Posts Tagged ‘flashbacks as dreams’

I had another night of nightmares with the central theme being sheer terror. Oh, joy! I had to sleep with the New Age music station tuned to my television in order to go back to sleep each time. The music helped me calm back down and relax after each time I jerked awake in terror.

I am not sure how figurative or literal the dreams are because they involve horses, which is not something I typically dream about. It could be figurative because any mode of transportation represents how in control you feel about your life. I used to dream about trains a lot (no control over where you are going). As I have healed, I have moved to cars. I do not recall ever dreaming of using horses as transportation. It could be literal because my mother/abuser had horses throughout my childhood.

There was a part of the dream that definitely represented my mother. In my dream, I scanned over a city that has significance in representing my mother.

As for the horses … One dream was particularly terrifying. I was riding a horse and ran into a “bad guy” who approached me on foot in a cavalier manner to harm me. He very clearly was going to take what he wanted, and even being on horseback was not going to rescue me. He pulled out a gun before I woke up with my heart racing and adrenaline pumping hard.

That is the part that has me confused. All of my flashbacks of childhood abuse involve someone I knew or being handed over to a stranger by someone I knew. I have not recovered memories of a complete stranger coming upon me by chance and harming me. However, this does play out in my dreams sometimes, as it did in this dream. That adds a whole new level of terror because, if the person did not know me or my family, what would stop him from doing whatever he wanted, even killing me?

As I write this, it occurs to me that some of you who suffered from ritual abuse have shared about cult “set ups,” so perhaps I was set up to be harmed by a member of the cult that I did not know to create this additional form of terror?

However, it could be a figurative representation of the first time my mother harmed me. She could have seemed like “a stranger” because hurting me was “strange” up until that point. I simply don’t know.

On another note, the eating has not been “effortless” as it was last week. Whatever memories I am dealing with have triggered the urge to compulsively overeat, but I find no satisfaction from the anxiety if I start to nudge that direction. I am hoping to disconnect the two in my head and recognize the urge to binge eat as a symptom of more pain to be healed. I keep hoping that, at some point, I will have worked through all of the big stuff and will no longer be slammed like this any longer. Here’s hoping, anyhow.

Photo credit: Rosanne Mooney

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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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