Flashbacks in C/PTSD: “emotional" vs. Real (See DESCRIPTION 1st! University Lecture)

Skip 36:21-44:41 (scholarly literature review). READ THE DESCRIPTION FIRST! “Emotional flashbacks” is NOT an accepted construct in clinical psychology.

Second winter semester lecture to South Federal University, Rostov on Don, Russian Federation, and to the Psychology track in SIAS-CIAPS.

“Emotional flashbacks” is NOT an accepted construct in clinical psychology. Flashbacks are dissociative (cut us off from the world), they are like time travel: they recreate fully and faithfully all the sensa of a part traumatic event. To experience a flashback is to be transported into another time and another place in the fullest way. Emotions and memories never recreate or even represent the past accurately: they reimagine it creatively, on the fly, and never in the same way each and every time they are evoked. Flashbacks sever us from the present reality – emotions and cognitions do exactly the opposite: help us to connect with reality (external and internal) and make sense of it.

Differentiating terminology: ‘‘involuntary autobiographical memories’’ (an everyday memory phenomenon), ‘‘intrusive memories’’ (involuntary memories with repeated and usually distressing content, generally associated with psychological disorders), and ‘‘flashbacks’’ (involuntary memories involving re-experiencing distressing events in the present, thought to be specific to PTSD). These are not used interchangeably (Kvavilashvili, 2014).

I propose that, from an early age we relate to the world (external objects) and regulate internal objects using three processes, not two: dissociation (to cope with traumas), cognitions, and emotions are arranged in contextualized narrative memories: traumas overwrite cognitions and emotions with new content (Schnider’s silencing).

Traumas and dissociation are as frequent as emotions and cognitions.

Traumas and the language of dissociation comprise the unconscious. Psychological defenses are associated with cognitions (rationalization), emotions (denial, projection), trauma (repression). That children dissociate and can be traumatized proves that these are fundamental features of the mind: not acquired but congenital.

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