Moving towards pain is frightening, especially when it is your own. When this applies to flashbacks, it can be downright terrifying. Flashbacks can create an all-over body/mind/soul/and being experience that your brain believes is happening to you right now. If you've never had one, consider yourself spared to some degree in that department. They are usually attached to some kind of trigger that signals a memory somewhere in the brain and it sets off a chain reaction throughout the body. It's as if the currently reality is just a stage that fades to black and in moves the intense set of the moment of your trauma. The flurry of activity, action, and intensity descends very rapidly, sometimes in the blink of an eye.
These flashbacks are not reserved for the faint of heart and they are not just reserved for combat vets.
Just the mere conditions of being in some form of mortal danger can lead someone to experience them.
The amazing part about them is that you can sometimes be living fairly normally and something flips the switch and there you are again. Right where you left off, as if there was no time in between. No time has passed when you experience a flashback, even if it has been years since the event. It is a strange and debilitating phenomenon of the brain that we are still learning to wrap our minds around.
So how on Earth do you cope? Well, I had to find a way to tell the brain that I'm in the here and now.
I had to find a way to get it to recognize my present moment. How did I do it? Well, by accident to be honest.
I didn't know what mindfulness, meditation, or energy work was. I was in a grocery store one day when an intense set of images came over me and I grabbed a cold shelf to hold onto. The images and the feelings were overwhelming to the point of feeling so full of energy, but yet so frozen in place. Somehow I was still aware that the shelf was cold and I was holding onto it. At some point I remember my brain kicking in saying, "Hey, that's cold. That shelf is cold." The images passed and I stood there for a minute. I looked at the shelf and said, "That's cold." I wasn't completely aware of what had happened, but I was somehow aware. It's hard to explain. I left the store without groceries, slightly confused, and rather overwhelmed. I kept thinking about what had taken place.
1. What on earth was the trigger???? ( I still don't know.)
2. Why was I so aware of the shelf I was holding onto???? (This I now know.)
My brain was triggered back to the moment of injury. The full body event took over. The fear, the panic, the anxiety, etc. It was all present. But this shelf, really wasn't making sense. This hadn't happened quite like this before where I was aware of something outside of the flashback. This is what was happening. The coldness of the shelf was completely in the present moment. It felt cool to my skin in that moment. It was as if my brain had one foot in the past and one foot in the present. It was grounding me and sending signals saying, "Hey, hello that's not where you are right now. You are still in the grocery store and this shelf is cold."
From that moment on, I found myself reaching for something cold when one of these flashbacks would kick in.
I would grab an ice cube, run cold water, anything to get my hands on something cold. It seemed to help lessen the length of what I was experiencing much the same way I use meditation now.
Meditation helps to keep you aware of the present moment. It helps you to experience the "now" in a safe and effective way. I no longer need cold to lessen the effects because I've developed tools for present moment awareness that are at my disposal, always, as preventative and counteractive measures.
Now, if healing flashbacks were as easy as holding ice cubes, wouldn't we all be doing that! So please understand that there is a process that must take place in developing your sense of safety in the present moment and many times a lot of medical and psychological intervention, as well. But this is meant to provoke thought in you that maybe things in our brains aren't always as they seem. Maybe a shift in perception can help us to overcome the events of the past in a way that we can lead healthier, happier lives. We are only prisoners of our minds if we continue to believe that we are. I stumbled upon many of those moments that were confusing and very educational. I learned to pay attention to my attention. Each one of those experiences grew upon another experience and I started to put the puzzle pieces together, although it was one very daunting and confusing task at the time.
*images: Google images