It is such a powerful thing to find a descriptor that explains something fundamental yet previously unknown or intangible to the self. On my healing journey, that I have tentatively yet wholeheartedly started, the first piece of terminology that empowered and started to emancipate me was ‘complex post traumatic stress disorder’ (cptsd) the second is ’emotional flashbacks’.
For as long as I can remember I have had moments that have paralysed me, struck me mute, immobilised, filled with shame, anger and fear; followed by a vicious inner critic and then an intense desire to drown these feelings and thoughts in red wine or punishment or some kind. Even writing this brings my anxiety to the fore… breathing deeply to push through the fear… Full blown panic attacks, although incredibly uncomfortable and debilitating, for me always had a clear trigger; a process that could relatively easily be cognitively recognised and managed. These other paralysing events were/are visceral yet vicarious; deeply seated within the self with no apparent trigger or link to a specific clear locus. Debilitating doesn’t quite cover how awful these experiences are.
Coming across a description and definition in the form of the term ’emotional flashbacks’ (Pete Walker: Emotional Flashback Management), for me, can only be likened to an epiphany or enlightenment experience. This analogy just about touches on the depth of comfort such a discovery has provided me. These flashbacks are still raw, intense and painfully soul destroying but I now have language (and a pedagogy) to begin the discovery, knowing and changing process that needs to occur as I start to tame this monster that currently holds my life to ransom.
image taken from here