Complex Trauma And Emotional Flashbacks

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Abstract

MyPTSD Pro
Pete Walker specialises in complex trauma.

Hi Anthony,
I wonder if you could explain something to me. Its probably a stupid question.
Avoidance.
I am not sure if it is off topic or not.

I realise there are different extents of avoidance but I am talking about the type of avoidance that is directly linked to previous trauma:
Some of it feels like a brick wall. I am guessing it can be the avoidance of either being triggered or having a flashback. ??
Is it generally more linked to one or the other?
I am attempting to make some sense of some situations which really don't make sense to me.
If you have time that is.
Thanks.
 

anthony

Founder
Avoidance is avoidance... you either avoid it or not. The reason... always subjective to say the least. Fear is a huge motivator with avoidance. We fear being reexposed, we fear the consequences of exposure, we fear the symptom outbreak that we know will occur... really, name your poison, avoidance goes hand in hand with fear!
 

BloomInWinter

MyPTSD Pro
...and avoidance for me generalizes outward but I don't know why. But I know it does. I'll pick a paramedic trauma to explain.

First, I had a traumatic call. I responded to a double fatal and knew both of the victims.

I began avoiding that place in my community. Then, I was at another place in the community when I had a flashback to that call. So, I started avoiding that place too because it made me afraid I'd be reminded me of the fear I felt about the first place.

Then, that street name reminded me of the place on that street where that call happened. Now, I avoided the place of the wreck, the place that I had a flashback, AND the whole street...then just driving by the cross-streets began to remind me, so I avoided THOSE, too.

Constriction. Due to growing avoidance. My world kept growing smaller and smaller.

To heal all these, I don't have to map 'em all...I just have to face the wreck and process it out. Easy for me to pinpoint THIS trauma.

But my complex traumas? ...which is the initial? Hence...the longer, more complicated recovery time just uncovering the source.

SOMEDAY I'll identify them all! Or, heal the worst and live with the rest.
 

Amy Jo

Confident
Wow this, for me, is one of the most important pieces I've read on complex PTSD. I've been in therapy and educating myself and yet how have I not heard of some of this? It's amazing and makes only too much sense. Emotional flashbacks--that's what 90% of mine were/are. I was abused physically, sexually, and emotionally and abandoned from the age of five on. I don't remember all that happened, but my God am I sometimes overflowing with the remembered emotions of it. I'm not as hypervigilent as I was (I was severely impaired with C-PTSD, Bipolar, Psychosis, Dissociation...for over a year, in and out of the hospital, all that jazz) but if I get stressed out (which is easy because it's scary trying to rebuild your life), I dissociate, and dissociating triggers my emotional flashbacks. It happened just a few days ago (the trigger) and I'm still affected by it--still self-hating, denying, shamed. But you have given me a light on in this--because I can see now what happened and what I'm doing. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it! I'm new here, so I'll be searching for more articles by you. Kudos to the work you do and your compassion.
 

Amy Jo

Confident
One more thing--this article made me wake up to the fact that more than half of my relationship problem ( a nine year engagement) was because of my emotional flashbacks, and I wasn't aware that that was what they were
 

oriana

New Here
This article describes exactly what I go through, my biggest problem - I'm afraid to live anywhere. If I hear certain noises I immediately go into fight/flight/suicide mode, but the noises can be really minor, like a neighbour closing a cupboard door, people talking/walking. Hypervigilant in any living environment, anticipating noise, worrying about noise, being afraid to go home, listening carefully to any sounds. I don't like people being close to where I live, inside or out, unless I know them well. I fear that this will be the death of me, and I loathe myself for it all. Can't avoid living somewhere, ie. can not avoid triggers so I'm always in this state, and can't afford a large detached house in an affluent quiet neighbourhood which might help.

In this state I often go into a "if only I had a partner/someone here to protect me" which ties in perfectly with the abandonment aspect. Also suffer similarly in the relationship department. Anyway this one quote was something I hadn't considered before and sheds some new light on my situation:

"It is as if the inner child is clamoring for validation of past parental abuse and neglect: "See this is how bad it was--how overwhelmed, terrified, ashamed and abandoned I felt so much of the time."
 

oriana

New Here
Just want to add that I realize now that the article is really focusing on "emotional" flashbacks ie. someone looking at you a certain way or saying something to you, or being afraid to make the smallest error, etc. The inner critic. The perfectionist. Fear of intimacy. Fear of punishment and rejection... for merely existing.

If the "emotional flashback" connection to fear of noise isn't obvious, I can elaborate. Noise makes me feel small, powerless, helpless. Noise is a disturbance to my peace and "no one cares what I think, feel, or what I want". Noise can be punishment. I can't make any noise or else. I don't know when the noise is coming or how bad it will be, etc. etc. No one is here to protect me from the noise. Angry outbursts because of noise. I hate myself because of it. To me it's like a flashback, an emotional flashback and a trigger rolled into one.
 
Wow! This article has so much truth for me. When I was reading it a lot of what my psychologist has been sayingbeen repeated here. It has helped to explain some ideas I have bee stuggling with. Thank you
 

angel2write

MyPTSD Pro
... I was surprised that a number of clients with moderate and sometimes minimal sexual or physical childhood abuse were plagued by emotional flashbacks. Over time, however, I realized that these individuals had suffered extreme emotional neglect: the kind of neglect where no caretaker was ever available for support, comfort or protection. No one liked them, welcomed them, or listened to them. No one had empathy for them, showed them warmth, or invited closeness. No one cared about what they thought, felt, did, wanted, or dreamed of. Such trauma victims learned early in life that no matter how hurt, alienated, or terrified they were, turning to a parent would actually exacerbate their experience of rejection.

Wow. Yes. Identifying with this in a very powerful way.

Ongoing experience convinces me that some children respond to pervasive emotional neglect and abandonment by over-identifying or even merging their identity with the inner critic and adopting an intense form of perfectionism that triggers them into painful abandonment flashbacks every time they are less than perfect or perfectly pleasing.

I do this ALL THE TIME... and didn't even realize it was part of this whole mess. A very helpful article. I'm going to print it off and study it. Maybe take it to my counselor. Thanks for posting this.

Angel
 

scott_1971_h

Confident
had suffered extreme emotional neglect: the kind of neglect where no caretaker was ever available for support, comfort or protection. No one liked them, welcomed them, or listened to them. No one had empathy for them, showed them warmth, or invited closeness. No one cared about what they thought, felt, did, wanted, or dreamed of. Such trauma victims learned early in life that no matter how hurt, alienated, or terrified they were, turning to a parent would actually exacerbate their experience of rejection.
You betcha. Yeti used to LOVE making things worse. If there was care to withhold, she'd do it...

Scott
 
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