Friday, 24 September 2010

Dealing with flashbacks

I'm constantly surprised how many people experience distressing flashbacks. I've learned that it isn't just people who have been in an obviously traumatic event, but people from all walks of life. Business men to kindergarten teachers, students to doctors. Obviously, there is huge variety in what we experience when the vision forces itself upon us - but i might venture as far as to say that everybody experiences flashbacks at one point in their life.

If your flashbacks stem from your childhood, you may have picked up the wrong meaning from whatever event your mind keeps replaying. As children we’re not great in interpreting situations and often get it wrong. Even if we get it right, we can assign a disproportionate amount of emotion or meaning to an event.

Children also attribute blame in a simplified way, without understanding the complexity of the situation. Children haven't yet figured out the inner workings of a 'Fundamental Attribution Error.' As we grow into adults, we tend to carry around our original interpretation of an event, without question – we never ‘review the case’ or audit the meanings we picked up or behaviors we’ve learned from our childish encounter.

If this has happened to you, it’s time to flesh out your experience: you need apply your rational mind and the ‘what-you-know-now’ knowledge. You need to make sense of it in a wider context and understand what happened to you. Were you in one of the thousands of car crashes that happened that day? Are you one of the millions of children who had to go into a care home? Are you the only person on planet earth who was humiliated that day?

Depersonalizing the experience can greatly reduce the extent you feel a victim, read about others who have been in the same situation. You are not alone! Whatever you have experienced – you are not alone with you memories, so don't act like you're all alone, share!

Maybe the experience your mind clings to has been warped out of proportion and has absolutely nothing to do with your wellbeing right now. Perhaps you’re choosing to hold yourself prisoner to a memory that you accidently assigned too much emotion. But, nurturing your flashbacks and letting them be a part of your identity will not help you progress.

Using NLP techniques for flashbacks

When I have a flashback, I change my physiology in some way. If I’m slouching, I’ll stretch and sit bolt upright, and then, I say out loud ‘I will not be held prisoner’. Then I eagerly do something else that uses up the excess brain power that managed to conjure up this flashback (even an online game will do!) If I’m alone, I’ll use my body as if i’m really annoyed at someone. I’ll slap my hand on the table and speak in a low, loud, considered voice ‘I will not be held prisoner!’ – as if I was a famous actress in an oscar winning blockbuster.

It’s a powerful statement – I will no longer be held prisoner to the emotional-laden events that my mind randomly decides to throw at me. So now that you’ve unpicked the meaning, depersonalized your experience – tell your mind that it has no darn place upsetting you like this.

I actually do something similar when I get a vision of something bad that could happen in the future, I just go ‘SHUT UP’ in a condescending tone. Slowly but surely – your mind gives up! It takes a lot of discipline and can be really tough emotionally, but flashbacks will soon go and bug someone else.