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Author Topic: 4.13 | Dealing with trauma: PTSD, C-PTSD and emotional flashbacks  (Read 14697 times)
Kwamina
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« on: May 17, 2015, 04:15:46 PM »

Hi y'all

One thing I like about bpdfamily is that reading the stories of other members also helps me better articulate my own experiences. It helps to know that there are actually words to describe what you're going through. Like when I first learned about BPD I was very relieved to finally have found a word to describe the behavior of some of my family-members. At the same time it was also very surreal to see my family dynamics described in such detail.

I had a similar experience when learning about the concept of emotional flashbacks. Pete Walker, M.A. describes them like this:

Excerpt
Emotional flashbacks are sudden and often prolonged regressions ('amygdala hijackings' to the frightening circumstances of childhood. They are typically experienced as intense and confusing episodes of fear and/or despair - or as sorrowful and/or enraged reactions to this fear and despair.

When I thought of flashbacks, typically images from Hollywood movies often came to mind. I never experienced flashbacks like in the movies though. What I did experience was that current events triggered powerful emotions and thoughts in me from the past. Even 'little innocent' events could have this effect on me. I found it very helpful to read that others on here have had similar experiences and that there's actually a name for it.

Excerpt
Emotional flashbacks are especially painful because the inner critic typically overlays them with toxic shame, inhibiting the individual from seeking comfort and support, isolating him in an overwhelming and humiliating sense of defectiveness.

This part here I also find particularly interesting because it links emotional flashbacks to the so-called 'inner critic'. This inner critic often becomes manifest through automatic negative thoughts.

I am very interested in hearing your thoughts about emotional flashbacks and I have some questions to discuss this issue further:

1. When you consider the concept of emotional flashbacks, do you feel like this is something you've experienced yourself?

2. If you have experience with emotional flashbacks, have you found ways to deal with them? If so, how are/were you able to deal with them?

Take care my friends and thanks for anything you are able to share here
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« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2015, 05:09:00 PM »

This is such a great topic, Kwamina. Thanks for posting it.

I'm well familiar with emotional flashbacks. I frequently experience them, and of late, I've been experiencing them a lot due to the fact that I've become much more aware of my inner child. That has brought many more memories to the surface recently and thus lots of flashbacks.

Here is an example: two weeks ago I was helping pay bills. My DH does most of the bill paying at this time, and I thought I would help. I was sorting through papers and noticed myself becoming extremely anxious after only 10 minutes. I stuck with it and kept going, then decided after about 20 minutes that I just had to stop. My internal anxiety had gone through the roof by this point, and I felt like I could crawl into bed and sleep as fatigue had come over me like a steam roller. It had nothing to do with my DH, and I wondered what was going on. I was listening to my body as my T often tells me, and I knew something was happening. A short while later, the  Idea came on. Suddenly  I was a little child watching my parents fight over money, once again. Money was tight and as a child I knew that whenever my parents began talking about the lack of money, a huge vicious fight would ensue, and us children would need to run to cover for our safety, quite literally because the fight was coming.

My fight or flight had kicked into gear ('amygdala hijacking', and the adrenalin left my mind foggy and tired way beyond the norm. Fortunately by this time in my healing journey, I'm beginning to catch on to the fact that I'm in a flashback, and I do what I need to do to become safe. This time I went outside (to run away to safety) to do yard work, trying to slow my mind down through something physical which I enjoy, using large muscle groups, until my emotions had a chance to settle. I also told myself out loud that I am not alone anymore like I was in my childhood, and that this was only a memory.  I have a list of Pete Walker's '13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks' which follows right along with some of the healthy choices I made during this flashback.

It took well into the next day before I could step back and take a more objective look at what had taken place and try to not re-trigger again. I was foggy headed for a good portion of the next day. I also spoke about it with my T in session that week. We spoke about how I could chose to not be alone in that memory anymore, by inviting someone safe to come into the memory with my inner child, someone such as my T or a safe friend, or as I look at the spiritual world, I can also invite Jesus to be in the memory with me. All those things have helped me to walk through this particular flashback, re-processing it so that I don't feel so helpless anymore.

Wools
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Kwamina
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« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2015, 01:54:23 PM »

Hi Wools

Thanks for responding! I am glad you have learned ways to better deal with the emotional flashbacks. Key thing is indeed that you first need to recognize what's going on before you can take appropriate steps to do something about it.

Here is an example: two weeks ago I was helping pay bills. My DH does most of the bill paying at this time, and I thought I would help. I was sorting through papers and noticed myself becoming extremely anxious after only 10 minutes. I stuck with it and kept going, then decided after about 20 minutes that I just had to stop. My internal anxiety had gone through the roof by this point, and I felt like I could crawl into bed and sleep as fatigue had come over me like a steam roller.

I can very much relate to your example here about paying the bills. Every month I experience anxiety too when I pay the bills, in my mind it always becomes an enormous task and I experience what I would call 'heavy' emotions. I say heavy because it's feels like they are dragging me down. In my case this is directly related to the fact my mother always made a huge drama of paying the bills. This caused me a lot of anxiety when I still lived with her. Supposedly she never had enough money, but in reality she went on expensive vacations and threw huge birthday parties. Though I on a rational level know what's going on, I still have this experience every month. When the old feelings surface, it still feels like they will last forever. Only after paying the bills do these feelings dissipate and it's like every time again I then realize that it wasn't a big deal at all. It wasn't a huge monumental task at all and all those 'heavy' feelings are coming from the past and really don't have anything to do with the present at all.
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2015, 12:40:42 PM »

Kwamina, thank you so much for posting this information. I finally have a name for what I feel when I come across any communication from uBPDm - Emotional Flashbacks. It's such an overwhelming tangle of feelings I can't even put my finger on them. In researching Pete Walker's Emotional Flashback I even realized how I am flashing back almost constantly with Automatic Negative Self Talk. It's such a huge, huge, battle I feel I'm fighting. I didn't even realize the scale of it. More solid ideas to work on in T. Huge help. Thank you again.
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2015, 01:34:10 PM »

I absolutely have these.  Especially with paying the bills. (which leads to me avoiding the task, and letting my uBPDw handle this task, as she is all too eager to do, and basically loves spending all of our money and then some). 

