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Archive for October 10th, 2008

After I posted my blog entry Tips for Working through Flashbacks after Child Abuse, a reader emailed me and asked me to elaborate upon this part:

I also learned that I had the power to “stop” and “rewind” a flashback. As long as I promised myself that I would return to the memory the next day (and meant it), I could stop a flashback midway through so I had time to process the information. Many of my flashbacks contained a series of traumas in one incident, so I needed time to process each piece of a memory. Trying to deal with the entire traumatic experience in one sitting was simply too much.

A flashback is a memory that your mind has stored (possibly for many years) and is now releasing so that it can make sense out of the trauma. So, you are the one who is releasing the memory. Because you are the one choosing to release the memory, you can also choose to stop and rewind a memory if you want.

Those of you who are new to flashbacks are probably thinking, “Yeah, right,” because your flashbacks feel out of your control. Actually, they are entirely under your control. You are releasing the memories because you are ready to heal. A part of yourself has decided that you are ready to deal with your past and heal so that you can live a life that is different from your past.

Even if you are willing yourself to stop having flashbacks, that is only one part of yourself. A deeper part of yourself is relieved to be releasing the memories. It takes an enormous amount of energy to repress memories and continue to lie to yourself about your past. With the release of each memory, you are freeing up energy to heal yourself.

So, back to how to control your flashbacks. The first step is recognizing that you have the power to stop and rewind your flashbacks. The second step is to understand the purpose of stopping and rewinding flashbacks.

You have a force inside of yourself that is pushing out these memories so you can heal. If you want to stop the memories so you can stuff them all back inside, then trying to stop the flashbacks is not going to work. However, if you want to stop and rewind a flashback to give yourself time to process the trauma, you can do this. You must promise yourself that you will choose to return to the memory again the next day (or in a few days) and mean it for this to work.

Once you (1) recognize that you have the power to stop a flashback and (2) promise yourself to return the next day, give it a try and see what happens. When you reach a place in a memory where you really do not believe you can handle more, tell yourself that you want to stop for now but that you will return to this place the next day. By doing this, I was able to stop the memory in its tracks.

I would then focus upon the new information that I had already recovered. I would comfort myself through that part of the memory. Then, when I returned to where I left off, the pain was not quite as raw because I had already begun processing the first part.

Please let me know how this method works for you. It worked very well for me.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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