Tim held me in his arms as he prayed. I wasn’t able to focus on the words, but that didn’t matter. He was talking to God on my behalf, and He was listening.
After he prayed, Tim sat quietly for a moment. “Are you still angry with me?”
I shook my head. “I never was angry. Whatever happened, I was terrified.”
He explained why he left, and what his plan was, to drive around the parking lot and return.
It didn’t matter. The issue wasn’t the current situation. It was the past that had been ‘jogged’ in my subconscious by the apparent abandonment.
With that resolved, we continued about our day, as planned.
Flashbacks are a common and difficult part of life for victims of any kind of abuse or violence. They are emotionally exhausting for the victim, as well as those who observe them. In the above story it was my husband, but can also impact children, siblings and friends. They take a toll on the mind, especially if not identified and worked through, and they most definitely take a toll on marriage.
Flashbacks come in the form of emotions that are hard to identify, vivid pictures—often almost as ‘out of body’ type images, where the victim is watching him or herself in a specific memory, and feeling things that were blocked at the time of trauma.
These episodes leave even a ‘recovered victim’ or survivor of abuse to deal with raw pain and the need to heal at a new level, peeling back another layer. It can be very overwhelming, because it often happens just about the time you think there’s nothing left to heal from, just about the time the past feels truly in the past.
These unexpected interruptions are disheartening because they leave you feeling temporarily hopeless, as if healing will never truly be yours, as if you will never truly be free, and as if you are destined to be a victim for life. With the hopelessness comes shame, because you feel as though you should be past that by now. It should happen any more. Your faith in God should be stronger, your ‘presence of mind’ less easily overthrown.
Tim and I have been through numerous episodes similar to this one, though this was one of the most powerful, most daunting.
Over the years we have learned to identify what is happening, to talk through it, to pray over it, and then be aware. In exploring the cause, and the fear behind the flashback, and then having him pray over me, rather than getting impatient, or taking it personal, we take authority over it. Rather than remaining victimized or vulnerable to the flashbacks, they become an opportunity for deeper healing, and stronger relationship.
Each time Tim has patiently walks me through a flashback, I become stronger. Rather than dealing with constant flashbacks, my trauma is brought to light, and the flashbacks are fewer and farther between. The first seven years of marriage, especially before we recognized them, flashbacks were a fairly constant part of life. The last eleven years I can only remember about four episodes in total, though there may have been some that I have forgotten.
If you deal with flashbacks, don’t be discouraged. Ask Jesus to show you what He wants to heal in your memories. The enemy wants to use them to destroy you, but God will redeem everything the enemy throws at you, if you’re willing to open your heart and let Him shine His love and His light on the pain and the darkness.
We have the option of staying in that place, and remaining victim to the past. But we also have authority to break the power of victimization. It is ideal to find someone, whether a spouse, a mentor, or a counsellor, to share the trauma with. Someone who will not call you crazy, or mental, but who will support you, believe in your healing, and pray over you.
The most important thing, always, is to not carry the trauma alone. It is overwhelming to do so. They say that, “Pain shared, is half the pain. Joy shared is joy doubled.” If shared with the right person, I wholeheartedly agree.
© Trudy Metzger
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Thank you for being “raw” and transparent. You are taking this subject to a deeper level and allowing God to use you to help others. As difficult as it is to share these intimate details, I know it is necessary for others like myself to know that we can heal. But before healing can come forth…we have to be REAL and expose the areas of our life that we know may be keeping us from His perfect will. Again…Thank you!!
I’m so glad you brought up this topic. This year I have had more of these than ever before and they tend to be triggered by a specific person, who is a best friend of mine since Feb. Any discussion on this??
That’s definitely something to explore. I would start asking myself questions, but without knowing more details, most of my questions will not be specific to your situation…
1. Does this person (best friend) remind me of a person in the flashback?
If so, sometimes taking time to consciously separate past reality/perception from present reality/perception helps. It may not end the flashbacks, but protects the current relationship b/c we are less likely to take it out on the current relationship. Some years ago I had a woman I worked with burst out in uncontrollable rage. (I was in a position of leadership and had to make a ‘call’ on something that she didn’t agree with.) At the end of her rant she stated that I remind her of her husband. Hmmmm… I had come far enough in my healing to understand what was happening and didn’t take it personal, and it explained her ongoing attitude. Several years later she approached me and apologized. She had figured out what had happened.
2. Are there specific things the person does that trigger flashbacks? (If yes, are they things intended to hurt/annoy me, or innocent things? And are they things I could safely talk about with this person, to break that cycle?)
the questions would continue until I ‘overcome’ that particular trigger. That is how I work it through in my head b/c what is dealt with consciously no longer has unchecked, hidden subconscious power.
If you have a counsellor, mentor or friend with whom you can safely work this through, that is also ideal. Sometimes sharing things in a safe, confidential environment, and ideally praying through it if you’re a person of faith, will break the power as well.