Types of Flashbacks

My New Blog Is Coming in April!

Well, it is almost done, and I am very excited! The site itself is 99% done. The last big job is teaching me how to post. I have already learned a lot and have actually written and formatted the first post. But I don’t know how to post a photo or arrange things on a page.

The couple of times I tried to edit a page with both text and photos, I learned that the page I am working on does not necessarily look the same as the one shown in the preview. That will take some getting used to! And there is tons to learn about photos – how to place them on the page, how to enlarge or shrink them, how to add captions, and more.

I have so much to learn because SquareSpace works with blocks of copy that can be moved around the page. WordPress did, indeed, introduce “Blocks” as an editing option some time back. I was used to using the “Classic” system, which is similar to working in Text Edit, my go-to word processor app. Not wanting to use the limited time my brain allots me to learn technical things, I kept on using Classic.

Until, it seems, WordPress stopped supporting Classic. It became harder to work with, and strange glitches started to appear. For example, the page I was working on would suddenly disappear without leaving a trace, even if I had saved a draft. That’s when I made the decision to move to a better platform, even if I did have to learn new things.

This blog will stay up for reference for a long, long time. It may live forever through the WayBack Machine at Archive.org.

The new blog will be online sometime in April. As soon as we go live, I will let you know!


The shedding season is rapidly turning into the summer-coat season. Each week, there is less fur all over the house and my clothes. His coat looks a little scruffy, and his tail is in winter mode near his body and summer mode on the last six inches. As there has been no noticeable change in temperature, I assume his circadian rhythm is running the show. Otherwise, nothing more to report.

Types of Flashbacks

New parts have been appearing in my system recently. They are different from my fragments, and they fascinate me. They seem complex, like nothing I have ever seen before, and almost exotic. This has led me to reexamine some basic concepts of trauma and dissociation.

Flashbacks – the idea of what a flashback is, not a real flashback – has been a current theme. I’d like to share with you some of these thoughts.

When you are terrified, your brain registers what is happening in trauma-memory mode. What is stored is not a story but rather a record of what our senses were experiencing at the time. So when the memory surfaces, it is in the form of fragments of sensations,  not as a coherent story.

Bennet Braun identified four types of flashbacks: behavior, emotion, sensory, and cognition. He used the mnemonic BASK. (B for behavior; A for affect, which means emotion; S for sensation: and K for knowledge.) Sensation includes sight, sound, smell, taste, pain, pressure, heat and cold, and muscle memories. I wrote more at length about BASK flashbacks at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/bask-flashbacks/.

I see that flashbacks can be categorized in other ways. For me, some have been very vivid, but most are not. They feel split off from me, far away and faint. I think this is because the vivid ones took me by surprise, while the faint ones were at times when I was already very dissociated. The vivid ones are usually much shorter than the foggy ones.

You can arrange them by how long they last. Some are “flicks,” little pieces of something. Then there are flashbacks that go on and on. I’ve had a flashback last over three months with hardly any breaks. The latest long one was thanks to a clueless dentist. It lasted on and off for two weeks and is now triggered by any kind of dental work. Each time, I am triggered, I get a little more information about what happened. These flow-on flashbacks are not as incapacitating as the original one.

I use the phrase “keep one foot in the present” to remind me how to get distance from an overwhelming flashback. With part of me in the present, I know I am in a flashback. If I am totally in the past, it feels just as if it is happening right now, and I am confused and disoriented, as well as terrified. If I have both feet in the present, the flashback disappears, to wait for a better day. After years of reminding myself, I automatically accept the flashback at the moment, knowing that I will not be flooded.

I also rank flashbacks by how deeply they affect me. Some lead me back to events that bring up/explain lies designed to form a new core negative belief to replace my natural positive belief. The younger I was when this occurred, the more intense and long-lasting the flashback. Since the training was reinforced over a span of years, many different things can cause a flashback. The core negative belief (core lie) that I keep going back to is that I am evil through and through, poisonous and destructive, and that I can do nothing to prevent myself from harming others.

Which brings me to one last thing I would like to share – flashbacks within flashbacks.

Something horrible happens. When I encounter a detail that reminds me of that event, I go into flashback. Let’s say that the original horrible event was stepping on the cat’s tail at age 4. The cat was white with black spots, I was wearing a yellow dress, and the floor was hexagonal tiles. The next time I wear that dress, I am reminded of the poor cat and go into flashback.

The second time I wear that dress, I go back to two points in time: the moment I stepped on the cat’s tail and the first time I went into flashback – a flashback to a flashback – a flashback within a flashback. If I see a cat with similar markings or a hexagonal tile floor, I may also be triggered into a flashback. I don’t know whether each new trigger creates a new series of flashbacks or whether it is all one series. In any event, it’s all pretty complex, to say the least.

There’s no need to struggle to remember all this. If you relate strongly to part of what I described, you will have little trouble remembering it. If you don’t relate but are curious, you can always reread this post.

If you only remember one thing, choose the BASK model. It’s worth reading about time and time again.

Asking Your Advice About This Blog

A Wish for Everybody

It’s been one storm after another here on the West Coast. Saturated soil, flooding, emergency evacuations, and almost a dozen deaths from the storms. And I read about similar weather throughout the United States and Canada. One good friend was in an earthquake and another had to evacuate because of a hurricane. 

I wish you and everybody you love safety in this crazy weather. If the present-day threat brings flashbacks, my wish includes that you handle them with gentleness and compassion for the frightened child you once were. 

Spencer’s News

I have been mystified about the lack of hair in the brush every time I brush his long, thick fur. Today, I discovered the reason for this. 

His cat tree is upholstered in a dark carpet material that latches on to loose hair like Velcro. I glanced at the top platform and noticed that it had turned from black to white. So I brushed the cat tree instead of the cat! After about an hour, the wastebasket was filled with fur. Now I can, without guilt, stop feeling I am neglecting him if I don’t brush him every day.

I had lunch with Baker’s previous owner, who told me something very reassuring. (Baker was the Turkish Van mix I adopted before getting Spencer. He got sick just as soon as I adopted him and died of cancer within two months.) She said that Baker was timid for the first few years of his too-short life. If somebody he didn’t know well entered the house, he hid until the intruder was gone. By the time I met him, he was fearless and very social. Hopefully, Spencer is following in his footsteps.

Asking Your Advice About This Blog

When I started the blog, I just wanted a place to publish the short articles I had written for the Survivorship newsletter so that they would be all in one place and unlikely to get lost. 

I then started writing informative articles on various aspects of ritual abuse. There were articles on the background of major Satanic holidays, flashbacks, personal safety, choosing a therapist and evaluating therapy, and DID and defenses. There were guest articles, book reviews, articles about survivors/artists, and some of my poetry and artwork. Not much of anything about my personal life.

Recently, I have been sharing a lot more about myself. At first, I thought I would continue sharing information and just use myself as an example. Gradually, my life today became the focus. Of course, ritual abuse is an ever-present issue for me; it is present in everything I write and everything I do. 

I noticed that I have fewer readers than I used to, fewer new viewers, and fewer return viewers. This is also true for my website, ra-info.org. I thought this was because ra-info hasn’t been updated in a long time and people aren’t reading the blog because they aren’t interested in me. So much of it is about illness and cats, both of which can get tedious.

However, I heard from a friend that neither the website nor the blog appears on the first page of a Google search. They used to be near the top. Google’s algorithm changed, and I didn’t. Guess I need to study SEO (search engine optimization).

(I just checked and found that the sites Google selects are sort of weird. There are a lot of resources in the United Kingdom and lots of material from the 1990s. The top hit is a short article by the Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Support Centre in Australia describing ritual abuse and its effects on survivors and giving Australian resources. I wonder what factors made it the first choice when they applied the current algorithm.)

Another friend told me that she thought she had subscribed to the blog, but she didn’t get a copy of new posts or an announcement of any kind. If people who subscribed aren’t getting anything, that surely lowers readership considerably.  

Another friend said that WordPress was too complicated, and so she blogs on SquareSpace, which is becoming popular. Simplicity is very appealing to me. WordPress is so complicated! It drives me nuts three times a month. I write and proof the entry and then spend about 4 – 5 hours just formatting it on WordPress. The draft often vanishes when I am almost ready to publish it, and I have to start over again.  

I’m turning to you all for advice. To make sure subscribers see this request, I’ll send it individually to people I believe have recently subscribed. My questions are –

1. Do you like that I share the struggles of my present life? Would you prefer more information about RA/MC and healing? Do you like the short items about conferences, holidays, my cat, etc.?

2. What do you think of the idea of leaving this WordPress blog up for reference, but starting up anew on SquareSpace?

3. Does anybody know anything about SEO? Would you be willing to coach me? I warn you – I do better if you communicate in regular old English. I’m not fluent in GeekSpeak.

Thank you so much for your feedback. If you tell me what works for you and what falls flat, I can make the posts more helpful to everybody. And if I get some advice on SEO and which platform to use, we can reach more people with less hassle.

Thanksgiving and Dissociation

I’m sitting here not knowing what to write. My mind feels blank, empty. I’ve been in this place before, many, many times. I have always come up with something, and most of the time I was satisfied with what I had written. That doesn’t mean I’ll be able to pull it off today, of course.

It’s a very familiar feeling. There is a pane of glass between me and the world, and whatever is “me” has stepped back, several steps behind the glass. Quiet, unengaged, just looking outwards toward the world. No judgment, no reaction, no words, no thoughts.

It’s dissociation, of course. At this time, for whatever reason, I am more dissociated than usual. If I fight it and scold myself for being so unengaged, so uncaring, it is unpleasant. I start brooding on what might be wrong with me, and why I haven’t fixed it once and for all after all these years. This leads to a fair amount of self-hatred.

If I just experience it without all that useless self-improvement chatter, it isn’t all that unpleasant. It’s nothing – no pain, no anxiety, no pleasure. Isn’t this what you are supposed to achieve when you empty your mind during meditation? Just observe the thoughts as they float by, don’t try and catch them and remember them, just observe without judgment, and then let them go. When the thoughts have gone, isn’t this what is left? Probably not, but it’s the closest I can come to describing what being dissociated feels like to me.

Dissociation, of course, takes many forms. It simply means that things that were once together have gotten separated. One’s self can be split into separate parts, each holding a part of the original self. A memory may be split, and parts stored separately so that only a smell is recalled. Or an image, like a still photograph. Or the emotion that was felt at the time the memory was formed.

We all learned to dissociate as very little kids. It was the only way we could survive what was done to us. We learned how to ”leave our bodies;” that is, we separated our bodies and our minds so that we could be unaware of the pain and the threat to our very lives. We floated up to the treetops and looked at the stars, or floated into an angel’s arms, or became a little bird perching on a branch, ready to fly away at any moment. Or, like me, we became nothing.

Thanksgiving has always been difficult for me. I think that is why I am so disengaged. I am re-experiencing the state I was in during those childhood Thanksgivings.

It’s interesting – I only have one memory of a Thanksgiving up until my twenties. A little glass bowl was filled with celery stalks and olives. I have memories of Christmas, Easter, and my birthday, all difficult days for me throughout adulthood. But Thanksgiving remains a blank. The celery and olives have no meaning, as far as I can tell. They are neutral, neither liked nor disliked, with no attached symbolism. Probably that is why they are remembered. I focused on something banal to protect myself from whatever was happening around me or to me. As neutral as leaves on a tree.

Today, despite feeling totally detached, I am making a point to see that the plants are watered. The cat will be fed every day this week, and the litter box will be cleaned. I will pet him every time he asks for attention. I may feel that I don’t care about the plants and the cat, but the plants won’t notice, and the cat probably won’t either. I will try to get a few things done, just not as much as usual.

And I will try and accept this eerie, quiet feeling. Not accept as in, “fuck it, it’s here, so I shall put up with it until lit goes away.” More like, “Gee, this has some advantages. The little voice that says, ‘hurry, things need to be done, important things. Stop daydreaming!’ is quiet. It feels sort of nice to float along, not caring or worrying so much.”

Thursday will come and go, and I will come out of this stasis and start feeling again. Meanwhile, I have ordered 120 bulbs on sale for my spring garden, cooked four artichokes, and eaten one. I made my bed and my laundry is done. I have actually been taking care of myself without thinking about it. Friday, I will feel good about the things I did while I was sleepwalking. Today, it is enough to just notice them.