I have several other triggers for this too. It's very difficult.
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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2015, 01:59:53 PM »

bumping up... .
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« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2015, 02:15:24 PM »

I too learned the concept of emotional flashbacks here.  I was having them all the time, but did not consider them as flashbacks, as I have always known of other types of flashbacks, but never realized the concept of emotional flashbacks.  I was grateful to get this understanding.

If someone is a trigger for the emotional flashback, sometimes it helps me to review in my head different ways they could have handled the situation vs belittling me or devaluing me, etc.  This gives me a sense of validation and helps me to discover what I value and how I rather handle a situation, if I were to ever be in their situation.

Other times I have "leaned into the pain." I will allow the emotion to wash over me, see where it takes me... .see if I can meditate away the need for the attachment that I am longing for hence the suffering.  Often I can get to an original source of the pain, feel it, grieve, and feel a bit freer after... .and hopefully separate from the longing I feel.

Other times I will talk myself into finding healing by finding a way to advocate for myself.  I will think to myself how to handle the situation in the future in a way that feels empowering and thoughtful.  Accepting that certain situations will be an emotional trigger for me and Knowing I have a game plan for the future helps me to think I may have "undone" the original injustice in some way.

It also depends on what is going on at the moment.  If I'm at work... .and I do not want to get caught up in emotion and I feel stuck in it... .  Then talking to another person and focusing on someone else's needs will pull me out of my head for that moment.
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« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2015, 01:50:13 AM »

Hi ShieldsUp12, tortuga and Sunfl0wer

Thanks for joining the discussion! Smiling (click to insert in post)

Ever since learning about emotional flashbacks I've been thinking about the concept a lot. Every form of abuse has an underlying emotional element to it. Given that, it probably makes sense that we experience emotional flashbacks. When I look at how my mother treated me, I think of specific events but very often too it's more about how she made me feel and how her behavior affected me emotionally and psychologically (and indirectly also physically). Those feelings can be hard to shake and sneak up on you without you even being really aware of what's going on. In the words of Pete Walker, 'Feeling small and little is a sure sign of a flashback'. Being able to recognize this is very important and also reminding ourselves that we now are in an adult body with allies, skills and resources to protect us that we never had as a child. Though it might feel the same way when experiencing the emotional flashback as it did when we were a young child, fortunately we are adults now and have tools and resources available to us now that can help us. Meditation is something I do a lot too and have found it very helpful. For dealing with the automatic negative self talk, I've found that cognitive behavior techniques can also be very helpful.
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« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2015, 02:33:24 PM »

Kwamina's reply to my last post (quoted below) was so helpful I thought I would start a new thread with that topic.

I actually had this experience just an hour or so ago. My husband raised his voice and spoke to me in what I heard as a disrespectful tone. It started with him asking me where I wanted him to put something. This alone is a loaded issue for me (a result of too many moves) so instead of seeing it as a singular situation, the whole ton of emotional baggage rolled in and took over.

This is where the fleas come in (I think). I know I am triggered by any hint of the anger that was always barely below the surface and completely unpredictable growing up with a BPD dad and brother. My reaction to being spoken to with any sort of anger or impatience is almost always completely out of proportion. I do try to use my tools at first: "I have asked you not to speak to me like that in front of people". But if hubby does not immediately change his tone, my own rage is so intense I wind up swearing like a sailor and saying stuff like "I'm going to kill myself if you ever talk to me like that again". And then I cry really hard until I can somehow stop the cycle. Sometimes I continue to mutter a string of epithets under my breath for hours afterwards, and it will be days before I relax around him again. It feels as if I am reacting to Dad/brother stuff but sometimes I am powerless to stop it. This is after so many years of working on all of this. It just makes me tired.

I grew up with the uncomfortable silence of my mother's rage at my dad, and I see myself acting like this, too. I watch it playing out and I can identify it for what it is after the fact, or sometimes even as it is happening. "Emotional Flashback" is such a great term. The first step toward change is always naming something. 

I have scars that have not healed. When I get triggered, it is as if I have never done any work at all. I immediately go to the darkest place. I think there is no solution and I have to just wait for him to die. Or me.

Could it perhaps be that your are suffering from emotional flashbacks? Are you familiar with this concept? Pete Walker describes them like this:

"Emotional flashbacks are sudden and often prolonged regressions ('amygdala hijackings' to the frightening circumstances of childhood. They are typically experienced as intense and confusing episodes of fear and/or despair - or as sorrowful and/or enraged reactions to this fear and despair. Emotional flashbacks are especially painful because the inner critic typically overlays them with toxic shame, inhibiting the individual from seeking comfort and support, isolating him in an overwhelming and humiliating sense of defectiveness.

Because most emotional flashbacks do not have a visual or memory component to them, the triggered individual rarely realizes that she is re-experiencing a traumatic time from childhood."


We have an article here about mindfulness that you might find helpful for dealing with your triggers. Here's a short excerpt:

Excerpt
What is mindfulness all about?  In the simplest sense, we all develop, from time to time, thinking patterns that do not serve us well.  When we do, we are easily "triggered" - having non-constructive reactions to specific words or actions based on prior experiences.  We've all been there - in resentment, pessimism, defensiveness, impatience, closed mindedness, distrust, intolerance, confrontational, defeat... .

Mindfulness is a type of self-awareness in which we learn to observe ourselves in real time to see and alter our reactions to be more constructive.

You can read the entire article here: Triggering and Mindfulness and Wise Mind

Time to get my "cue cards" back out and put them by the phone.

