13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks

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Oriole
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13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks

Post by Oriole » Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:39 pm

Since I mentioned Pete Walker, here's his helpful list to keep up on your wall if you have trouble with flashbacks or just getting stuck in a black hole. It's posted on his website and published in his book on CPTSD.

13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks
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.
8.   (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)
9.   (b) Breathe deeply and slowly. (Holding the breath also signals danger).
10.   [c] Slow down: rushing presses the psyche's panic button.
11.   [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.
12.   [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.
13. 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
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.

Oriole
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Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jul 16, 2019 1:53 am

Re: 13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks

Post by Oriole » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:21 pm

I wrote to Pete Walker to make sure it was cool to post this, and he said that he was happy that I had.

I highly recommend his book "Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving" to anyone who struggles with issues from childhood abuse or neglect. It's not always an obvious truth or easy to accept that you've been abused. I thought my abuse "wasn't so bad", but Walker clearly showed me the many ways early and repeated traumas had trapped me in an endless cycle of pain and self hatred that has stymied my happiness and success throughout my life. I still have a long way to go, but I'm feeling more hope now than at any time I can remember.

Flifflo
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Joined: Mon May 06, 2019 3:33 pm

Re: 13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks

Post by Flifflo » Tue Jul 23, 2019 4:40 pm

Thanks for posting Oriole,

Finding Pete Walker’s book and words was the beginning of my path to healing. It’s how I found out I have CPTSD. It all makes so much sense to me now. There is so much other good info and reading material out there too. Getting Past Your Past by Shapiro about healing through EMDR, The Body Keeps the Score is really fantastic and Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve is great for reducing those ptsd symptoms. I’m sure there are more.

I will always be thankful to Pete Walker for getting me on the right path (I wrote to him too and he responded. Was really validating). It was good to review these steps.
Thank you!
Warmly,
Flifflo

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