Emotional Flashbacks are instant and sometimes prolonged regressions into the intense, overwhelming feeling states of childhood abuse and neglect: fear, shame, alienation, rage, grief and/or depression.
Habituated 4F defenses offer protection against further re-abandonment hurts by precluding the type of vulnerable relating that is prone to re-invoke childhood feelings of being attacked, unseen, and unappreciated.
Without help in the midst of an emotional flashback, sufferers typically find no recourse but their own particular array of primitive, self-injuring defenses to their unmanageable feelings. These dysfunctional responses generally manifest in four ways:
Fighting or over-asserting oneself in narcissistic ways such as misusing power or promoting excessive self-interest;
Fleeing obsessive-compulsively into activities such as work addiction, sex and love addiction, or substance abuse ("uppers");
Freezing in numbing, disassociative ways such as sleeping excessively, over-fantasizing, or tuning out with TV or medications ("downers");
Fawning co-dependently in self-abandoning ways such as putting up with narcissistic bosses or abusive partners.
Trust repair is an essential process in healing the attachment disorders created by pervasive childhood trauma. PTSD clients do not have a volitional "on" switch for trust, even though their "off" switch is frequently automatically triggered during flashbacks.
As you learn to identify flashbacks as normal responses to abnormally stressful childhood conditions, you can become free of the fear and shame that have made you isolate, overreact, or push others away at such times.
Most people experience tremendous relief when they learn to interpret their overwhelming or excessively numbing experiences as emotional flashbacks, rather then as proof that they are bad, defective, worthless or crazy.
Flashbacks feel like you have been thrown into a pit which you deserve to be it. It is very common for those experiencing them to feel that the hands reaching out to help will somehow inflict more pain. It is very helpful to have understanding people who know that reaching out is counter intuitive and to make sure that they follow through on their offer to assist. Healing and recovery from the pit are possible.