Being prepared is indeed very important when dealing with someone with BPD Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

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« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2015, 08:56:31 PM »

Hi again bigsis

I am sorry to hear about this experience you just had. Being able to recognize what is going on is already the first step in being able to do something about it Doing the right thing (click to insert in post) Pete Walker defines 13 steps for emotional flashback management which I've found very helpful. This are the first two steps:

"1. Say to yourself: "I am having a flashback". Flashbacks take us into a timeless part of the psyche that feels as helpless, hopeless and surrounded by danger as we were in childhood. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are past memories that cannot hurt you now.

2. Remind yourself: "I feel afraid but I am not in danger! I am safe now, here in the present." Remember you are now in the safety of the present, far from the danger of the past."


I know I am triggered by any hint of the anger that was always barely below the surface and completely unpredictable growing up with a BPD dad and brother. My reaction to being spoken to with any sort of anger or impatience is almost always completely out of proportion.

It is good that you are able to identify what the flashback is really all about. In his work on emotional flashback management Pete Walker labels emotional flashbacks as opportunities to discover, validate and heal our wounds from past abuse and abandonment. He also makes the point that emotional flashbacks direct us to our still unmet developmental needs and can provide us with motivation to now finally get them met.

It feels as if I am reacting to Dad/brother stuff but sometimes I am powerless to stop it. This is after so many years of working on all of this. It just makes me tired.

I again would like to quote Pete Walker here:

Remind yourself that you are in an adult body with allies, skills and resources to protect you that you never had as a child. [Feeling small and little is a sure sign of a flashback]

Saying things like this to ourselves can help talk you out off the emotional flashback and back into the present moment.

I grew up with the uncomfortable silence of my mother's rage at my dad, and I see myself acting like this, too. I watch it playing out and I can identify it for what it is after the fact, or sometimes even as it is happening. "Emotional Flashback" is such a great term. The first step toward change is always naming something.  

It's great that you are able to identify what's going on here. This is indeed the first step towards change Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

Many children of BPD parents find themselves dealing with certain unhealthy behaviors they learned from their BPD parent(s) and/or coping mechanisms they developed as a child that might not serve them that well in their adult lives.

You've clearly identified the silent raging here as something you probably learned/copied form your parents. Can you also identify other unhealthy or not so constructive behaviors you might have learned from them?
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« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2015, 02:09:05 AM »

I think it's also helpful for us to explore the concept of complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). Here is some background information:

"Many traumatic events (e.g., car accidents, natural disasters, etc.) are of time-limited duration. However, in some cases people experience chronic trauma that continues or repeats for months or years at a time. The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.

Dr. Judith Herman of Harvard University suggests that a new diagnosis, Complex PTSD, is needed to describe the symptoms of long-term trauma. Another name sometimes used to describe the cluster of symptoms referred to as Complex PTSD is Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS). A work group has also proposed a diagnosis of Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) for children and adolescents who experience chronic traumatic events.

Because results from the DSM-IV Field Trials indicated that 92% of individuals with Complex PTSD/DESNOS also met diagnostic criteria for PTSD, Complex PTSD was not added as a separate diagnosis classification. However, cases that involve prolonged, repeated trauma may indicate a need for special treatment considerations.

... .

During long-term traumas, the victim is generally held in a state of captivity, physically or emotionally, according to Dr. Herman. In these situations the victim is under the control of the perpetrator and unable to get away from the danger.

... .

Standard evidence-based treatments for PTSD are effective for treating PTSD that occurs following chronic trauma. At the same time, treating Complex PTSD often involves addressing interpersonal difficulties and the specific symptoms mentioned above. Dr. Herman contends that recovery from Complex PTSD requires restoration of control and power for the traumatized person. Survivors can become empowered by healing relationships which create safety, allow for remembrance and mourning, and promote reconnection with everyday life." -- Source: Website U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs


In scientific literature (Pelcovitz, D.; Van Der Kolk, B.; Roth, S.; Mandel, F.; Kaplan, S.; Resick, P. (1997)) six clusters of symptoms are proposed for the diagnosis of C-PTSD:

1. Alterations in affect regulation

2. Amnesia and dissociation

3. Somatization

4. Alterations in self-perception

5. Alterations in relationships with others

6. Disrupted systems of meaning

Dr. Paula K. Lundberg-Love (2006) presents seven categories for the symptomalogy of C-PTSD:

1. Difficulty regulating emotions, such as extreme emotional states from which the person is unable to easily recover

2. Changes in consciousness such as dissociation (spacing out) under stress, the reexperiencing  of emotionally traumatic events and the forgetting of or inability to recall emotionally traumatic events

3. Changes in self-perception, including self-blame, sense of helplessness, guilt and shame

4. Changes in the perception of the perpetrator as powerful and alterations in the perception of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator

5. Changes in relationships with others, including isolation, distrust and a search for a rescuer

6. Changes in one's system of meanings, including a sense of hopelessness, despair and no sustaining meaning of faith

7. Changes in nervous system activity associated with increased arousal (i.e., exaggerated startle response, hypervigilance and physical symptoms)

Pete Walker, M.A., has said the following about C-PTSD and how it relates to emotional flashbacks:

"A significant percentage of adults who suffered ongoing abuse or neglect in childhood suffer from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. One of the most difficult features of this type of PTSD is extreme susceptibility to painful emotional flashbacks. Emotional flashbacks are sudden and often prolonged regressions ('amygdala hijackings' to the frightening circumstances of childhood. They are typically experienced as intense and confusing episodes of fear and/or despair - or as sorrowful and/or enraged reactions to this fear and despair. Emotional flashbacks are especially painful because the inner critic typically overlays them with toxic shame, inhibiting the individual from seeking comfort and support, isolating him in an overwhelming and humiliating sense of defectiveness.

