Terms of Disorders Associate with
Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
What are they?
FLASHBACKS ARE memories of past traumas. They may
take the form of pictures, sounds, smells, body
sensations, feelings or the lack of them (numbness).
Many times there is no actual visual or auditory
memory. One may have the sense of panic, being
trapped, feeling powerless with no memory stimulating
it. These experiences can also happen in dreams.
As a child, we had to insulate ourselves from the
emotional and physical horrors of the trauma. In
order to survive, the insulated child remained
isolated, unable to express feelings and thoughts of
that time. Like a time capsule that comes out in the
When that part comes out it is like the little one
experiences it today. We forget we have an adult part
available for reassurance, protection and grounding.
The intense feelings and sensations are so frightening
and seem to come from nowhere.
Flashbacks can occur during any form of sexual intimacy,
or it may be a person who has traits similar to the
perpetrator. It may be a situation that stirs up
similar trapped feelings (confrontation, aggression, etc.).
Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, (P.T.S.D.) --
The normal experience of people who have gone through
an event that is outside of the range of normal human
experience. Flashbacks are a symptom of P.T.S.D.
WHAT CAN HELP?
1. Tell yourself you are having a flashback.
2. Remind yourself the worst is over. The feelings
and sensations are memories from the past. It is time
to let it out (terror, rage, hurt, panic). Now it is
time to honor your experience.
3. Get grounded. Stamping your feet on the ground so
the little one knows you have feet and can get away
because as a child you could not. You can now!
4. Breathe. When we get scared we stop breathing normally.
The body panics as a result of lack of oxygen. Lack
of oxygen can cause a great deal of panicky feelings.A
Breathe deeply and a lot of panic feelings will decrease.
5. Reorient to the present. Use your 5 senses. Look
and see the colors in the room, shapes of things,
people near you. Listen to sounds, feel your body and
what is near you, a chair you are sitting on, your clothes.
6. Speak to the little one and reassure him/her.
It is healing to get your adult in the picture so the
little one knows he/she is not alone, that you are not
in danger and you can get out if you need to. The child
needs to know it is safe to experience the
feelings/sensations of the past.
7. Get support. Depending on your situation, you may need
to be alone or may want someone near you. In either case,
it is important that your close ones know about flashbacks
so they can help with the process, whether that means letting you
be by yourself or being there for you.
8. Take the time to recover. Flashbacks can be very powerful.
Don't expect to jump into adult activities right away.
Take a nap, take a warm bath, or have some quiet time.
Be kind and gentle to yourself. Don't beat yourself up for
having a flashback, but appreciate how much your little
one went through as a child.
9. Honor your experience. Appreciate yourself for surviving
that horrible time you had as a child. Respect your body's
need to experience those feelings of long ago.
10. Be patient. It takes time to heal the past. It takes
time to learn appropriate ways to take care of yourself,
of being an adult who has feelings, and developing effective
ways of coping in the here and now.
11. Find a competent therapist, one who understands the process of
healing from incest, a guide, a support, a coach in the healing
process. Don't try to do it alone.
12. Join a self help group. Others survivors can be wonderful
allies in the process of healing.
13. Understand that you are not crazy, YOU ARE HEALING!