Flashbacks, Triggers,and Worksheets

The American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is presenting “Way Maker World Conference.”

Thursday, September 14 – Saturday, September 18, 2021, Orlando, FL.

This is a huge conference held every two years. Almost 4,000 people have registered and they are expecting 7,000. There will be approximately 50 pre-conference workshops, 175 clinical/biblical workshops, and 200 exhibitors.

Presentations are organized into thirteen tracks. The ones that caught my attention are “Abuse, Violence, and Trauma-Informed Care,” “Mental Health, the Brain and Neuroscience,” and “Psychiatry, Behavioral Medicine, and Collaborative Care.” Among other topics covered are addictions, sexuality, family issues, and pastoral counseling.

I tried using the AACC therapist finder and it needs work. Or else I am using it wrong! If you are looking for Christian counseling. or think you may in the future, you might want to copy the information on the conference site. I recognized a couple of presenters that are good with RA. If you would like to consult them for a referral in your area, write me and I will put you in touch.

The AACC website is: https://www.aacc.net/

Their blog is at https://www.aacc.net/category/aacc-blog/

The conference website is: https://worldconference.net

Contact information: PO Box 739 Forest, VA 24551, contactmemberservices@aacc.net, 1-800-526-8673

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I learned something new yesterday about flashbacks. My therapist knows so much, and it never occurs to her to tell me unless I ask! But half the time I have no idea that there is something to ask about.

I had always assumed that flashbacks were always triggered by something in the present. If I couldn’t identify the trigger, it was because it had snuck in under the radar. But she said that not all flashbacks are triggered by present-day events. Some are due to a part sharing a memory, wanting the “me” who is out to have a particular piece of information. In that case, it’s fruitless to look for a trigger. Or the trigger might simply be a thought that part had, like “she’s strong enough to know this now.”

In situations where there is a trigger, it’s useful to see the connection. Then in the future, if you encounter the same trigger, you may be prepared for a flashback. And the trigger itself is a piece of information – it may well be part of the memory.

A trigger is very useful to sort out how much of your reaction comes from the present situation and how much comes from the past and is, in effect, part of the flashback. This helps ground you in the present and helps prevent a melt-down or other over-reaction. It gives you more control and freedom to chose among your coping mechanisms.

Some people have designed flashback worksheets to help them connect the trigger to the flashback. I found that they weren’t very useful to me because I got all hung up in searching for a trigger that didn’t exist, or that existed but was invisible to me, so I stopped using them. But other people have found them very helpful.

A blog entry on a trigger-free worksheet I designed is at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/flashback-worksheets/.

In short, it consists of these questions:

1. What am I thinking/feeling?
2. What from the past could have set off this reaction?
3. What in the present could be causing this reaction?
4. How can I test if it’s from the past or present? (or both)
5. If it’s in the
Present – what action can I take to solve the problem?
Past – what can I do to calm myself down?

It’s interesting to see that eight years ago I suspected that not all flashbacks are preceded by triggers. I had forgotten that insight and had to come across the information all over again in therapy. I am so expert at forgetting!

By the way, my therapist told me that it is very, very common for ritual abuse survivors to be preoccupied with their own deaths. It doesn’t seem to be something that develops in old age. It just seems to come with the RA territory. For me, it’s a gnawing intrusive thought that pops up several times a day (or night). I find that it sometimes appears at random times and sometimes it’s part of a routine. Like every time I go out of the house, I think, “I might die while I am out. What do I need to do before I leave? What don’t I want people to see?” And then I talk myself out of worrying about it. And remind myself that the actuarial tables say I might well live into my nineties.

She also told me that the fear of being killed was because we were told we would be killed if we told what had been done to us. So that surge of fear is a feeling-flashback.

I was going to say that all intrusive thoughts are visitors from the past. But that’s not true – present-day anxiety can cause rumination and intrusive thoughts that just pop into your mind. Say you are working at a company where there are a lot of layoffs and you are worried that you will lose your job. It would be perfectly natural to have intrusive thoughts about becoming unemployed, even if job insecurity was not a family issue in your childhood.

Not every bad thing in the world can be ascribed to the cult. Not every bad thing in the world is your fault, either.