Because most emotional flashbacks do not have a visual or memory component to them, the triggered individual rarely realizes that she is re-experiencing a traumatic time from childhood. Psychoeducation is therefore a fundamental first step in the process of helping clients understand and manage their flashbacks.

... .

Flashbacks strand clients in the feelings of danger, helplessness and hopelessness of their original abandonment, when there was no safe parental figure to go to for comfort and support. Hence, Complex PTSD is now accurately being identified by many as an attachment disorder. Flashback management therefore needs to be taught in the context of a safe relationship. Clients need to feel safe enough with the therapist to describe their humiliating experiences of a flashback, so that the therapist can help them respond more constructively to their overwhelm in the moment.

... .

I have come to conceptualize Complex PTSD as being on a continuum of severity. In this vein, it seems that with enough neglect, certain children automatically over-identify with the superego and adopt an intense form of perfectionism that, via the critic's "not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not helpful enough, etc.," triggers them over and over into painful abandonment flashbacks every time they are remotely less than perfect or perfectly pleasing."
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« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2015, 06:27:19 AM »

I have complex PTSD which is caused by constant abuse throughout the years rather than one event.

I used to hear my family members in my head.  If I broke a glass, I'd hear my biggest abuser saying, "You're so stupid." If I offended somebody unintentionally I never expected them to accept an apology. I'd over-apologize and they'd be puzzled saying, "Really. It's ok." I would always expect people to ostracize and leave me and it took a long time for me to trust my wonderful husband. I thought he'd leave me for some crazy reason, like my family did over and over again, and I even "tested" him, but he passed every test. If I said "no" to a request for him to help somebody, my mind would follow up with, "Selfish! You just chased away somebody else. Good job!" Thes were not actual voices. They were replicas for abusive family members and automatically said what they said or had done to me. I learned a good coping skill I will share and I do it now.

Although I can't always do t, when I can, it really works.

I tap into my inner child and have a talk with her. When somebody, say, says something t hat brings me back to the past and my worst abuser is suddenly in my head mocking me, I tell t he inner child, "It's ok. It's not true and she is not here. She lied about you. You are a good girl and you mean well. In fact, we both made it. We are awesome."

Talking back really helps.

I don't willingly see foo anymore and after their "intervention" I know more than ever that this is the right thing to do for me as they will never see me as a good and caring person.I will always be the fall guy. But that's their loss.
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« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2015, 08:17:36 AM »

Great thread Kwamina. Here in the UK I've never heard the term Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD), I hear the term "Childhood PTSD". But it is very different to sudden big shock PTSD. The Discription of DTD is the closest fit to my symptoms I've sean in writing.

hopeful12345 I also talk back to my inner child, sometimes it's the only way to get an intelligent conversation.  Laugh out loud (click to insert in post) I guess we must all be triggered by narcisstic behaviour of one sort or another. Imagine if everyone on this forum was in a big room and a big Matron like Hitler BPD comes in and says "Right you're for it now !" imagine the mayhem ! I also note hopeful1-5 you consistently type "t he" instead of "the" I do something similar. How funny. 

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« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2015, 07:08:11 AM »

The 13 steps for managing emotional flashbacks have been mentioned several times in this thread. You could say that these steps represent 'healthy' or constructive ways of coping with this type of flashbacks. In his work Pete Walker also discusses less healthy and less constructive ways of coping with emotional flashbacks:

"Without help in the moment, the client typically remains lost in the flashback and has no recourse but to once again fruitlessly reenact his own particular array of primitive, self-injuring defenses to what feel like unmanageable feelings. I find that most clients can be guided to see the harmfulness of these previously necessary, but now outmoded, defenses as misfirings of their fight, flight, freeze, or fawn responses. These misfirings then, cause dysfunctional warding off of feelings in four different ways:

1. fighting or over-asserting one's self with others in narcissistic and entitled ways such as misusing power or promoting excessive self-interest;

2. fleeing obsessive-compulsively into activities such as workaholism, sex and love addiction, or substance abuse ('uppers'

3. freezing in numbing, dissociative ways such as sleeping excessively, over-fantasizing, or tuning out with TV or medications ('downers'

4. fawning in self-abandoning and obsequious codependent relating.

As clients learn that their originally helpful defenses now needlessly hinder them, they can begin to replace them with the anxiolytic and therapeutic responses to flashbacks"


Being mindful of these potentially unhelpful coping mechanisms can help us as we try to learn new, more healthy and constructive ways of dealing with emotional flashbacks.

13 Steps for Managing Emotional Flashbacks (by Pete Walker, M.A.)

1.   Say to yourself: "I am having a flashback". Flashbacks take us into a timeless part of the psyche that feels as helpless, hopeless and surrounded by danger as we were in childhood. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are past memories that cannot hurt you now.

2.   Remind yourself: "I feel afraid but I am not in danger! I am safe now, here in the present." Remember you are now in the safety of the present, far from the danger of the past.

3.   Own your right/need to have boundaries. Remind yourself that you do not have to allow anyone to mistreat you; you are free to leave dangerous situations and protest unfair behavior.

4.   Speak reassuringly to the Inner Child. The child needs to know that you love her unconditionally- that she can come to you for comfort and protection when she feels lost and scared.

5.   Deconstruct eternity thinking: in childhood, fear and abandonment felt endless - a safer future was unimaginable. Remember the flashback will pass as it has many times before.

6.   Remind yourself that you are in an adult body with allies, skills and resources to protect you that you never had as a child. (Feeling small and little is a sure sign of a flashback)

7.   Ease back into your body. Fear launches us into 'heady' worrying, or numbing and spacing out.

  a. Gently ask your body to Relax: feel each of your major muscle groups and softly encourage them to relax. (Tightened musculature sends unnecessary danger signals to the brain)

  b. Breathe deeply and slowly. (Holding the breath also signals danger).

  c. Slow down: rushing presses the psyche's panic button.

  d. Find a safe place to unwind and soothe yourself: wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a stuffed animal, lie down in a closet or a bath, take a nap.

  e. Feel the fear in your body without reacting to it. Fear is just an energy in your body that cannot hurt you if you do not run from it or react self-destructively to it.

