyone who has been in a situation where either they or others were in immediate life threatening danger on an ongoing basis. Child abuse is one of those situations. I used to have them on a daily basis. I wish them on nobody. They are awful.
Here is One Definition of PSTD:
An anxiety resulting from a traumatic, terrifying event where a person of any age believes that he/she will be killed or others around them will be, or have been killed. They have witnessed severe abuse of others or themselves. This can include natural disasters, car accidents, being abused/tortured or any situation that is beyond the control of the person who is powerless to stop the traumatic event from happening while it’s happening.
Extreme Flashbacks are often associated with PSTD.
Definition of a flashback:
A psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually powerful re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience. The term is used particularly when the memory is recalled involuntarily, and/or when it is so intense that the person “relives” the experience, unable to fully recognize it as a memory and not something that is happening in real time.
Simply put: Your mind relives the traumatic event (s) for you in real time. It invades all senses and places you into the situation and rolls like a film. Every detail of the trauma is revealed in 3D real time and you relive it as it happened, at the time it happened. Your mind cannot turn off the film until the reliving of the trauma is complete. You have no control over the flashback.
People who have never experienced flashbacks or PTSD have no idea what it is or how is works. The term “get over it” or “grow up” or “its over why can’t you just let it go” aides in the flashbacks and PSTD. They can be disturbing, scary, make you feel powerless, and leave you an emotional wreck all in 60 seconds. Sometimes there is a trigger that sets it off, other times the mind just takes over and you have no choice but to go with it.
I will give you a step by step visual of how this works. The story I am using is a made up story to help people understand exactly what it is.
Stephanie is going to church. She is walking towards the church when all of the sudden the whole scenery changes.
It is no longer 2014. Its now 1985, she’s in the kitchen with her abuser, she being slapped around trying to defend herself.
Things she’d’ forgotten about like a candle burning, the brown rimmed clock on the wall, the smell of fried chicken in the kitchen, or the crack in the ceiling invade her memory.
The sound of the abusers voice, details of the attack that had been suppressed awaken her defense emotions. The attack is finished. Stephanie’s flashback is not finished. The emotions she went through in 1985 she goes through again stuck between time periods. She breaks down and cries. The scenery slowly changes from 1985 back to 2014.
Stephanie relives the emotions in 2014 that she initially lived in 1985.
Stephanie has had a flashback that was un asked for, unwanted, unwarranted, and uncontrollable.
Back to 2014 Stephanie gets control of the flashbacks.
Flashbacks can happen anywhere at any time. In crowds, alone, on busses or in the workplace. People around the person won’t know what’s happening. They will just think the person needs professional help or is very very sad.
Stephanie decides to take control of the flashbacks by doing the following things:
1. Acknowledge when she is having one.
2. Telling the abuser during the flashback, “you no longer have control of me!”
3. After the flashback is finished tell the abuser, “this is not my fault I did not deserve this! i did not deserve this abuse!”
4. cry it out if necessary. and tell herself, “I did nothing wrong. I did not deserve it. The abuser has the problem not me!’
5. When the flashback is completely finished re think it piece by piece and do affirmations towards the memory of the abuser stating, “you will no longer have control over me or my mind or my memories. I did not deserve the abuse inflicted on me. In no way will I continue to hold guilt for your sins.”
Stephanie’s flashbacks reduced tremendously, subsided greatly, and left her feeling in power of her emotions and her mind.
These 5 steps are a start to controlling the flashbacks, and can be modified to the individual person. For Stephanie this worked as a part of her healing.
Please fill in other suggestions for dissipating flashbacks.