We know emotions. They’re healthy, normal. A pet is sick or dies, and we are sad. If it is sunny outside, this could be a good day. We become excited. We plan for an adventure. There’s a hike, a few hours at the zoo with our family, or maybe the pool. A little sunburn isn’t bad. Even a tantrum from the three-year-old doesn’t spoil a day. Emotions are flavors added to the stewpot.
I’ve had weeks of crying jags for no apparent reason, and I’m bewildered as to what started them. I can’t recall an emotion. Am I sad? Angry? Sometimes I’ll stare at the wall or want to hide under the covers because life seems too much. It’s the tsunami crashing over my plans to move forward into a good life. I write lists and can’t seem to accomplish the tasks.
The difference in simple terms between an emotion and a flashback is the logic. I can be disappointed in an immediate event or happy about it. If I’m having a flashback, it’s illogical. I may be disappointed about the experience but also accuse others that they did this on purpose. I’ll feel like going into a dark hole for a longer time or rage about someone letting me down. And perhaps they did. The flashback has magnified the pain.
Emotional flashbacks are sudden and often prolonged regressions (‘amygdala hijackings’) to the frightening circumstances of childhood. They are typically experienced as intense and confusing episodes of fear and/or despair – or as sorrowful and/or enraged reactions to this fear and despair. Flashback ManagementPete Walker
How can you tell if someone has a flashback?
“Flashbacks sometimes feel as though they come out of nowhere, but there are often early physical or emotional warning signs. These signs could include a change in mood, feeling pressure in your chest, or suddenly sweating. Becoming aware of the early signs of flashbacks may help you manage or prevent them.”RAINN.ORG
There is a time in our childhood before we could name an emotion when we create patterns of feeling. It’s possible our parents were busy and tired. My dad worked two and sometimes three jobs. Mom helped when we had a business—three kids and not a lot of money. As the third child, it was a challenge to be noticed. I needed more than they could give. I cried with ear infections, and mom was exhausted. She needed a break. And there wasn’t one in sight anywhere for her. Now, it’s still difficult for me to ask for help.
One tool Richard Grannon teaches in his YouTube videos is for emotions. Many of us are not aware of our feelings. I wrote about this in a previous post, The Jungle of My Emotions. We befriend our emotions, even the ugly ones, and they soon become familiar. Name them as to recognize them. Are you afraid? Or are you feeling betrayed? This method has been helpful for me.
A decent way to do this is to set a timer for three times a day. Mine is 9:00 AM, 2:00 PM, and 8:00 PM. When the timer chimes, check-in with yourself. Are you bored, lost, sad, or feeling angry? Being aware of yourself is a start. There is plenty of help if you need it.
I don’t know your life or your family, only you know them. You swim in those emotions deep. It takes a near miracle, as the fish pulled from the water, to realize life can be different. I do have hope for me, and I have hope for you. If you can relate to any of this, follow some of the links. There is help. It can get better.
Rick Hanson Ph.D.-The Foundations of Well Being
Richard Grannon-The Spartan Life Coach
Pete Walker-Flashback Management