8.   Resist the Inner Critic's Drasticizing and Catastrophizing:

  a. Use thought-stopping to halt its endless exaggeration of danger and constant planning to control the uncontrollable. Refuse to shame, hate or abandon yourself. Channel the anger of self-attack into saying NO to unfair self-criticism.

  b. Use thought-substitution to replace negative thinking with a memorized list of your qualities and accomplishments

9.   Allow yourself to grieve. Flashbacks are opportunities to release old, unexpressed feelings of fear, hurt, and abandonment, and to validate - and then soothe - the child's past experience of helplessness and hopelessness. Healthy grieving can turn our tears into self-compassion and our anger into self-protection.

10.   Cultivate safe relationships and seek support. Take time alone when you need it, but don't let shame isolate you. Feeling shame doesn't mean you are shameful. Educate your intimates about flashbacks and ask them to help you talk and feel your way through them.

11.   Learn to identify the types of triggers that lead to flashbacks. Avoid unsafe people, places, activities and triggering mental processes. Practice preventive maintenance with these steps when triggering situations are unavoidable.

12.   Figure out what you are flashing back to. Flashbacks are opportunities to discover, validate and heal our wounds from past abuse and abandonment. They also point to our still unmet developmental needs and can provide motivation to get them met.

13.   Be patient with a slow recovery process: it takes time in the present to become un-adrenalized, and considerable time in the future to gradually decrease the intensity, duration and frequency of flashbacks. Real recovery is a gradually progressive process (often two steps forward, one step back), not an attained salvation fantasy. Don't beat yourself up for having a flashback.
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« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2015, 10:53:23 AM »

Hi hopeful12345 and HappyChappy

Thanks for joining the discussion!

Although I can't always do t, when I can, it really works

... .

Talking back really helps.

I don't willingly see foo anymore and after their "intervention" I know more than ever that this is the right thing to do for me as they will never see me as a good and caring person.I will always be the fall guy. But that's their loss.

I am glad you are able to talk back to that inner critic. You might also find another thread helpful which deals with exactly this:

Automatic negative thoughts: Talking back to your inner critic/negative voice

Here in the UK I've never heard the term Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD), I hear the term "Childhood PTSD". But it is very different to sudden big shock PTSD. The Discription of DTD is the closest fit to my symptoms I've sean in writing.

I totally agree that this traumatization as a result of continual longterm abuse is quite different from trauma as a result of a sudden big event or shock. There are of course also certain similarities but definitely also stark differences.
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« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2015, 05:19:04 PM »

Hi Kwamina,

I stopped in today to visit, and this thread caught my eye once again. I had an experience yesterday which is still affecting me, and I'm having trouble sorting it out. I was rather surprised when I reviewed Pete Walker's steps that you posted (which I've read before):

Pete Walker defines 13 steps for emotional flashback management which I've found very helpful. This are the first two steps:

"1. Say to yourself: "I am having a flashback". Flashbacks take us into a timeless part of the psyche that feels as helpless, hopeless and surrounded by danger as we were in childhood. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are past memories that cannot hurt you now.

2. Remind yourself: "I feel afraid but I am not in danger! I am safe now, here in the present." Remember you are now in the safety of the present, far from the danger of the past."


Remind yourself that you are in an adult body with allies, skills and resources to protect you that you never had as a child. [Feeling small and little is a sure sign of a flashback]

As I continued reading through some of the things you've posted, I had to ask myself if I'm having a flashback but didn't realize it. Since my dad (nonBPD) died a month ago, I've been a tad overstressed. My DH is in the process of making some financial choices that have added to my stress a hundredfold it seems, and as a result, yesterday I totally lost it with him and got so angry. It is really unusual for me to get that angry ever with anyone. Usually I bury my feelings and am afraid to enter into conflict, like so many of us here. I didn't get violent or throw things or even hardly raise my voice, but I could feel my anger consuming me. Afterwards, I've been numb and unsure, not knowing what to do or how to respond to myself or him. Perhaps it is like this quote you posted:

"Without help in the moment, the client typically remains lost in the flashback and has no recourse but to once again fruitlessly reenact his own particular array of primitive, self-injuring defenses to what feel like unmanageable feelings. I find that most clients can be guided to see the harmfulness of these previously necessary, but now outmoded, defenses as misfirings of their fight, flight, freeze, or fawn responses. These misfirings then, cause dysfunctional warding off of feelings in four different ways:

1. fighting or over-asserting one's self with others in narcissistic and entitled ways such as misusing power or promoting excessive self-interest;

2. fleeing obsessive-compulsively into activities such as workaholism, sex and love addiction, or substance abuse ('uppers'

3. freezing in numbing, dissociative ways such as sleeping excessively, over-fantasizing, or tuning out with TV or medications ('downers'

4. fawning in self-abandoning and obsequious codependent relating.

I heard a little voice inside of me last night saying, "Will you still love me since I got angry and shared my feelings?" That took me by total surprise, but I knew it was my inner child asking the most critical of questions as she pondered how his response would go. Throughout last night and today, I find myself continually asking when will he say something to me? When will the other shoe drop? That is when I step back and look and realize the examples I had for anger were from my uBPDm (rage), and then also between my mom and my dad who would fight so terribly and my dad would hit my mom. So my strongest experiences with anger as I observed them were those that were unhealthy. I was angry yesterday, and now I'm lost in the numbness of #3 and #4 above, telling myself how bad it was that I was angry. At the same time, it's interesting how my response to this particular flashback is quite different than other flashbacks I've had. I suppose that this time I'm more unfamiliar with what my emotional response is because I'm rarely here, rarely angry that way. I have been able to experience some milder forms of anger and have been able to walk through them fairly well with help from my T, but this time was quite a bit larger than me.

