Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

A journey to healing from complex trauma.

Emotional Flashbacks – Due to Complex Trauma ~ Lilly Hope Lucario



Complex trauma is ongoing or repeated interpersonal trauma (abuse), within a captivity situation, where the victim perceives no viable means to escape.

Most ongoing child abuse, is complex trauma. The child is vulnerable, at the mercy of the caregivers, and unable to escape. Other examples where complex trauma can occur are sex trafficking, prisoner of war, severe domestic violence.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can result from enduring complex trauma.

Complex PTSD has specific symptoms, that are not listed within the diagnostic criterion for (Uncomplicated) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

These specific symptoms, are deep and pervasive issues with trust, abandonment, emotion regulation, isolation and many more.

One of the most common symptoms, and the hardest to understand and recognise, are emotional flashbacks. These are where emotions from the past, are triggered by something occurring now. These emotional flashbacks, do not have a visual aspect to them like flashbacks many PTSD sufferers experience. When there is something visual, it is far easier to understand, this is a flashback.

When there is no visual component, most survivors just feel they are having intense emotions, and really not understand why. They may seem ‘over-dramatic’ in their emotions and those close to the survivor, will see these intense emotions are not rational.

Once I realised I was experiencing emotional flashbacks, I began to work on understanding and recognising them, as they were occurring. Which was a very challenging and long process. It required a lot of effort and a willingness, to really work on this. It was well worth the effort.

How I learned to recognise emotional flashbacks were occurring, is by having to be really honest about my intense emotions. And be really honest about whether there was something valid occurring now to cause those emotions? Or was my emotional state, not appropriate or valid, for what was occurring now? Sometimes it is. But, sometimes, it’s not.

An example of this… I saw something said on social media, that caused an intense emotional response in me. It created deep feelings of being unsafe and scared. I had to stop and think about whether the current issue actually warranted and was rationally causing these intense emotions? The answer was no, I was completely safe. So why was I feeling like a scared child? I was experiencing an emotional flashback. This due to some abusive situation in the past, that made me fearful and scared. And at ‘that’ time during the trauma, my emotional response of fear and being scared, was very rational and valid.

Then, I learned to soothe myself, by telling myself “I am safe”. And tell myself “this issue is due to my past, and not due to something occurring now”. And I learned the different ways to comfort, ground and use mindfulness, and distraction, to help me manage these emotional flashbacks and the intense emotions triggered.

This process, does require us being able to be honest with ourselves. We need the self control and awareness, and capacity for rational thinking, to discern whether the situation occurring now, is an issue?

This capacity can take time to learn and I know it was over a year for me, of concentrating on this, before I could discern quickly if emotional flashbacks were occurring.

I do see this has been an invaluable part of my healing process. It has helped me deal with a very painful symptom and consequence of complex trauma. By being able to manage and reduce my intense emotions…. my quality of life improved.

These emotional flashbacks are really difficult to understand and recognise and then manage, but it is possible.

For more information on Complex Trauma, Complex PTSD, see my Website @ http://www.healingfromcomplextraumaandptsd.com/

My website is highly recommended by many mental health professionals, in the trauma field. My Website, is featured on other websites, as a valuable resource, and was requested to be listed as a resource, within books on healing from abuse.

This article has kindly been published by The Minds Journal @ http://themindsjournal.com/emotional-flashbacks/

~ Lilly Hope Lucario

All blogs written by Lilly Hope Lucario and subject to © Copyright Protected.

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Author: Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

I am a survivor of complex and multiple trauma and abuse, who at the age of 40, began my healing journey. I am using my journey to recovery and healing, to help others, to help survivors feel less alone, validated, encouraged and to enable others to understand themselves more. Complex trauma, particularly from severe, prolonged childhood abuse, is profoundly life changing. Complex trauma produces complex adults. The journey to recovery is a painful, often lonely, emotional daily challenge and it is my aim to encourage others in their daily battle. ~ Lilly Hope Lucario

15 thoughts on “Emotional Flashbacks – Due to Complex Trauma ~ Lilly Hope Lucario

  1. I have had emotional flashbacks my entire life.—-and did Not realize it !

  2. Just like Charlie I now understand that all my life I’ve been having severe emotional flashbacks but didn’t understand at all what was going on.

    This post brought huge relief to me
    in so many ways…..clarity,
    self compassion & self acceptance.

    This blog is a Light when I’m lost in darkness & pain and I’m so grateful!!

    I’m also grateful for Charlie & others who post comments that help me so much. Charlie’s comments help me to recognize that what my sister & brother are doing is in fact abuse.

    Thank you Lilly and Charlie!!!

  3. My emotional flashbacks tend to be explosions of rage, me dramatizing yelling at people…and feeling helpless because they never listen to me.

    • I relate to this. I was that child. And that teen. And that adult. Now I’m getting free

    • Me too Mawr Gorshin. Only relatively recently have I began to realise this. I am so thankful for posts like this. Very validating

  4. Pingback: Emotional flashbacks – Lilly Hope Lucario – intothisbreakinglight

  5. Pingback: Invalidation is always a huge trigger for many. | Healing From Complex Trauma & PTSD/CPTSD

  6. You actually gave a name to something I have been experiencing for decades! Even my therapists – very well-trained and experienced ones – had no clear name for this (despite experience with PTSD).

    • Only after my recent dx and reading about it did I finally find it has a name! None of the professionals I dealt with were trauma informed.

  7. I have new mantras for rewiring my brain. for years I would recall terrible abusive things my sister would say to me. as a child she called me stupid. that may seem minor, but I actually believed it. I am now taking classes at HARVARD university. and study personality disorders. I still remind myself… observe don’t absorb. I have learned, my triggers, and protect myself. my sister is a classic cluster B PSYCOPATH.

  8. Thank you for your work! Reading your posts every day, helping me tremendously! Discovering the emotional flashbacks helped me to fully understand the childhood abuse I’ve endured. Working with flashback management since a year now and I’m now able to sleep well at night without nightmares and night terrors. Most valuable! Thank you so much, please continue your work, lots of love ❤️

  9. do you ever consider conflict, that’s all around us now? I’m a civilian survivor of N Ireland’s conflict, many events, complex PTSD and others, but nobody seems to see how conflict impacts on kids, 2 teenagers interviwed, survivors of the Manchester concert bomb, were telling their story and they were describing PTSD symptoms, why can’t the medical side get some idea of conflict + kids

  10. I learned to do something simillar. When i get angry i learned to ask myself am i really angry or am i afraid? With whatever answer i became aware of i then had a method for dealing with it. If it was fear i looked for what it was i was afraid of and if i was angry why? And then i adressed that. It does work if you can insert a pause and choose an action. Thanks for this much appreciated

  11. This website was absolutely revolutionary for me. Although I had some insight I didn’t fully understand why I felt emotions to such a significant level. It has been an epiphany and has contributed to me finally heading on the right path to recovery. Thank you