For First Time Visitors

If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.

Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.

Oct 18, 2008

Coping with flashbacks

People with DID need an arsenal of coping skills. Some techniques may work sometimes for some identities and other techniques may be needed for other circumstances. Therapists working with DID need to know an arsenal of coping skills to use and to teach. The technique I used that seemed to be most helpful to my clients (and most helpful to me when I was healing) is called several names and has several variations. One variation is in Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder by Sarah Krakauer. It involves creating a theater or screening room inside.

Decreasing the intensity
Flashbacks are never going to be easy, but there are ways to soften the intensity. The elements that reduce intensity are:
  • Making images that are too close appear farther away
  • Changing images from color to black & white
  • Turning loud sounds down or off
  • Fastforward to move quicky through a very distressing image
This technique gives you an element of control over flashbacks instead of them reeling you out of the universe while it happens. It removes you from the center of the flashback to watching it as if it were a movie. You are the witness...the audience. You are one step removed. That also helps reduce intensity.

Getting started
This is how it would work. First create a theater room (or whatever you want to call it) within your safe place. Place as many rows of seats in the theater as you need to sit back far enough to view it comfortably. You don't want the screen size to overwhelm you. View as many details as you want to make it a secure room for you to watch the flashbacks without others joining you who might be frightened by it. And you want to keep littles out if they are not part of the memory. That could be security guards at the doors or magical locks or security system. You want to set it up so it is there for your use the next time you have a flashback.

You will need one more tool: a handheld projector with all the controls you need. Adjust volume, color to black and white, zoom out and zoom in, fastforward, slow motion, and rewind. Some put other helpful buttons on the projector. Help yourself. Be sure there is also an OFF switch.

I've had clients practice in the theater. Envision a lovely scene. Use the projector to view the screen. Find an object in the scene to view close up and get more detail; slowly zoom out and view it further and further away; focus on a moving object and view it in slow motion and work up to fastforward. Try out all the controls on the lovely non-triggering image.

Using the technique
When a flashback begins, as soon as you can think clearly to move into the movie theater, do so. You might want notes around to remind you or a helper inside to remind you to go there. It's a good idea to have a reassuring protector with you. Any self-state connected to the memory who is ready to join you can do so. Littles should have a big to hold them and should have a comfort object. All are reminded that they are watching something bad from the past. You only have to watch it once then turn it off.

Use all the controls you need to change the perspective from overwhelming to more manageable. If it is too much, turn it OFF. It is good to be able to process what was seen. If you are able to do that internally with a meeting of those who watched it and a protector, great. You may decide to wait until you have a therapy session so you can have your therapist to help you process, if that is an option.

You don't need to understand what it was about. You may not get all the details. Answers will come as you need them. At the end of the flashback, do self care and comforting. You may want to write it down, draw it, collage it, anything to acknowledge the trauma of your insiders.

The theater may also be used by any identity remembering some aspect of your trauma to help them. Since it is not necessary for you to know everything, self-states can have a place to safely process without your knowledge. Again, this is just one technique. I hope it helps.


Tempy said...

good stuff :-)

Grace said...

Thank you!