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Upcoming Holidays

May
5/31 Memorial Day

June
6/10 Annular Solar Eclipse
6/20 Fathers’ Day
6/21 Summer solstice
6/23 Midsummer’s Eve
6/24 (?) St John’s Day
6/24 Full Moon

July
7/4 Independence Day
7/23 Full Moon
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
7/27 Grand Climax

August
8/1 Lammas/Lughnasadh
8/13 Friday the 13th
8/15 (?) Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8/22 Full Moon
8/24 St. Bartholomew’s Day

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups

6/6 D-Day (Invasion of France in WW2)
7/18 Tisha B’Av (Jewish Day of Mourning)
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices, and the equinoxes.)

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* You can find more information on the following holidays at: 

 Fathers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/ritual-abuse-and-fathers-day/

 Summer Solstice (corrected text) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/

 Lammas https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/

 and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/ 

Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/

Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/

Fall Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/

Halloween {personal) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/ 

Halloween (background) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/

Thanksgiving https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/

Yule/Winter Solstice https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/ 

Candlemas https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/

Valentine’s Day https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/

Spring Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/

Easter: personal. (for background, see Spring Equinox)  https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/

Walpurgisnacht/May Eve: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht/

Beltane: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/

Mothers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/

Over-Reactions and Under-Reactions as Flashbacks

Since this post is all about flashbacks, you might want to go back and read “About BASK Flashbacks: (https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2018/09/10/about-bask-flashbacks/.) I read it periodically to structure my thinking.

You probably don’t remember that I had tentatively started to deal with the stage in my life when I was used in child pornography. I haven’t said anything much about it because the process shut down after just a couple of weeks. 

How do I feel? Sad. Disappointed. Relieved. Numb. 

And brooding about flashbacks – what they are, where they come from, how to tell if I am in one.

Now, sensory flashbacks are pretty easy for me to identify. I see or hear or smell something that isn’t here now. My classic example is when I was splashing around in the pool, and I suddenly smelled beer in the air above the water. There was no question in my mind that the pool was not filled with beer!!! Sometimes I see something for a moment, and then it changes into something else. A dead body by the side of the road turns into a black plastic bag. You get the idea.

Feelings, however, are much harder to identify. I instinctively try to find a present-day explanation for whatever I am feeling. If I am anxious these days it is because of COVD-19. That makes total sense, right? Everybody is anxious about the virus, and there is no reason why I should be any different.

However, underneath the consciousness of every-day stressors, there is a huge layer of anxiety from my childhood trying to come out. At times it pushes through, seemingly out of nowhere. Other times it piggybacks on something in the present that has already made me anxious. (That’s called being triggered.) Most of the time, it sits there, boiling away, gathering steam, waiting to erupt like a geyser.

I have to remain open to the idea that some of the anxiety I am feeling today comes from those unprocessed feelings from the past. I search for clues (when I remember that I am dealing with more than COVID-19. aging, and chronic pain.) Did it come bursting out of nowhere? Probably from the past. Was I already feeling anxious and started to feel lots more so? Is there anything similar in the two situations? Could I have been triggered?

A psychologist once told me, “If somebody is over-reacting, it means they had to under-react in the past.” This idea has been very useful to me over the years. I do over-react quite a bit, and I have learned to trace my feelings back to situations in my childhood.

It just occurred to me that it doesn’t have to be childhood feelings. David Free, a man I had been e-friends with for twenty-five years, died a couple of years ago. I thought about him a lot, but I didn’t cry. Shortly afterward, a man I barely knew died. I had liked him, but he was an acquaintance, not a friend. I cried for weeks! Of course, I was grieving for David as well. I have no idea why I couldn’t grieve at the time, but I couldn’t. I had to wait to be triggered before I could finally feel my sorrow.

Anxiety from the past doesn’t work on an on/off switch; it’s on a dimmer. When it is strongest, I am in full-fledged panic mode, and when it is weakest, I am totally numb. I’ve only realized this recently; feeling numb is just as much a flashback as feeling panicked.

