Flashbacks and Intrusive Memories
When people think of flashbacks they often think of images that appear in one’s mind and which hold some sort of traumatic content. Other kinds of flashbacks, or intrusive memories, manifest as sounds, smells and body sensations. Sometimes the memories are overwhelming and cause a person to feel frozen or stuck in the memory. Other times the memories might seem like they are really happening all other again. And at times the memory may be experienced at the same time the person is fully aware of what’s going on in the present. All these forms of flashbacks can be disorienting and frightening.
Occasionally I speak with people who worry about whether or not their memories are “true” or “real”. What’s important to me is that your experience of flashbacks today is both true and real and I want to validate that for you.
There are several ways I work with memories in sessions, depending on each person’s goals and interests. I encourage people to respect the truth contained in the flashbacks, while also giving voice to any conflicting doubts. People generally feel better when such memories are integrated and deactivated– and it’s often helpful to express them through imagery and movement and the written word while simultaneously building skills for remaining stable and grounded in the face of the fear.
It rarely seems helpful to simply talk and talk about the memories; instead it’s much more satisfying to do something about them.