How to Cope with Flashbacks

Flashbacks are memories of past traumas. They can occur in a number of different forms – as sounds, images, smells, body sensations, numbness (or a lack of sensations). Often they’re accompanied by a feeling panic, where the individual feels trapped and completely powerless. Flashbacks can also occur in dreams. Because the sensations are so frightening and intense – and are unrelated to what’s happening in the present - the person often feels as if they’re going crazy.

What to do to cope with flashback:

1. Tell yourself that you are having a flashback – that it will pass in time – and soon everything will return to normal.

2. Remind yourself that the worst is over – as these terrifying feelings are re-experienced memories. The event that took place is now lodged in the past, and you managed to survive it, and will survive it now.

3. Allow yourself to express the powerful feelings of terror, panic, hurt and/or rage. It is right that you honour your experience.

4. Ground yourself firmly in the here-and-now. Breathe deeply. Notice the sounds and sensations around you in the room. Allow the feelings of panic and terror to slowly dissipate. Keep breathing deeply, and exhaling deliberately. Allow a sense of calm to gradually replace the faintness, shakiness, dizziness and tightness.

5. Reorient yourself. Keep focusing on what you can see, hear, feel, smell, touch and feel in the present. Feel the chair supporting you. Use your five senses to bring you back to this point in time.

6. Speak to your terrified inner child. Reassure them that they are going to be OK. Tell them they are safe in the present. They are not trapped. They can escape at any time.

7. Seek professional support to deal with your flashbacks. Find an experienced therapist who is trained to guide you to a place of healing. You do not have to do cope with this alone. There is help available for you.

Should I write that flashback?

Yes. Do it.


(in the distance, the sounds of writers crying out that flashbacks are right up there with prologues/epilogues—worthless wastes of time)

But right now I’m going to argue YES, write that flashback. Write that prologue and epilogue. Just because you write it doesn’t mean you have to keep it in the final draft. For a first draft, write them all with no regrets. The flashbacks will help you in revision. They’ll improve your character development and character arc. They are FOR YOU.

(similarly, a prologue/epilogue is usually to help you figure out your plot)

Flashbacks will help you (the writer) get to know your character. Sure, this is stuff you should be revealing through real-time dialogue and action. But the better you know their intimate histories and agonies, the better you can show who they’ve become in present day. What makes them happy or upset? Who were they close to in their childhood? These things shaped who they are today.

You’ll learn what bothers your character. What do they regret? What do they miss? What do they want? This ties into the whole swoons and wounds thing I’m always going on about.

For example, let’s say one of Alice’s favorite memories is breaking her arm when she was four. Breaking her arm?! A happy memory?! Yes, because her parents actually stopped fighting for long enough to bring her to the hospital. They worked together for her sake. So, knowing about this point in her past lets me know how much she longs for a happy family, and how she sees herself partly at fault for her parents’ later divorce—she couldn’t be the glue to keep them connected and cooperating.

Where have you been, where are you going? Who they were at the time of the flashback isn’t necessarily the same person they are now… but parts will still be the same. How good are they at letting go? Do they hold grudges? If they’re still thinking about the things mentioned in the flashbacks you write, then you’re starting to get an idea of where they’re headed. Or at least, where they might be headed if they don’t change their ways. (hint: character arc)

So yes, please write those flashbacks. Let them help you figure out your characters.

Later, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll want to cut those flashbacks (as sad as it will make you), but don’t delete them entirely. Keep them on a separate document! They’re like resources for sharpening and strengthening your character’s development and build.

Flashbacks are friends!


bleedingidentities said:

What do you figure the best way to write a book in flashbacks is? How often should you come to the present? How much explaining Is needed? Over how long should the flashbacks take place? Ect.

Please forgive me if I do not make it.
Please forgive me If I fail.
Please forgive me if I leave earlier than I was supposed to.
Please forgive me my memory fails me constantly.
Please forgive me I have no more patience.
Please forgive me my anger is relentless.
Please forgive me my guilt is too much to handle.
Please forgive me everyday there is a war inside me.
Please forgive me I did not choose this life.
Please forgive me I am always depressed.
Please forgive me I am always empty.
Please forgive me I don’t know how to act anymore.
Please forgive me I always need to be intoxicated by something.
Please forgive me I am every emotion every second of everyday.
Please forgive me I cant control myself.
Please forgive me sometimes I have bleeding wrists and thighs.
Please forgive me I scream and cry too much.
Please forgive me I say things I don’t mean.
Please forgive me I can never be normal again.
Please forgive me I cant do anything your used to.
Please forgive me I don’t know how to help myself.
Please forgive me I don’t think I deserve any help.
Please forgive the extreme negativity from my mouth constantly.
Please forgive me for your nights awake cause I can’t sleep.
Please forgive me I don’t know how to live productively anymore.
Please forgive me for my self destructive path, I will ruin you.
Please forgive me for looking for everything wrong cause nothing is right.
Please forgive me for all of my night terrors and panic attacks.
Please forgive me for all of my anxiety and flashbacks.
Please forgive me my PTSD runs my life now.
Please forgive me I don’t think I will live much longer.
Please forgive me for not wanting to live with whats in me.
Please forgive me that my life is ruined.
Please forgive me I am ruined.
Please forgive me I’m not repairable.
Please forgive me this is not the life I chose.
Please forgive me I can’t think anymore unless it’s a flashback.
Please forgive me I can’t function anymore unless it’s psychotic.
Please forgive me I blame myself for everything.
Please forgive me I don’t even understand myself.
Forgive me I have become insane.
Please forgive me my brain has rewired itself to something else.
Please forgive me I’ll never be the same person again.
Please forgive me I run away from anything now.
Please forgive me I’m in denial and I can’t face the facts.
Please forgive me I hate myself and my life.
Please forgive me I have someone waiting on the other side.
Please forgive me I don’t know how to live with what is in me.
Please forgive me I’m running from myself not any of you.
Please forgive me.. Its not you.. It’s me…
—  StefaniStrange
The producers are planning a series of Felicity-centric flashbacks that they call "the secret origin of Felicity Smoak." "We are absolutely going to get to know her," executive producer Marc Guggenheim tells me. "We know that she went to MIT, we know that her mom was a cocktail waitress in Vegas and we're going to meet that mom. And we also know that her dad is not in the picture." Any theories on the identity of Dear Old Dad?