When I got flashbacks to Satanic abuses, I was not numb. I was full of feelings, mainly fear and anger. When the memories were of family life, they could be accompanied by feelings (mainly outrage and anger,) or I could feel sort of stunned. But anything to do with pornography, I am numb. I can describe the scene, but I cannot retrieve anything of what I felt back then. The only emotion that comes through this veil of numbness is shame. 

I have the sense that I felt nothing until it was all over, and only then did I feel shame. And then I forgot everything – the people involved, the audience, the acts I performed, everything. I had been taught (programmed) to forget. 

I learned about the forgetting part of the experience when I was giving presentations at Survivorship. I did fine during the workshop, but I was dissociated afterward, and I felt like I was floating. I could not remember what I had said, and I did not recognize any of the people who came up to talk to me, even if I had known them for years. The first time this happened, I was shocked, and I froze and said nothing. I learned to tell people I was in a flashback and could not recognize them. Then I realized I could be calmer and more matter-of-fact if I told them beforehand. The workshops went much more smoothly

I’ve learned so much about my process in the few weeks I’ve been working on these issues. My decision has already paid off, and I believe that I will learn much, much more. I don’t know if I am looking forward to learning more or dreading it. Or both!

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Upcoming Holidays

October
10/1 Full moon
10/12 Columbus Day
10/13 Backward Halloween
10/31 Full moon (Blue Moon)
10/31 Halloween/start of Celtic New Year/start of the dark half of the year
November
11/1 All Saints’ Day
11/2 All Souls’ Day
11/11 Veterans’ Day (?)
11/13 Friday the thirteenth
11/14 New moon
11/26 Thanksgiving Day (United States)
11/30 St Andrew’s Day
9/29 Michaelmas/Feast of Archangel Michael and of all Angels
December
Sundays of advent: 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19
12/4 New Moon
12/4 Total Solar Eclipse
12/14 New moon
12/14 Total solar eclipse. Totality visible in Chile and parts of Argentina. Partial eclipse visible in southern South America and south-east Africa. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-december-14
12/18 Full Moon
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/5 Christmas Day
12/29 Full moon
12/31 New Year’s Eve

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
10/3 Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles, harvest festival)
10/19 Death of Goering
10/12 Hitler’s alternate half-birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual half-birthday, 10/20, and his alternate half-birthdate six months after Easter, which fell on 4/12 this year.)
10/20 Hitler’s half-birthday
(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes.)

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* You can find more information on the following holidays at: 

Halloween {personal) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/
Halloween (background) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
Thanksgiving https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/ 
Candlemas https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: (personal) For background, see Spring Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht/
Beltane: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/
Fathers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/ritual-abuse-and-fathers-day/
Summer Solstice (corrected text) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Lammas https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
and https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/

Fuzzy Flashbacks Caused by Staying at Home

* SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) offers virtual support groups for all survivors, male survivors, and family and friends of survivors. A listing of all meetings is at: https://www.snapnetwork.org/events

* And SNAP announced that it will be holding a free virtual conference, instead of an in-person event in Denver. The date will be September 25 – 27. Information is in the middle of their home page. https://www.snapnetwork.org/

* You can find more information on the following holidays at:
Summer Solstice (corrected text): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/well-this-is-embarrassing/
Lammas: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/category/lamas/
August Ritual Dates: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/august-ritual-dates/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/the-feast-of-the-beast/
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/03/20/feast-of-the-beast-part-ii/
Fall Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-fall-equinox/
Halloween (personal): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/halloween/
Halloween (background): https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/samhainhalloween/
Thanksgiving: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/thanksgiving/
Yule/Winter Solstice: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/
Candlemas: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/candlemas/
Valentine’s Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/valentines-day/
Spring Equinox: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/the-spring-equinox/
Easter: (personal): (for background, see Spring Equinox) https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-blues/
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/walpurgisnacht
Beltane: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/beltane/
Mothers’ Day: https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/mothers-day/

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The summer solstice is right around the corner. It comes early this year, on June 19. Because our unconscious expects it to be on the 20th or 21st, it’s going to take everybody by surprise. It might be a good idea to put it in total caps on your calendar for a few days before its arrival. SOLSTICE ON JUNE 19!!!!

