by Dr. Ray Self
Why do people have flashbacks?
The answer has to do with the way the brain treats traumatic memory differently from non-traumatic memory. Simply the brain is about order and process. Everyday non-traumatic memory is stored in an orderly fashion. Traumatic memory is stored in an un-orderly process for protection of the victim. The brain is not attempting to present pain when it brings traumatic memory back to consciousness instead it wants the unprocessed traumatic memory to be processed, the emotions closed, and the memory then to be filed in the normal way in long-term storage. Flashbacks are the brain's way of seeking order, even though it does not feel that way to the recipient.
If you are searching for a sense of closure from intruding recollections of abusive or traumatic life events, I encourage you to look no further than inside yourself. Understand that your brain is searching for order. Help it reach its objective by not shying away from the process. The storing of abusive or traumatic memories in an obscured location was God's gift of protection, so say "Thank you" and move forward toward health. The irony of the process is that your brain brings back unfinished recollections, not to hurt you, but instead to complete what was not done at the time of the overwhelming life event.
-Above by Dr. William Tollefson
How do we recover from memories that are still affecting us?
We cannot excuse our bad behavior because of past wounds. Forgiveness from God requires no excuses. It is important to take responsibility for our own personal reactions. The hurt may not have been because of anything that we did, but ungodly reactions can come as a result. No one is completely sin free so receiving forgiveness is a responsibility for each individual.
1 John 1:8-9 - If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness
We can have a valid reason for our behavior or for the pain in our heart, but the forgiveness of God comes with confession.
The three elements of all personal healing are mercy, truth and time
Mercy is the first element
Mercy is necessary because it is a judgment free zone.
Mercy does not assume, label, or judge. Mercy allows us to accept ourselves as we are without the added pain of personal condemnation or judgment.
Judgment is when we label ourselves outside of the judgment of God.
God has already judged us through Christ Jesus and has given us righteousness. This is the wonderful judgment of God for everyone who has been born again.
Romans 5:17 - For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21 - He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Personal judgments cause more pain to come with painful memories.
It is important to search your hearts to see if we have judged ourselves in unscriptural ways because of past circumstances.
Examples of personal judgments can be things like – I am unlovable, I do not measure up, I am a failure, I am unworthy, I am shameful, I am guilty, I am ugly, I am not smart, I am not desirable, I am not acceptable, etc.
Every one of the above mentioned judgments can easily come from unresolved pain.
Personal judgment causes pain to turn into suffering. Letting go of judgment of ourselves allows us to heal much more easily.
Personal judgment hurts self-esteem. When we have suffered trauma or abuse or anything that affects our minds it can affect our self-esteem and identity at a very deep level. The subconscious mind rarely forgets anything.
Painful memories can manifest in strange behaviors. The distorted self-esteem feeds the lies of the memories.
Knowing the truth of the word of God is the second element of healing.
Knowing who we are and allowing God to implant that truth in us is foundational to all the other issues in life.
As counselors we should be able to speak and impart truth to the counselee; remember all truth requires time and mercy.
Truth without mercy and time can turn into legalism.
Our identity is our foundation. Proverbs 23:7 - For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.
The third element of personal healing is time.
Luke 13:6 -9 - And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. "And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' "And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'
The parable teaches us that the fruit tree needed more time. God gives us time to bear fruit.
God tends to work progressively with healing.
It takes time to grow. Growing through time is a universal principle of God.
God’s timing for healing can be very short or very long in our own personal terms.
My personal experience has taught me, the quicker I surrender my pain to God, the sooner my healing comes.