It helps just to pick up on the fact that I'm having an emotional reaction because now I can work on my response to it.

Thanks for the posts!  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

Wools
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« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2015, 08:26:46 AM »

Hi Wools,

Thanks for popping back in Smiling (click to insert in post)

Your dad died recently which you posted about before. Losing your dad is a very significant life event which would cause a lot of people stress.

Based on this rage incident you describe, it seems that two things might be converging here. The dead of your father is an obvious source of stress and you also posted before about how paying the bills/financial issues cause(s) you stress:

Here is an example: two weeks ago I was helping pay bills. My DH does most of the bill paying at this time, and I thought I would help. I was sorting through papers and noticed myself becoming extremely anxious after only 10 minutes. I stuck with it and kept going, then decided after about 20 minutes that I just had to stop. My internal anxiety had gone through the roof by this point, and I felt like I could crawl into bed and sleep as fatigue had come over me like a steam roller. It had nothing to do with my DH, and I wondered what was going on. I was listening to my body as my T often tells me, and I knew something was happening. A short while later, the  Idea came on. Suddenly  I was a little child watching my parents fight over money, once again. Money was tight and as a child I knew that whenever my parents began talking about the lack of money, a huge vicious fight would ensue, and us children would need to run to cover for our safety, quite literally because the fight was coming.

Your response was different this time in the sense that you lost your temper, yet still it could perhaps be that the financial choices your DH is going to make, triggered these same emotions in you as in that incident when you were helping with paying the bills. Your parents fought about money, viciously even and perhaps the recent passing of your dad made your emotional reaction to financial issues even stronger this time. Do you think this might be what is going on here?

The way your parents fought with each other and you witnessing all that violence is very traumatic by itself. Those are some horrible memories to have to carry around. I am glad though that you indeed have been able to notice that there might be more going on here with your emotional reaction Doing the right thing (click to insert in post) Being aware of what is going on is the first step in being able to make a change.

I heard a little voice inside of me last night saying, "Will you still love me since I got angry and shared my feelings?" That took me by total surprise, but I knew it was my inner child asking the most critical of questions as she pondered how his response would go.

Also great that you were able to notice and identify this voice as coming from your inner child. Step 4 for emotional flashback management comes to mind: "Speak reassuringly to the Inner Child. The child needs to know that you love her unconditionally- that she can come to you for comfort and protection when she feels lost and scared."

I recently posted an exercise for self-insight related to the inner child. You might already know this exercise, but even then it still can be helpful to take another look at it  :

I not too long ago came across an exercise which can help you enhance your ability to feel. I got it from the work of Pete Walker, M.A. who specializes in grieving and trauma-recovery:

Here is an exercise to help you enhance your ability to feel and grieve through pain. Visualize yourself as time-traveling back to a place in the past when you felt especially abandoned. See your adult self taking your abandoned child onto your lap and comforting her in various painful emotional states or situations. You can comfort her verbally: “I feel such sorrow that you were so abandoned and that you felt so alone so much of the time. I love you even more when you are stuck in this abandonment pain – especially because you had to endure it for so long with no one to comfort you. That shouldn’t have happened to you. It shouldn’t happen to any child. Let me comfort and hold you. You don’t have to rush to get over it. It is not your fault. You didn’t cause it and you’re not to blame. You don’t have to do anything. Let me just hold you. Take you’re time. I love you always and care about you no matter what.”

I highly recommend practicing this even if it feels inauthentic, and even if it requires a great deal of fending off your critic. Keep practicing and eventually, you will have a genuine experience of feeling self-compassion for that traumatized child you were, and with that, you will know that your recovery work had reached a deep level.

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« Reply #17 on: September 27, 2015, 09:57:49 PM »

Hi Kwamina, 

How interesting that you would bring the two points together. I hadn't looked at it that way, but as I read your thoughts, I allowed myself to think back through those few minutes when I was venting my anger 3 days ago, and then to go deeper, asking myself if it was possible that this is all going back much, much more in time to my FOO.

How surprising to ask myself, "What is it that you were really angry about?" then to perceive that the anger was only a front for what was actually going on behind the anger: FEAR. Fear of losing our house, fear of the unknown, fear of poor decisions, and yes, fear of my feelings being ignored as they always were. Along with those aspects comes the reminders of the loss of control when my parents fought about money and there I am, right in the midst of the emotional flashback.

Here's another interesting thing that happened a bit after my angry outburst which also connects to the flashback. DH was saying something vague, like this: "I wonder if... ." and he paused, trying to complete his thought, but my mind had automatically finished the thought (and I nearly blurted it out), "... .I should pack my bags and go."   Now where in the world did that come from as it's never anything either one of us say? I knew exactly where, from the moment it was in my head. That was the phrase my parents would say as they were fighting, before the suitcases were filled and us kids were ushered out into the car. Clearly I was very much someplace else in my mind.

Also great that you were able to notice and identify this voice as coming from your inner child. Step 4 for emotional flashback management comes to mind: "Speak reassuringly to the Inner Child. The child needs to know that you love her unconditionally- that she can come to you for comfort and protection when she feels lost and scared."

I've been so numb and slow to figure it all out, but this reminder you posted was a good opportunity for me to put into practice what I needed to do, comfort my inner child. I really liked the "exercise for self insight" that you shared. I had not read it before. There are times when you feel so lost and hurt that walking through this exercise can and does bring a lot of comfort. You know, that really is where the hurt lies, with my Inner Child.

While I am sorry and feel sorrow for sharing my angry feelings as I did, as I'm dissecting what is going on, I'm actually a little excited that I'm able to take time to figure this out. It's so much more than just plain ole' anger. In fact, it was so not like me to react this way that it prompted me to keep pushing to work on it, to understand. At the same time, it hasn't been an overnight process of revelation but is a gradual dawning awareness. Hopefully it will help me to do better next time.