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I’m getting some good mileage – insights and memories – from a kind of continual soft, fuzzy flashback that stays in the background. It took me three months to figure out what was going on! I’m going to describe my experience in case anybody can relate.

My idea of a flashback is the rapid emergence of some part of a past experience. It’s more a reliving of an event, rather than a remembering. It’s impossible to ignore, demanding my attention. My reaction is usually, “What the fuck is this?”

This kind of flashback lasts anywhere from seconds to months. When I first remembered, they were 24/7. Little by little, flashback-free moments appeared here and there. Now flashbacks are rare, but frequent enough to be a permanent part of my life.

The last entry is worth rereading. It categorizes flashbacks according to the B.A.S.K. model. The letters stand for: B (behavior) – A (affect, emotion) – S (sensory; sight, sound, smell, taste, heat/cold perception, pressure, pain) – K (cognition). The more of these elements are present, the more intense the flashback. Sensory flashbacks are easiest for me to recognize, while the others are often a little tricky.

Something in the present causes the past to re-appear; whatever sets it off is called the trigger. (I hate the word trigger because it “triggers” memories of violence for me. I prefer the word “reminder,” which is neutral.)

Identifying the reminder is useful because when you see that object, or hear that word, or find yourself in that situation, you will be prepared for a flashback. It’s not necessary to know what it was that set things off to work through the flashback, though.

Being confined to my home these days is an ever-present reminder of my childhood. I didn’t know this for many weeks, but I did know I was “off.” Old symptoms were coming back, and my world seemed very small. It finally occurred to me that, as a child, my world was extremely small indeed. First it was confined to two rooms of the apartment and to the park for an hour or two. When we moved, I could enter all the rooms of the apartment, I still went to the park, and then, after a year, there was school. School seemed vast in terms of both space and new experiences. I was overwhelmed and I loved it !

Now this, mind you, was in my every-day life, the only life I was allowed to know. There was another, hidden life, that belonged to the cult. In a sense, it was vaster, because there were always new abuses, always further cruelties. And my emotions were so strong I could hardly bear them. It certainly could not be called boring. I think that the contrast made my day life seem even more restricted, even though I couldn’t remember the cult life.

Today, as in my childhood, I am confined to my apartment and the garden, my tiny version of an urban park. All I see of the outside world are crows on the neighbors’ roofs and people jogging and walking their dogs. I’m forgetting what it is like to go into a grocery store, to window shop, to smell the ocean. I do remember what it feels like to be agoraphobic – terrified of leaving my little bubble of safety and perhaps end up in a cult gathering. In a sick sense, that’s a perk or being quarantined.

And yet the agoraphobia lingers because I’m afraid to go outside even to walk around the block. I’m told it’s safe if I wear a mask and stay away from people, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Most of the time, I believe I am content to stay home, but there is an underlying sense of longing for freedom.

So many others are feeling under house arrest that it seems like a normal reaction to being alone at home. So is it a flashback or not?

I think it’s both. If I look at the situation from one angle, I am having a totally normal reaction to my present-day situation. If I look at it from another angle, I am deep in feelings from when I was four or five or six.  And that is definitely, according to the B.A.S.K. model, a feelings flashback.

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Upcoming Holidays

June
6/19 Summer solstice
6/21 Fathers’ Day
6/21 Annular solar eclipse. Visible from parts of Africa (including the Central African Republic, Congo, and Ethiopia), south of Pakistan, northern India, and China. A partial eclipse is visible in south/east Europe, much of Asia, the north of Australia, and much of Africa, Pacific, Indian Ocean. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-june-21
6/23 Midsummer’s Eve
6/24 St. John’s Day
July
7/4 Independence Day
7/4 Full moon
7/4-5 Penumbral lunar eclipse. The moon will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase, visible in North and South America, and Africa. Most penumbral lunar eclipses cannot easily be distinguished from a usual full moon. See https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2020-july-5
7/25 St. James’ Day/Festival of the Horned God
August
8/1 Lammas/Lughnasadh
8/3 Full moon
8/15 Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
8/24 St. Bartholomew’s Day

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
7/30 Tisha B’Av (Day of Mourning)
7/29 Hitler proclaimed leader of the Nazi party

(NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices and the equinoxes.)