Do You Have Emotional Abuse Flashbacks?

03 Nov 2015

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Why you can’t just “bounce back”

Emotional abuse is not something you just bounce back from.  If someone simply said something hurtful and unfair to you a few times then, chances are, you would bounce back.  But that’s not how emotional abuse works, is it?

Emotional abuse is systematic, deliberate, long-term, and tailor-made to chip away at your sense of self.

Emotional abuse is designed to have a lasting – even permanent – effect on your self-worth, and your quality of life.

Of course, that is a shocking idea to have to take on board.  Women want to safeguard the dream of who their emotional abuser really is – a sort of human Matryoshka doll: inside Prince Charming lies a Mr Nasty, BUT deep within that Mr Nasty there lies another, DEFINITIVE Mr Nice…

That’s why emotional abuse works so well.  Because Mr Nasty knows exactly how to play on your innermost dreams, desires, and fantasies… He knows that you believe what he knows to be untrue: that deep within that nasty, nasty persona there lurks a wonderful man.

This wonderful man – sort of like Sleeping Beauty – is just waiting and hoping for the eternally hopeful Princess (that’s you) to finally set him free.

And that brings us to the notion of flashbacks.

How do you know if you have emotional abuse flashbacks?

How would you know if you suffer with them?

Here’s the thing: actually, you probably wouldn’t.

We all know what conventional flashbacks look like: they catapult someone back into the moment when something traumatic happened.  That person is, suddenly, fully reliving that moment, so they can see it, touch it, taste it, hear it.

That’s one kind of flashback.

There is another, which is far less easy to portray on film.

It’s the kind of flashback where you DON’T see a past scenario – actually, you don’t see dry much, at all – you’re just catapulted back into the feelings.  

When I say, you don’t see much, this is the literal truth.  A lot of the work I do with 1 on 1 and group clients is about liberating them from their awful feelings, so they can stay with good-feeling feelings – instead of being catapulted into despair, fear, hopelessness, shame, and self-loathing.

Inevitably, when they start to feel bad about themselves and their lives, it’s as if the world disappeared.  Inasmuch as they see the outside world, at all, they see it in monochrome, as if through the wrong end of a telescope.

The pluses and minuses of labels

I have to say here that I’m not a great one for putting  – conventional – labels on things.  Too often, labels tend to come at a price. Putting a Narcissist label on your (ex-)partner can be taken to mean you had no hope of ever seeing him coming.  The PTSD label can be taken to mean you’ve been severely damaged, and probably can’t ever fully recover.

And so on, and so forth.

When I work with clients on their recovery from emotional abuse, I always work with them from the belief that – no matter what they’ve been through – they can, and will recover.  Provided they are willing to test that belief for size. they always do recover.  (It’s not a case of having to believe it 100%.  They just have to be open to the idea that that’s what they want, and their preferred outcome.)

That said, I quite like the ‘emotional flashback’ label.  That’s why I am sharing it with you.

How does the ‘emotional flashback’ work with emotional abuse?

Just think about it for a moment.

Most women who end up with an emotionally abusive partner, have already known emotional abuse in their family of origin.  They have experienced emotional neglect and/or had emotional violence done to their feelings repeatedly during the course of their childhood.  They marry a man who, they hope, will rescue them from all of that, but who turns out to be at least as well versed in emotional abuse as his new in-laws.

The effect of emotional assaults

Each emotional assault reopens old wounds.

When you are catapulted back into the old feelings of worthlessness, uselessness, pointlessness, ugliness, stupidity, guilt; you experience an ‘emotional flashback’.

The feelings are the flashback.  

Let me say it again: the feelings are the flashback.  

How you feel when you’re in that black hole is not who you are, it’s the flashback yammering for attention.

Further, there is a whole raft of anxieties that go hand in hand with the flashback, including fear of imminent attack, being helpless, being left penniless and homeless, living a lonely life and dying a lonely death.

Emotional abuse leaves you limping from flashback to flashback.  Sometimes the flashbacks come so thick and fast that there seems to be no space between one and the next.  You live it as a wall-to-wall flashback.

That’s where most of my clients are when they first get in touch.

They have a narrative about how the rest of their life is going to look; and it’s not good.

I have a narrative of how the rest of their life is going to look, and it’s completely different. The work we do together rids them of their flashbacks, so they can make their way out of that dark hole where emotional abuse left them, back to the light of day.

If you feel as if you’re broken and your life will never be worth living, you’re stuck in flashback mode.

You really don’t have to stay there.

But you do have to commit to moving forward.

Emotional abuse flashbacks do stop, but only when you are willing to commit to take the risk of going for what you want.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

2 thoughts on “Do You Have Emotional Abuse Flashbacks?”

    • Hi Meghann.

      You should be able to do that yourself by filling in your details either in a pop-up or else by downloading one of my Free Reports.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,



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