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Emotional flashbacks

AliceinWonderland

AliceinWonderland

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I came across the idea of emotional flashbacks some while ago, and was unconvinced. Flashbacks are usually associated with PTSD, and involve reliving an actual event, visually and based on the memory of what happened, as I understand it. So I never really considered myself to have flashbacks. But emotional flashbacks are different, in that they are not tied to specific memories or visual re-experiencing. The idea of flashbacks that are purely emotional in nature seemed a bit far-fetched, like trying to make a common experience into a 'thing'. Surely everyone has times when emotions are evoked that are reminiscent of emotions they've felt in previous situations? But the more I've thought about it, I do think this is a useful idea. The idea that an emotional reaction to a current situation can be so intense because you are catapulted into reliving the intense feelings you had when experiencing trauma and abuse as a child, even without having the experience that you are reliving the trauma. I'm not sure if I'm explaining this very well.

Anyhow, maybe some quotes will explain what I'm trying to say better. These are from an article about this subject by Pete Walker, who has specialises in complex-PTSD, I find his site very helpful. Article here.

Because most emotional flashbacks do not have a visual or memory component to them, the triggered individual rarely realizes that she is re-experiencing a traumatic time from childhood.
When they understand that their sense of overwhelm initially arose as an instinctual response to truly traumatic circumstances, they begin to shed the awful belief that they are crazy, hopelessly oversensitive, and/or incurably defective.
In helping them to achieve some mastery, my most ubiquitous intervention is helping them to deconstruct the outmoded alarmist tendencies of the inner critic. This is essential, as Donald Kalshed explicates throughout The Inner World of Trauma, because the inner critic grows rampantly in traumatized children and because the inner critic is the primary initiator of most flashbacks. The psychodynamics of this is that continuous abuse and neglect force the child's inner critic [superego] to overdevelop hypervigilance and perfectionism - hypervigilance to recognize and defend against danger, and perfectionism to try to win approval and safe attachment. Unfortunately, safety and attachment are rarely or never experienced. Hypervigilance progressively devolves into intense performance anxiety and perfectionism festers into a virulent inner voice that increasingly manifests self-hate, self-disgust and self-abandonment at every imperfection. Eventually the child grows up, but she is so dominated by feelings of danger, shame and abandonment, that she is unaware that adulthood now offers many new resources for achieving internal and external safety. She is stuck seeing the present as rife with danger as the past.
I so identify with the last quote, it describes my experience very well.

I've put this in the Experiences section because I prefer to think in terms of traumatic experiences leading to certain responses and coping mechanisms, in a totally understandable way, rather than the more medical view of this being a disorder. I see it as abusive and traumatic circumstances leading to certain emotional/psychological/personality outcomes, rather than an 'illness'.
 

cpuusage

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I so identify with the last quote, it describes my experience very well.

I've put this in the Experiences section because I prefer to think in terms of traumatic experiences leading to certain responses and coping mechanisms, in a totally understandable way, rather than the more medical view of this being a disorder. I see it as abusive and traumatic circumstances leading to certain emotional/psychological/personality outcomes, rather than an 'illness'.
i can certainly identify with aspects of it, & it makes sense.

i think a lot of 'mental disorders' have their roots within emotional development/areas, & with trauma.

Ideally i think people need a lot of nurturing, support, understanding & help to process & resolve their inner World/turmoil & emotional difficulties.

Strange how psychiatry doesn't really deal in emotions.

i bought 'Waking the Tiger' by Peter A. Levine years ago, still not got round to reading it.

the book presents therapeutic advice for healing past traumas. The techniques presented in the book are based on Somatic Experiencing, the naturalistic therapy developed by Levine. The book uses metaphors from classical mythology to illustrate how one could deal with trauma without being overwhelmed by facing head-on, not the trauma, but its "reflection" in our nervous system. The book asserts that animals in the wild are persistently subject to threats yet rarely exhibit symptoms of trauma. The book's title is a symbol of returning to a more natural, energetically freer state, but also a more "natural" emotionally and intellectually freer state, being the goal of psychotherapy in general, including the particular approach developed by Levine - [From Wikipedia]
 
AliceinWonderland

AliceinWonderland

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Sounds an interesting book, Pete Walker talks about using somatic techniques in that article, but I don't really know what that is.
 

cpuusage

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Sounds an interesting book, Pete Walker talks about using somatic techniques in that article, but I don't really know what that is.
i'm not entirely sure either - i assume basically feeling & being in contact with our emotions, as much as possible, & working with the body.

Somatic Technique : BodyMindPeace

Somatic Therapy

Somatic psychology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Somatics - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Somatics is a term coined by Thomas Hanna (1928–1990) for a field of alternative medicine which includes a number of better-known therapies such as applied kinesiology and Rolfing.

The term is derived from the word "Somatic" (Greek "somatikos", soma: "living, aware, bodily person") which means, pertaining to the body, experienced and regulated from within.

Hanna's ideas were based on those of Hans Selye and Moshé Feldenkrais. He proposed that most people were afflicted by a phenomenon he called "Sensory-Motor Amnesia" in which the body's muscles had fogotten how to move freely. In the 1970s Hanna developed "Hanna Somatic Education" which he claims addresses this perceived problem by "retraining" the body.
Seems it can refer to a lot of areas.
 
