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Archive for October 7th, 2008

In the comments on my blog entry Aftereffects of Child Abuse: Dreams of Abuse, Palucci shared a dream that she feared might be a flashback. From all that she describes, I agree that it sounds like her dream was actually a flashback.

Flashbacks can happen in a number of ways. While most people think of flashbacks as being visual, they can tie into any of the senses. For example, I will often get a body memory/flashback of the taste of cigarette smoke in my mouth and lungs. This ties into a memory in which my abuser first smothered me and then resuscitated me after smoking a cigarette.

Flashbacks can come in dream form. While the facts of the dream might not be accurate, the feelings are. And sometimes the facts in the dream are accurate as well.

For example, for most of my life, I have struggled with a recurring dream. I am following someone who I trust. He or she opens a door, and I follow through the door. We walk into a small room. There is a door on the other side of the room. The other person walks through it and shuts the door. I try to turn the knob, but the door is locked.

The first door then slams behind me. I try to open it, but that door is locked as well. I realized that I am trapped inside of this small room, and I know that something terrible is going to happen. Sometimes, I awaken at this point. At other times, the dream goes on to my being raped.

I no longer have that dream because I finally recovered the memory. The dream was actually a flashback of a trauma I endured. My female babysitter told me that she had a special doll for me in her room. She led me through a large walk-in closet that had access to both the hallway and her bedroom. The doors locked just as they did in the dream. She then came back in and hurt me.

It was such a relief to recover the reason for the nightmare. It was also a relief to stop having the dream. Once I understood the trauma that my mind was trying to work through, I no longer needed the dream to process the trauma.

The dreams do not always have to be accurate for them to be flashbacks. For example, I struggled with recurring dreams of my son jumping or falling off high places, such as the balcony at my church. Of course, this has never happened to him. However, I later recovered the memory of watching a toddler fall from a high place while I was forced to watch but could not help. So, even though the facts of the dream were not accurate, the dream was still a flashback.

Pay special attention to recurring nightmares. They are often actually flashbacks.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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