Types Of Flashbacks & How To Cope

I would guess about everyone has heard of flashbacks, but I don’t think all that many people realize there are different types of flashbacks.  This post is going to explain them.

The first flashback is the type everyone knows.  It’s where the person having the flashback feels as if they are reliving a traumatic event.  It’s much like you’re watching a movie in your mind, but it seems so real, it can be very hard to differentiate between reality & the flashback as it’s happening.

There are also emotional flashbacks.  Instead of feeling as if you’re reliving a traumatic event, you feel the emotions of a traumatic event flooding back to you.  Something seemingly unrelated can trigger this, such as someone using a phrase your abuser used during the traumatic event or speaking to you in a similar manner to your abuser.

Both types of flashbacks also can trigger a sort of body flashback where you feel physical pain that you felt during a traumatic event.  As an example, I’ve told the story before of how my mother threw me into a wall when I was 19.  I had back pain for 10 years after that, then God healed me.  Although God healed me over 18 years ago at this time I’m writing this, if I have a flashback of the night that happened, or sometimes if I just think about it, my back starts to hurt.

Having had all three types of flashbacks, I’ve learned some ways to cope with them that help me, & I hope will help you too.

During the flashback, I find it extremely important to keep myself grounded.  People do all kinds of things to make that happen.  Some clap their hands loudly, stomp their feet hard or hold an ice cube.  I prefer touching something with either a very coarse or very soft texture.  Smelling something with a strong scent is helpful too, such as lavender essential oil.  A bonus of lavender is it has anti-anxiety properties to it, so not only does it smell lovely but it helps calm you naturally.  I actually keep a small vial of lavender essential oil near me at all times just in case I need it.  Whatever you choose to do, it needs to be something that basically “assaults” your senses to override the flashback & keep you grounded in reality.

It’s also a very good idea to remind yourself that this is only a flashback.  It isn’t real.  There is nothing that can hurt you happening right now.  You’re completely safe.

Also try not to focus on anything else as the flashback is happening.  Instead, focus only on getting yourself through it.  Nothing else.

Once the flashback has subsided, chances are you’re going to feel tired.  They take a lot of energy, physically & emotionally.  That is totally normal.  Try to take it easy if you can, & get some rest.

When you have recovered & feel able, I really recommend thinking about the topic of your flashback.  If it was reliving a traumatic event, what was the event about?  If it was an emotional one, do you know why this flashback was triggered?  What happened that made you feel the way this event did?

From there, you can begin to deal with the event however works best for you.  Pray, journal, talk to a close friend, a pastor or therapist or a combination of these things.  Don’t forget to really feel the emotions connected to this event.  You’re allowed to cry or get angry about it!  In fact, you need to do so.  Feeling the emotions will help to get the out of you & help you to heal.

A wonderful thing will happen as you heal from this painful & traumatic event.  It will lose much of its power over you.  It won’t hurt so much to remember it anymore, & it’s likely you won’t have a flashback about that particular event again.

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10 Comments

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

10 responses to “Types Of Flashbacks & How To Cope

  1. The look on someone’s face. A tone of voice. Body language. These are my biggest triggers for emotional flashbacks.

    The other day, I had a flashback from the title of a novel my husband brought home. “Hit Me” — ooooh. That triggers a very bad memory.

    Sometimes, it’s a song playing over the speaker system in a store that does it. The news… lots of flashback triggers there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh.. I hear ya. & you can’t avoid those triggers. Unless you live alone in a cave, you’ll experience them at some point. Triggers are everywhere, aren’t they?

      One well known blogger once chewed me out for not avoiding my triggers. (This was when I still was in a relationship with my parents & dealt with their triggers constantly). I think of it this way.. triggers are totally unavoidable. They’re going to happen. They also can be opportunities to learn, grown & heal. Might as well do what we can to make them work for us. That’s why I recommend focusing on the subject of the flashback after it’s done. Cope with it the best you can & as you heal, the chances of it happening again are much slimmer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. I also agree with what you said about lavender oil. I have a necklace with an insert where you can put a drop or two of an essential oil, so you can carry the fragrance around with you all day. Lavender is one of my favorites. So soothing.

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  2. A smell. Someone with a similar walk. A song. All triggers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Val

    I’ve had all 3 types of flashbacks. I hv them at night, PTSD , nightmares. Grounding for me is getting out of bed, out of that room, Out the closest door, n breathing in n out fresh air, till I stop Hyperventilating. Panic attack flashback combo. Take care n stay strong.

    Valerie Landis, A.A.S., C.P.S.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  4. artandhealingheart

    TW: nightmares of rape and flashback story ⚠️⚠️

    1didn’t know that nightmares were a form of flashback or could be. I constantly dream that the abuser in my life is raping me. To my knowledge (I hate having to say that but I honestly don’t know bc I have some repressed memories) he hasnt ever done that.
    One night about three weeks ago I was trying to figure out why on earth I dream it all the time. I laid down on the floor of my shower in the position Im in from the dreams.
    Then I didnt know why but i put my arms on either side of my head much like muscle memory.
    Then the flash back came. When I was thirteen he Had climbed on top of me in front of my grandparents Christmas tree. It was Christmas eve, all the adults a room away, and he overpowered me. I didn’t think it was sexual but now as an adult who knows how sex works I know he was aroused by it (which made the flashback much worse to think about because eeeew)
    I thought i was going crazy bc I could sort of feel him holding my wrists even though I knew he wasnt there, that i was safe in my shower and my husband in the other room.

    Overall I think the worst art of flashbacks is the doubt in your mind of your memories. Now I can’t say he hasn’t done this or that. I can only say I don’t remember or I don’t think so. That bothers me more than the flashbacks!

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    • I believe dreams & nightmares are the brain’s way of processing things. It processes everything, good, bad & indifferent, & it does it day & night. Nightmares are one way it processes the traumatic things. They could be a type of flashback, I think, although it hadn’t crossed my mind before.

      What a horrible thing for you to have to deal with! I’m so sorry!

      It is frustrating when you doubt because of repressed memories. One thing I’ve learned that I hope will help you is not to push them. Let them come back in their own time. Reason being, forcing them can be even more difficult to cope with them. If you allow things to come back on their own, it’s easier (although never easy) because your mind knows what you can handle & doesn’t force things on you you aren’t ready to face. I hope you don’t mind a bit of unasked for advice… it’s just something I believe is very important on the topic of repressed memories.

      Liked by 1 person

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