Emotional Flashbacks- January 10, 2014

Yesterday started out as any other day.. nice, laid back, snuggle time with my kitties.. then I ended up verbally attacked over a difference of opinion on a trivial matter.  While difference in opinions don’t matter to me (everyone is entitled to their opinions), the way it was said triggered a child-like reaction in me.  As a child, if I disagreed with my mother, she acted like I was stupid, my opinion was wrong, I didn’t even deserve to have an opinion & a cause of great embarrassment & shame to her.  (Actually, this still happens even though I’m now in my forties.)  My reaction was to feel deep shame, even panic & wanting to make what I said never have happened.  This is what I felt yesterday.

This is what is known as an emotional flashback, & is a part of having C-PTSD, or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They are different from a visual flashback.  Visual flashbacks make you feel as if you are reliving the event.  Emotional flashbacks are when extremely intense emotions from the past are triggered, such as panic, anxiety, shame, guilt, depression & are not proportionate to the situation, yet you know you aren’t reliving any situation.  They can last for a few minutes or hours.  Invalidating comments, nastiness, dirty looks can all trigger an emotional flashback.  

With God’s help yesterday, I learned how to handle emotional flashbacks.  These tips may help you during this distressing time as well.

  • Get alone & get quiet.  Calm yourself down, maybe with deep breathing or whatever relaxes you.  Remind yourself that you are safe, nothing can hurt you.
  • Once calm, try to look at the situation objectively.  Pretend it happened to a friend rather than it happened to you, if that helps.  Ask yourself if your reaction was appropriate or not.  
  • If not, identify your feelings.  For me yesterday shame, panic & wanting to fix things were the prominent emotions.
  • I immediately knew that these emotions were what I felt so often as a child when dealing with my mother.  If you are unsure about your emotions, ask God where is the origin of what you feel.
  • Focus on what He says, & that you know you’re only having a flashback.  You can’t be hurt by it!  You are fine!  Also, you aren’t crazy- you have been though abuse & mind games which is why you’re having the emotional flashback- so don’t worry about being crazy!!
  • In some cases, like mine yesterday, I also had to remember that the person who attacked me isn’t entirely mentally stable.  I’m not sure what is wrong, but something isn’t quite right, if that makes sense.  She acts odd sometimes because of that, I just have to remember to keep a distance, & keep strict boundaries in place with her.  Does this also describe the person who triggered your emotional flashback?

Emotional flashbacks are annoying & very tiresome, but they can be managed.  You can handle them!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health

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