Comment: Emotional Flashbacks

I read a post today called Non-Visual Flashbacks after Child Abuse. Everyone can understand what a visual flashback might be, even if they have never experienced one. Faith Allen relays that non-visual flashbacks are another wonderful aspect of PTSD, and she is right.  Some thoughts on flashbacks that overwhelm all the senses.

At least with a visual feedback, you get an immediate clue something is not right, especially if the visual image is overlaid on top of your current reality. That happened to me once, and it was very disorienting, especially since I was in a public place talking to someone when it happened. My friend immediately got concerned and said, “You are scaring me.” I cannot even imagine what the look on my face was.

Faith Allen mentions a sudden feeling like you can’t breathe. This is probably a common one for anyone who has been restrained in any way – like the pillow to the face or the hand on the throat. I have woken up from many nightmares unable to breathe, or actually woken myself up by my own heavy heaving to catch my breath.

My therapist calls these types of emotional flashbacks “body memories.” These are flashbacks where more than the visual sense is involved, and she told me that new memories that come with more sense than just visual tend to be more accurate than new information from visual flashbacks.

The body remembers. And now that I did the research to understand how emotional memories of trauma are stored differently than normal narrative memories (which have a strong visual component), I understand why.



  ClinicallyClueless wrote @

I have both visual and bodily memories. Combined they are exceptionally terrifying. Just one by itself is scary enough, but combined…send me into more panic and harder to separate reality from a flashback.

  parris wrote @

My therapist calls these events somatic flashbacks. They tend to terrify me and make me feel crazy! And like ClinicallyClueless, when the body remembers, our reality becomes distorted . Usually a deeper Part is relaying these sensations; and we become “frozen in time.” Extremely confusing, sometimes dangerous.

And you are right–the body does not lie. The trauma remains in the cells and is held until some resolution is reached. I’m not sure that all of the symptoms disappear completely. But it helps to know (eventually) what the triggers are, and generally we can avert trouble.

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