Professional Perspective: Flashbacks, Calling A Halt – Part 1
Sunday, July 5th, 2009 • PTSD Guest Post: Professional Perspective •
- Trained as an EMT, city and wildland firefighter.
- Endured some tough times in his own life.
- A jack of all trades in construction (the kind of guy who knows how to solve the unexpected!)
- A former volunteer at World Relief.
- He’s battled chronic, stress related illness.
- Educated in psychology, sociology and business.
- A Christian life coach.
Safe to say, James knows some stuff. I asked if he would whip up a little something for us about managing flashbacks. Cool dude that he is, he’s combined his knowledge with his passion for continuous learning and cooked up a great outline.
Today, Part 1 of James’ look at flashbacks and how we can gain power over them.
Fact: It’s easier to remember something when it’s tied to our emotions. That’s why we can remember every little word that someone said during a heated argument, but turn around and forget where we set down the keys when we walked in the door! Blame it on the hippocampus… the part of our brain that does double duty as an emotional regulator and memory encoder.
Those of us who have suffered a traumatic incident know about the powerful mark that is left on our brains. The high emotion experienced during trauma means that sensory memories are vividly encoded, almost burned into our neural structure. Of course this happens differently for everyone… some of us are more visual or auditory, so our memory of the trauma may be a series of images or sounds. For some, tactile sensations or smells come roaring back as real and disturbing as the moment they first sped through our nervous systems. When we flash back to these memories, our brains re-experience the traumatic incident just as if it were happening all over again.
How can we halt flashbacks before they run away with us and cause us to go through a full physiological stress response? What are some quick, practical ways to pull ourselves back to reality when we can’t even trust our own five senses? I wish there were some secret formula to dealing with flashbacks that worked for everyone… some mantra or series of “moves” that would banish those traumatic memories before they cause a meltdown.
The truth is, we are all so different that no single thing works for everyone. We are talking about a wide range of traumas here, and even people who experience the exact same incident remember and deal with it differently. That said, next Sunday I’ll outline some ideas for dealing with flashbacks on the run, in the moment, wherever you happen to be.
James Thomas Klotzle is a compassionate stress management coach and passionate student of the human mind. He and his wife live in St. Paul, Minnesota where he speaks, writes and runs his coaching practice from www.Christian-Life-Coaching.org
To read Part 2 of James’ post click here.