DH decided to drop the other shoe today in his response to me.   My T often reminds me to keep my shield up with DH because it can stop the arrows that he sends my way. I have to be careful because my Inner Child is rather on edge these days.  But as you pointed out in Pete Walker's quote, we can take all the time we need.  Smiling (click to insert in post)

Wools
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« Reply #18 on: September 28, 2015, 11:04:54 AM »

Hi Kwamina,

I can relate to these emotional flashbacks. I've had them in several situations. In dating situations when there was an argument, I can recall recoiling from my boyfriends on a few occasions when they made quick hand movements due to the fear I would be hit for arguing. It's embarrassing because then they worry you think he would hit you but thats not it at all. It's a learned response. Once I spit in my ex- boyfriends face (we were ex at the time but it was on and off) after he grabbed my arm because I was very upset,  not to hurt me. I was mortified. My sexual abuse caused flash backs for several years, but thankfully I had loving and understanding partners in my teenage and early adult years. My father really wanted me to be a professional athlete.  For a few years after quitting sports I couldn't even watch a sporting event with friends without getting very upset. I coach children's athletics now on and off and I still feel strong emotions when I see these pushy helicopter parents. I want to cry sometimes because I see the harm they do- a lot of the kids are so frustrated they throw their games, intentional lose and throw tantrams - but I have to talk to them like I "value" their contributions.
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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2015, 05:26:21 AM »

Hi Auslaunder  

I've seen your recent post in which you talk about the various forms of abuse you were subjected to as a child. It's horrible that you had to go through this. I can relate to your feelings of embarrassment, it's like somebody else did something wrong yet you end up feeling like you're to blame. The survivor's guide for adults who suffered childhood abuse, in the right-hand side margin of this board, deals with these emotions of shame too.

Given what you've been through I can understand that you would be affected in some ways. It's good that you are able to identify how certain reactions of yours are related to things you experienced in your past. Have you been able to unlearn some of your 'unhealthy' learned responses? And if you have, how were you able to do this?

You mention still feeling strong emotions at times, when witnessing certain behaviors from others. Do you still find yourself experiencing emotional flashbacks?

Thanks for sharing your story here  

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« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2015, 04:33:18 AM »

So it wasn’t just me that got thrown by Hollywood’s depictions of “flashbacks”. 

Tip: We BPD tend to have been taught how to deal with stress (BPD are crap at it) and that includes monitoring or realising how stressed we are.  PTSD is more prevalent the mores stressed you are.

I had a flashback the other day, out of nowhere about being pushed down a coal scuttle into a dark cobwebby cellar. It clicked why this happened so often. My BPD was convinced I was afraid of the dark and also spiders, so when we all went out she would forget the house keys. This stopped when dad twigged this only happened when we kids were there, my BPD never locked herself out. So dad left a key with a relative an hour’s drive away . She never forgot her keys again. So I got triggered by coal – how bizarre. Also if you light your farts, is that a flashback ? 

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« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2015, 09:16:19 AM »

Also if you light your farts, is that a flashback ? 

Is this just a hypothetical question? Being cool (click to insert in post)

On a more serious note, that sounds like a scary flashback though. Do you believe this event actually took place this way and if you do, who do you think was the one that pushed you down that cellar? Was it your mother?

Was this the first time you got triggered by coal?
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« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2015, 03:39:39 AM »

Do you believe this event actually took place this way and if you do, who do you think was the one that pushed you down that cellar? Was it your mother? Was this the first time you got triggered by coal?

Why thank you for asking. It happened a number of times hence why it seamed daft that I still had to go down the sooty hole. I remember getting partly stuck in the hole because I had grown, which was scary for a little boy. Yet they kept sending me down the damn hole rather than leave a key with someone.

My BPD didn’t need to physically push you (although she would if needed) she always got her way. Mainly by nagging and screaming and having tantrums. She could keep that up indefinably. She’d escalate until she got her way and we all knew her escalation of aggression had no bounds.

My mates called her the Gestapo, yet she was always on best behaviour when they were around. I remember reading that the kids in Hitler’s bunkers had taken suicide pills without a physical struggle – my BPD had that sort of phycological control. Knowing where it would go if you didn’t play ball, was often enough. Resistance was futile. This is linked to the feeling of helplessness. To this day one of my biggest triggers is being forced to do something without a logical reasons without being persuaded. I freeze, I get disorientated and sometimes dissociation. Anyway, it has eased over the years, so there's hope for us all.  Smiling (click to insert in post)

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« Reply #23 on: October 01, 2015, 09:32:39 AM »

Hi Kwamina,

Due to medical problems, the way that I feel emotionally is too difficult to discern from how i feel physically in high stress situations so I have learned to ignore it completely. I'm not suggesting this as a good solution. For the most part though, I can't function in these situations and quickly start hopelessly slurring my words. I've learned to ask to stop the conversation I'm finding stressful so I can mull it over and discuss it sitting down and in a non confrontational way. Some parents still upset me, because social convention doesn't allow me to intervene much. I feel like my feelings of helplessness are valid.
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« Reply #24 on: October 02, 2015, 08:43:26 PM »

Happy,

So sorry to hear that you were treated that way!  I'd be scared too, a lot, especially if you got stuck. I imagine you have lots of strong feelings from this flashback.

Tip: We BPD tend to have been taught how to deal with stress (BPD are crap at it) and that includes monitoring or realising how stressed we are.  PTSD is more prevalent the mores stressed you are.

I'd totally agree with you here. We LIVED stress, so we know how to deal with it. My PTSD is also much worse these recent days since my dad died. I had wondered why it is much worse right now. Makes sense. Hasn't been this bad in a while. Guess our bodies and minds are only able to handle so much.

Take care, 

Wools
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« Reply #25 on: October 03, 2015, 03:57:03 AM »

My PTSD is also much worse these recent days since my dad died. I had wondered why it is much worse right now. Makes sense. Hasn't been this bad in a while.

