Emotional Abuse Flashbacks And Farts

by Annie Kaszina on November 10, 2015

sadwomanI don’t normally talk about bodily functions – because I have standards, too.  But this could be one of the most important pieces of information I’ve ever shared about emotional abuse.  That’s why  I’m prepared to stick my neck out – even to the point of using that ‘F’ word!

Because it feels so important to me, I’d like to share it with you as it happened, in story form and, in case you’re wondering, if you can bear with the word ‘fart’, that’s about as distasteful as this is going to get.

I was working with a dear, wonderful, brave client – who agreed to letting me share what follows.  To give you the very barest of the bare bones, D’s childhood was hugely difficult and traumatic.  Her parents, like most emotionally abusive parents, were horribly neglectful of her emotional needs.

D’s been working with me on her healing from emotional abuse for a while now, and she’s come a very long way.  In fact, she’s come so far that she sees her past life through different eyes.  That’s why she said to me:

“Annie, I’ve never been fully alive.  In fact, I don’t know how to live my life. Everybody else seems to, but I don’t even know where to start.”

Do I know exactly how she felt?   Hell, yes!

Have I heard that before from other women who are finally emerging from the nightmare of emotional abuse? A thousand times.

It’s the kind of thought that can easily paralyze you all over again.  But here’s the thing: I don’t buy it.  In my book, you already have all the skills, gifts, and talents you need.

In an emotionally abusive relationship you just lose your access to them.

I reminded D. about the whole emotional abuse flashbacks idea.

“When you feel powerless, hopeless, and despairing, D., when you feel like your life is over, what’s really happening is, you’re experiencing a flashback.  When someone has been traumatized as often and as frequently as you have, most of their time is spent just lurching from flashback to flashback.  In fact, Life can be one great big, wall-to-wall flashback.”

D. nodded. She was in that place where her head was saying:

“Okay, I accept that that’s an emotional abuse flashback. I kind of understand that the awful feelings probably aren’t going to destroy me – although they sure feel like they will – but, if it’s not real, why does it have to feel that bad? Why do I feel so disempowered? Why does everything feel so hopeless? 

Great questions, huh? The subtext goes like this:

“ Anything that feels that bad it must be true, right?  Or else, I’m crazy, neurotic, broken, messed up etc.”

Not a helpful road to go down.

And then I had one of those moments when an association – or, metaphor – jumped into my head, unbidden, clamouring to be spoken.

Over the years, I’ve learned to trust the promptings of intuition, my unconscious mind, call it what you will. So, I gave it the floor…

“D, you know how it is with pets or, at least, dogs, that when they fart, it doesn’t make any difference how small the dog is, the sheer power of the fart is totally overwhelming? It’s as if the whole room has been enveloped in the awful smell? With my previous Shih Tzu it was sometimes so unpleasant that I expected the walls to turn brown.

“Well, that’s exactly what happens with emotional abuse flashbacks.  They envelope you in something overwhelmingly foul, so foul that you lose awareness of everything else.  They totally SWAMP you with bad feelings.”

As I said this, I watched D’s face intently on my monitor to gage her response.

womanholdingnosesmall“A fart!” she said.  “It’s like a fart.”

“Yes,” I reply. “I know you grew up on the other side of the world to me, in a very different country, in a very different culture, but I’m guessing you heard the same horror story in childhood, of the kid who farts in assembly and for an hour, or a day, she is the universal object of disgust.  But then Life moves on.  That’s about the power of a fart.”

By now, D. was smiling broadly.  “So, the awful feelings are a fart!” she said.

“Yes, D.  To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever choked to death on a fart, ghastly as it may feel when you’re forced to sit in one.  And you don’t have to die of emotional abuse flashbacks, either.  In fact, you don’t even have to suffer agonies with them – once you acknowledge them for what they are.”

“They’re just a fart,” D said again.

From there, we went on to do the work of embedding that awareness into her emotional muscle.  She left the session feeling happier and lighter than she could ever remember.

And then there’s my postscript.  For the past few years, I’ve been struggling with flashbacks to a very different kind of trauma: the trauma of seeing my lovely partner have a cardiac arrest in front of my eyes. Life and death stuff.  It doesn’t get much bigger than that.  It left me with visual flashbacks, and emotional flashbacks.

Ever since, I’ve struggled with that feeling of wading through treacle, feeling paralyzed, terrified, despairing – which, I believe, is my old patterned response, born of my long experience of emotional abuse.  Sure, I’ve done a lot of work on myself.  But those feelings – which have manifested chiefly in other, unrelated areas of my life, as the response to the silliest, most trivial things, like opening the post!! –  have been hard work.

That experience was horrific.

The feelings I’d experienced ever since are farts.

They’re FARTS.

Actively reminding myself that they’re just farts has made a huge difference.

My experience was real, and dreadful in its own way, just as D’s experience is, and yours is, too. Those awful experiences should not have happened.  It’s a tragedy that they did.

But the awful feelings they still generate, months and years – even decades – after they happened are just farts.

Nobody should ever have to live their life in Odeur de Fart. 

There will always be farts, and they will always smell overwhelmingly bad. But now you know what they are, you really don’t have to let them swamp you.

At the very least, you can label them for what they are.

If you’re struggling to escaped being swamped by Odeur de Fart, I’d love to help you.  Just get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

Previous post:

Next post: