Frustrated unhappy sad caucasian woman wears white tank shirt hold pillow look aside sit on blue sofa couch stay at home flat spend time in living room indoors grey wall. Emotional flashbacks, when they hit you, it feels  like a big sudden emotional taking over. They hijack the way your emotions, leaving you feeling raw and confused. They yank you out of the present moment and throw you right into your shadow. Rather than being connected to yourself and others in the here and now, you’re defending yourself against ghosts from the past.

Flashbacks are often rooted in your past emotional conflicts or traumas 

When you experience a flashback, you fall into a maze of your past. That maze,  normally hidden from your conscious mind, suddenly opens and sucks you right in. You become trapped in a complex emotional web, confused how you got there. You struggle to find your way through.

Emotional flashbacks are intense emotional experiences that transport you back to the feelings of past unresolved conflicts. Unlike visual flashbacks, they have no “storyline”  feeling. Instead, they are simply a flood of emotions that mirror those felt during the original emotional conflicts or trauma. While emotional emotional flashback are associated with trauma, you don’t need to have complex trauma to expense emotional fallbacks. Unprocessed emotional conflicts or complexes also give rise to emotional flashbacks.

What opens the gate into the maze of emotional flashbacks? 

Child is chasing a flying dove with shadows on paved street

Seemingly innocuous events or situations that bear a resemblance to the original experiences can open the gate. Sights, sounds, scents, facial expressions reminiscent of the original emotional conflicts. Certain words, gestures, or even facial expressions can open the gate.

Or, you may project into the current situation some old unhealed wounds; which means the current situation may be quite different, but you see it in your old unhealed conflicts. You lose clarity of the present moment. For instance someone may try to create a boundary, you feel it as an abandonment. Someone may be tired, you feel they are mad at you. Someone may need  space, you take it as a rejection.

What happens when you get triggered over and over again?

The answer is simple: when you’re often or constantly pulled into reliving the emotions of your past, you miss out on creating your life with genuine connections and endeavors (career, hobbies, vocations, passions). Instead you’re looped in a painful, rigid, and limited story.

silhouette of a man sitting on the seashore at sunset time. loneliness at sea, rest aloneWill you know you’re in an emotional flashback? 

Recognizing that you’re in an emotional flashback can be quite tricky, since they have such a timeless quality. Part of the experience is the sense that the emotion itself is happening in the present.

Once you’re in the maze, you just relive the old feelings. You don’t have access to clear, conscious memories of the original experiences that created that emotional maze in the first place.

If you do not face and integrate these ghosts and echoes from the past into your whole emotional beings, you risk being dragged down into the maze at any moment.

If you want to live a fulfilling life and have an intimate meaningful connection with yourself and others, healing the root of these emotional flashbacks is crucial. 

One promising approach to addressing emotional flashbacks is combining Psychoanalytic therapy with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Healing Emotional Flashbacks with Psychoanalytic EMDR Therapy: A Path to Recovery

The universe speaks when you stop and listen. Shot of a woman sitting alone on a mat and meditating on the beach at sunset.The strength of the Psychoanalytic approach lies in its ability to help you access your unconscious maze. Your therapist can hold you through your fears of what you may  see. You can get the support you need to persevere and face what comes up. A highly trained, attuned therapist can help you emotionally (not intellectually) understand and integrate unconscious conflicts.

In this process, you’re able to metabolize emotional flashbacks at their origin. This kind of transformative therapeutic journey enables you to explore the depths of your psyche, and uncover and shift hidden patterns, repressed memories, and unconscious motivations that shape your present-day experiences.

Often, however, the main obstacle to in-depth emotional growth is resistance. Resistance is an unconscious defense mechanism that prevents you from confronting painful truths. Psychoanalytic therapy is remarkably good at working with resistance because it gently challenges those old responses within the safety of the attuned therapeutic relationship. Held in such a relationship, you can gradually confront and process difficult emotions.

Back view of man holding bottle of water and mat for stretching and walking around seashore beach. Health concept.And then, there is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy which also provides a powerful way to heal old unprocessed emotional conflicts and trauma that feed emotional flashbacks.

EMDR enables you to reprocess the old charge of emotional flashbacks and integrate the experience into more adaptive memory networks. It activates structures in the middle brain that are involved in metabolizing repressed experiences. EMDR can significantly alleviate distress associated with old emotional conflicts and traumatic memories.

EMDR is also powerful when it comes to breaking  through resistance. While a psychoanalytic approach works with resistance in a softer and more organic way, EMDR can really break through resistance.

You might say that the psychoanalytic approach takes you on a discovery journey through the maze, while EMDR straps you in and it takes you through the maze like it’s a roller-coaster kind of ride. Just like in a roller coaster it may get intense, but you’re safe. When the ride is over you feel a part of you has changed, you feel relieved and empowered. You can feel the changes from inside-out. You can’t quite explain how, but  you start responding differently to life situations.Two beautiful blooming white roses. Concept of pure, connection, transformation, health.

Combining psychoanalytic therapy with EMDR can provide a quite powerful synergistic approach to healing emotional flashbacks. Psychoanalytic techniques can help uncover the unconscious roots of emotional flashbacks, while EMDR can directly address and reprocess the traumatic memories that trigger these flashbacks. Ongoing Psychoanalytic attuned emotional support can help you further integrate the new understanding and emotional experiences, fostering deeper healing and personal growth, in a way that EMDR may not.

From my clinical experience, together, these two approaches facilitate a deep healing, faster, more effective long-term transformation.

I offer psychodynamic therapy, EMDR therapy (EMDR certified), psychoanalytic therapy (certified), combined with CBT, and grounded in the neuroscience of psychotherapy and relationships in order to help people discover how to live fully in the present and create more fulfilling, successful lives. 

In particular I have an expertise working with creatives, performers, and artists of all kinds – writers,  actors, fine artists, musicians, producers, directors, fashion designers, and creative entrepreneurs. My office is in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. I provide in-person and online psychotherapy to people across California.

If you are interested in EMDR therapy, please contact me for your free 15 minute consultation to see if this therapy is appropriate for you.


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