It seems very providential that just after writing my post, Really Bad Day, where I talked about re-experiencing emotions and recognising situations that put me in the same emotional state and behaving according to the same patterns as when I was abused, and feeling shock for things that happened a long time ago, I then came by a blog post by Lilly Hope Lucario on emotional flashbacks.
You can read her blog post HERE. Further, Lilly’s website about healing from trauma, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (CPTSD) can be found HERE. This material is created and written by Lilly Hope Lucario and all rights belong to her.
I’m very new to her blog and it looks as if she has some fascinating material that’s going to help me a lot in understanding what’s happening to me. The concept of emotional flashbacks certainly goes a long way to explaining emotions I experience that I may be afraid of, or that seem too intense, shameful, inappropriate, or not warranted by a certain situation. I know that learning to accept my emotions and sit with them rather than exploding or doing something harmful to numb them is a whole separate issue of its own. But I think identifying when emotional flashbacks are happening is a critical part of understanding the extremes of feelings I get in my BPD and my consequent behaviour patterns.
Thank you Lilly! I think I’ll be visiting her site often!
Please read Walking…#1: Introduction before this or any other post in this Series. Thank you.
Six ways to ground yourself when you notice the early stages of an overwhelming emotion building (eg, panic, fear, anxiety)
I find these particularly help me. The aim is not to deny or stop feeling the emotion, but to reach a safe state where you are not overwhelmed with distress or driven to compulsive actions, and where you can perhaps begin to recognise your emotions and also recognise that they are not permanent and are not all there is of you or of the world – they are valid and they are allowed and also, they will sometime, somehow, pass.
I know the ideas below sound as if they couldn’t possibly make any difference when you’re feeling terrible but somehow, sometimes, they do. I was taught that it is good to practice using them when you are feeling okay, so that they become familiar, and to try to use them as early on as you can when you first feel your emotions rising, because when you are already in a state of peaked, extreme emotion, it can be too difficult to be able to try to use them.
- Step outside if you can, or if not, just into another room. Notice all the sensations around you. What does the ground feel like under your feet? What can you hear? What can you see? Can you touch anything – the wall, the door? What does it feel like? You are here and now. These things you see around you are concrete. They will remain. The emotion, no matter how terrifying, really will somehow pass.
- Touch a favourite object. What does the surface feel like? What colour is it? Does the sensation of touch calm you? Is it an object that reminds you of a happy time or place or someone you love?
- Count backwards in [threes] from 100 to 0. [Especially occupies your attention if, like me, you are not very good at maths/logic 😉 !]
- Clench and unclench your hands rapidly, focussing on the sensations in your muscles and on your skin.
- Make a hot drink. Hold the cup whilst it’s still hot. Focus on the sensation of the spreading heat relaxing the muscles in your hands. Breathe in and out deeply and focus on the scent of the drink or the warmth of the rising steam.
- Repeat a grounding “safety statement”, even if you can’t really believe it at first. For example (replace the […] as appropriate): “I am [Jane Doe]. The date is [5 December 2015]. I am  years old. I am [in my room in my flat] in [name city]. I am in the present, not the past. I am safe now.” I am relatively new to using safety statements but my CPN told me that this is a good way to recover from flashbacks / re-experiencing memories.