Bereavement of a parent and loss of a loved one is one of the most stressful things we have to deal with, could that be it? Stress aggravates my PTSD. Also as we get older our ability to deal with stress diminishes, I know it has with me. My Dr once told me, it doesn’t matter how high your stress level is, you can always break it. Take care.  
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« Reply #26 on: November 25, 2015, 03:28:58 PM »

excellent topic, thanks for posting and for Kwamina's sharing on my post about anger today.

Yes, I've had many flashbacks through the years, mostly they come about when I feel any kind of judgment or hostility or intuitively sense any anger or rejection from anyone.  Most of this sensitivity is from my growing up with a very unstable uBPD mother who was constantly on my case but unpredictably so.  I am reminded of my mother's consternation and abuse every time I feel any slightest form of hostility from anyone--in the workplace, on facebook, on self-help sites, in support groups, among friends--anywhere.  I would sometime like to know how to undo this trigger.

Mostly what I do is turn my flashbacks into songs--I use my memory to go back to some painful incidents in life and often write songs about them, or turn it into another story about someone else and fictionalize it.  
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« Reply #27 on: November 27, 2015, 10:21:31 AM »

Hi Only Child

Thanks for joining this discussion, I've also responded to you in your other thread. I am sorry to hear that you are also struggling with flashbacks.

I am reminded of my mother's consternation and abuse every time I feel any slightest form of hostility from anyone--in the workplace, on facebook, on self-help sites, in support groups, among friends--anywhere.  I would sometime like to know how to undo this trigger.

Undoing the triggers might not be (completely) possible, but what might be possible is to learn new ways of managing emotional flashbacks. In reply #13 of this thread Pete Walker's 13 steps for managing emotional flashbacks are listed. Being able to accurately identify your triggers that lead to flashbacks as you've done, is already an important step to be able to better manage them Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

I think you might also benefit from our thread about automatic negative thoughts and dealing with the inner critic. Pete Walker in his work on emotional flashbacks also makes the point about how the attacks from the inner critic are related to emotional flashbacks and actually intensify when you're experiencing an emotional flashback. You can find that other thread here:

Automatic negative thoughts: Talking back to your inner critic/negative voice

Mostly what I do is turn my flashbacks into songs--I use my memory to go back to some painful incidents in life and often write songs about them, or turn it into another story about someone else and fictionalize it.  

Great that you've found some constructive ways of dealing with your flashbacks Doing the right thing (click to insert in post) Thanks for sharing this with us, other members might also benefit from these coping mechanisms Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2016, 02:04:50 PM »

It has been noted in this thread that dissociation is considered to be one of the symptoms of complex PTSD. Some researchers have referred to dissociation as an insufficiently recognized major feature of complex PTSD (Van der Hart, Nijenhuis & Steele, 2005):

"The role of dissociation in (complex) PTSD has been insufficiently recognized for at least two reasons: the view that dissociation is a peripheral, not a central feature of PTSD, and existing confusion regarding the nature of dissociation. This conceptual paper addresses both issues by postulating that traumatization essentially involves some degree of division or dissociation of psychobiological systems that constitute personality. One or more dissociative parts of the personality avoid traumatic memories and perform functions in daily life, while one or more other parts remain fixated in traumatic experiences and defensive actions. Dissociative parts manifest in negative and positive dissociative symptoms that should be distinguished from alterations of consciousness. Complex PTSD involves a more complex structural dissociation than simple PTSD."

These researchers distinguish two parts of personality in their work, ANP and EP:

"Paraphrasing a metaphor developed by Myers (1940) that described trauma-induced alternations in World War I combat soldiers, we speak of the Apparently Normal Part of the Personality (ANP) to denote a traumatized person’s functioning largely mediated by actions systems of daily life. Likewise, the Emotional Part of the Personality (EP) is adopted from Myers’ description of how vehement emotions become dominant when trauma is reexperienced. EP is largely mediated by action systems of defense and by particular modes of attachment that reduce a sense of threat. ANP and EP alternate with each other, or are activated in parallel fashion. They generally share a range of features, and they may interact."

Regarding the treatment of complex PTSD these researchers say the following:

"Treatment of complex PTSD and other trauma-related disorders should focus on the gradual integration of dissociative parts, including their mental contents (e.g., traumatic memories) and associated actions systems within the confines of a coherent and cohesive personality. This work should begin with strengthening the ANP’s ability to function in daily life, and commonly implies overcoming reciprocal fear and avoidance of different dissociative parts, and the related phobias of attachment, separation, loss, traumatic memories, and change (Nijenhuis et al., 2002; Nijenhuis & Van der Hart, 1999a; Steele, Van der Hart, & Nijenhuis, 2001, in press; Van der Hart et al., 1993)."
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« Reply #29 on: March 15, 2016, 12:13:31 AM »

When we don't deal with childhood trauma, emotion gets trapped in our bodies, and when something brings that trauma back to the surface, we experience the emotion at the same age we were when it happened, and with intensity.  After all, when we force pain to stay burried under our skin, what else can it do but grow into our heart, our bones, our whole being?  And then the flashbacks and panic attacks come. The way to get rid of it is to re-live it on some level, face the emotion and feel it, and know  that we are not in the bad place and are safe, and tell that hurt little kid that you are going to stand up for them, protect them, and acknowledge that what happened was not normal, or fair, or right and that it shouldn't of happened and it's going to be ok now because the adult part of you is in control now and is taking over.

Whew! had a psycho therapy session today where I was regressed back to a trauma that I had experienced at the age of four. The therapist used meditation, hypnosis, and talking to help me re-live and heal.  It was extremely difficult to put myself back in that room, see myself as a little kid, re-witness the trauma, feel the overwhelming emotion attached to it, and let the adult me love that little kid part of me.  Hard, but very worth the effort.  Huge release.
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