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earthbound_misfit

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I came across this idea a couple of years ago, and it's been one of the most (possibly the most) useful things I've ever learnt/considered.
For me it fits in with the idea of the 'inner child', the one rel-living all the painful experiences, and I found it helpful to be the 'adult' in my head speaking to the 'child' and identifying what the feeling relate to from the past.

Although I really wish there was someone who loved me who would know what happened and let the 'inner chid' have a cry and a hug at the same time... Does that work for old wounds, I wonder? If someone is able to *be* the confused and frightened child within the context of knowing they're reliving the past, would comforting them help?
 
Parissa

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I can completely understand this. I have emotional memories. It is the reason for my high levels of anxiety i think. A memory can spark off all kinds of feelings and sensations, even memories that are still unconscious, as they are piercing the surface, i feel them for a while before they come through to my consciousness. It makes for one big rollercoaster ride of emotions and sensations, when these memories evoke such powerful reactions in your body. It just shows for how long, and how strongly, the past can affect you, even when you can't put two and two together.
 
AliceinWonderland

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Thanks earthbound-misfit, that is really helpful to be reminded of right now, and I'm glad it's been a helpful idea to you as well. It's something I could do with bearing in mind more, my emotions have been going through the mill today. Thrown right back into old feelings.

Although I really wish there was someone who loved me who would know what happened and let the 'inner chid' have a cry and a hug at the same time... Does that work for old wounds, I wonder? If someone is able to *be* the confused and frightened child within the context of knowing they're reliving the past, would comforting them help?
Yes, I definitely think so. As well as the adult part of ourselves comforting the child part, as you say. I think all comforting helps, all understanding, from inside and out.

Thanks for the links on somatisation cpu, I will have a look when I get a chance. I like the Thich Nhat Hanh article, read that when you posted it the other day.

Edit: cross-posted with Parissa
 
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rasselas.redux

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I accept now that trauma can fragment the ego. For a very long time I put up a lot of resistance to these ideas principally because so much of my being was invested in running away, shutting down and denying. It's not easy to let go of ego defences especially when there are dozens of them protectibg multiple fragmented egos.



But yes emotional flashbacks do occur and often like you say with such intensity that it's only in hindsight you start to make sense.
 
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AliceinWonderland

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Today I am trying to understand my feelings of panicky shame, humiliation, awkwardness and self-consciousness as being an emotional flashback to when I was shamed and humiliated as a child, and felt so afraid and unsafe, and so dangerously exposed. The fear I felt then as a small child facing adults who held all the power, compared with whom I was weak and powerless, well I still feel propelled into that place now when faced with even mild ridicule, or it being pointed out I have said/done something stupid/unintelligent/lacking awareness or insight. I still feel like the small child being publicly humiliated, with my shame being pointed out for all to see, to point at and laugh at in contempt. But that was then, and this is now. I hope seeing these feelings and reactions as emotional flashbacks will lessen their power and intensity... I hope...
 
SomersetScorpio

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Have been checking in on this thread and just want to thank you for sharing this information to you Alice, and to CPU for additional links.

I can certainly identify with the concept. I think it can be very difficult when you're in a process or having an emotional flashback to identify what's going on.
I've often found that when i've later reflected on situations where i've had a strong emotional reaction, that I can see a link between the most recent incident to one in my past.
I think that's why some people might think I over-react sometimes. It's not that i'm reacting to that one particular thing, it feels like every single time i've felt that feeling comes flooding back to me (if that makes sense).
 
AliceinWonderland

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(((Somerset))) Total sense.
 
AliceinWonderland

AliceinWonderland

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I had a situation over the Christmas holidays where someone said something to me that put me into an emotional flashback, so I thought I'd put my thoughts on it here, try and pinpoint what it was that was said that prompted such a strong reaction and why. I was in a bad place for a couple of days, feeling such anger and self-hatred, to the point of SHing (briefly and not seriously). And I think what it was was the implication that they were superior people (and by implication, me, and people like me, are inferior). They didn't speak particularly haughtily, their statements were cloaked in reasonableness and seeming generosity, but the subtext was 'People should behave like I believe they ought to, in fact they should behave like me, because I am a successful and wise person, and you are not'. Egotistical. Conceited. Dismissive. Uncompassionate. I think it was the sense of unbending rectitude that got to me. 'I am right, and you are nothing, you don't count, you are judged unimportant', it reminded me of the sort of attitude people have when they look at someone like they are something they just found on the bottom of their shoe. Now, nothing was said directly about me, these people were not saying directly that they had a low opinion of me, they were relating a situation about their dealings with someone else they know, but it all felt so close to the bone, and unintentionally or not, it felt like in voicing their disapproval of this other person, they were also judging my life and my choices (and in fact, they've done this directly in the past, so it brought all the feelings I had about that up to the surface again).

So, someone being superior, judgmental, without mercy or compassion, even when their not doing it exactly directly to me, throws me back into that place of feeling worthless, and angry at being treated that way. I feel like that small knee-high child who wanted to beat their fists against this mean, cold, imperious person, and couldn't because it would be too dangerous, and the consequences would be too terrifying. What choice does it leave you but to beat them against yourself? (rhetorical question, I know 'other answers are available').
 
*autumn*

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(((alice))) i empathise. This is a very delicate subject. Thank you for the care and compassion from everybody on this thread.
 
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