Phantom Fear

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sasha~

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Phantom Fear
« on: September 06, 2014, 04:19:23 PM »
I had a kind of insight this week. I've been integrating out of dissociation for the last 6 months or so, and so it's not easy to shut off scary feelings anymore. In fact, most of the time I can't just shut the scared kid into a trunk and lock the lid the way I did for decades. Every night I am gripped by fear when I go to bed. It's actually the little kid who is gripped by fear, and she had very good reasons for that. However, now I'm an adult and don't have any reason to be gripped by fear anymore. So last night - in a panic in my nice safe house and nice safe bed - I started tapping (EFT). As I was working through the languaging of it, I realized that my fear felt very real but it was a ghost. Like a ghost it looks like a person, but it's not here in the present -- it's a person out of time. The fear is ghost fear, as well. It looks just like a real feeling and feels like a real feeling, but it's also out of time. I was thinking of how people who lose a limb have phantom sensations of that limb. Similarly, I think, I'm experiencing phantom fear. The danger isn't now - it was then. But it wasn't safe to feel the fear then, so I floated away or locked the fear in a trunk or did whatever I needed to do to not feel the fear. My body remembered it and now that I'm integrating, I'm feeling it now just like it would have been felt then... only it's not then. It's now. And I'm not in danger now. I'm safe.

I've tried meditation in the past and tried to do the "that's just a feeling" thing and let it float into and out of my consciousness, as the books say to do, but I literally can not do it. Perhaps because the fear isn't in my consciousness or even in my mind, but being held in my body and brought back up for a reason. It's been stored for so long.

"that's just a thought" and "that's just a feeling" weren't working for me. "This is a ghost feeling. It's a feeling from another time." seems to be working a little. I can feel my anxiety go from an 8 or 9 down to a 5 or 6 with that statement.

It's a big thing for me. Most of the time, when I get a flashback feeling I can't stay with it at all. I had zero tolerance even for a whiff of a possible flashback feeling and I was "outta here" mentally. (Off to dissociation central where I'd convert into Capable Adult who had No Feelings.) After a time of therapy, and starting to integrate, I couldn't flip that switch to shut off Scared Girl and turn on Capable Adult. It was like I was both at the same time, but couldn't be both at the same time. So it was like being in this huge swamp of being with no differentiations. Because my ability to tolerate anxiety (at this point) is still pretty low, but I can't put the person feeling the anxiety into the locked trunk, I'm stuck being Scared Girl and being Capable Adult at the same time but with no discernment on what to do. So I'm kind of like "blanked out" on the outside and "freaked out" on the inside. And the freak out tends to get bigger and bigger and I'm screaming in my head "I can't take this I can't take this I have to get out of here Someone help me!" Saying, "It's OK. This is a ghost feeling." was like lowering the internal pressure on my pressure cooker. Now all the way, but a little lower so I could tolerate the anxiety for a little while.

My next goal is to be able to lower the anxiety scale enough so that I can help myself do grounding exercises. (At the moment, I can't do that and end up needing someone to guide me before I can do it - I don't even think of doing grounding, it's just not even in my toolbox at that moment.) Hope that makes sense?

I thought I'd share this in case it helped anyone else. Does anyone else have experiences like this or tricks to reframe our feelings of flashbacks so that we can hold on through them?

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Badmemories

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2014, 01:45:54 PM »
This is an insightful post. I have not done any INNER child work yet. I did read somewhere that it is good to write and let the inner child express her/his needs. I have not started yet, and yet feel it will be a usefull tool to work through MY difficulties.

I think that You are one step a head of me in that I have lost most of the bad memories from My childhood. I think that writing for my inner child would help me to understand why I panic and get these bad feelings.  Then I can soothe the inner child and get rid of may of MY PANICS! I am thinking about so much right now! That in it's self is an improvement for me!

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Nettiemarie

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2014, 01:57:42 PM »
Very helpful - very similar to what I've been going through.  I like the Pete Walker site a lot - this is something that has helped me.  http://www.pete-walker.com/pdf/emotionalFlashbackManagement.pdf

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Kizzie

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2014, 09:45:21 PM »
Hi Sasha and welcome to Out of the Storm, so glad you've joined us here.

I am in a similar position as yours in that I am finding it really hard to drop into that nice cozy dissociation I used to employ. I do miss it on occasion, especially when something big triggers me but I am getting a little more comfortable with it now.  It helps knowing that we have parts of our psyche that need to be integrated so at least it doesn't feel like you're going crazy.  Before I would stuff my inner child into a box too. Nowadays I let her talk to Adult me and take pains to reassure her as much and as often as she needs it.  That's one of the exercises from Walker that works well for me.

While I do hear and feel the fear, I have also noticed that I am becoming more spontaneous, especially with fun or silly things and joking around, quite new for the Adult Me and I think it's a sign that I am beginning to integrate. It sounds to me like you are beginning to as well and are at the stage where you can feel that beginning to happen.  I like your strategy of saying "It's OK, it's a ghost feeling" - puts that fear right in the past where it came from and belongs. 

One thing that might help to bring the anxiety down is to think about what is going on so the process is not adding to your fear/anxiety.  And along with comforting the younger part of you, one thing I've tried that has worked and might help you is to show her how to have some fun.  "What would younger Sasha like to do if she hadn't been so scared and sad?"  and then do it. 
« Last Edit: September 09, 2014, 07:52:31 PM by Kizzie »

Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2014, 07:49:57 PM »
Hi Sasha, I found your post fascinating, and I profited from reading it. Something similar occurred to me this week. The thing is, I haven't had any memories of my childhood day-to-day life. I knew the facts, but I had only a scant handful of actual memories. (Ironically, I have quite a few memories of when I was very little.)

I had an emotional flashback today, and it scared me. Then I thought: "Wait - this is what it was like. This is what I felt like back then. Finally, some information on what life was like." Looking at it like this brought the distress down. It made it feel less like "ARGH LIFE IS HORRIBLE AND SO AM I" and more like "this is what I'm grieving about." It still felt like real, actual grief - as if somebody had died. But it was doable. Perhaps the mere shift into seeing this as accurate information about the past and not the present helped.

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sasha~

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2014, 12:32:04 PM »
Wow. You all understand!!!!!!! That's my first reaction: Wow! I'm totally normal here!!!! OMG!!! You all understand me!!!!!! Hooray!!!!!!

Thank you for the validation, the welcome, and the ideas. I think I *have* Pete Walkers book, actually. I will have to look for it. I have this tendency to buy books and not know I did it. Often I buy them twice. I have a kindle, so when I try to buy kindle books twice, amazon will tell me and I'm very surprised, and have to look through the kindle to find it. I think I have Pete Walker's book in actual book form, so it'll mean a physical search of the premises. LOL - anyone else do that???

I've been trying to do more with the inner child. I really fought it for about 3 years, but the last few months, the idea of inner child work has been less threatening. Quite often I cuddle with a teddy bear my daughter bought me many years ago. Once or twice I bought my inner child a present. I did ask her what she wanted one time when I was in High Anxiety and starting to feel that floaty feeling. She wanted ice cream! It was so funny to say, "Don't go anywhere little one, what do you want?" and before I could finish the sentence she had said "Ice cream!" So I gave her some ice cream, even though it was before dinner. :-) LOL! That's about the extent of my inner child work. Most of the time I really do fight BEING ME. Most of the time all I can think is, "I hate being me. I hate being that kid who was abused. I wish it wasn't my history. I wish I wasn't me. I have to get out of here."  I'm thinking that suggestion of doing something fun right then would really help.  It helps to distract children when they're upset, why wouldn't it help an inner child? Technically, they really are both children, right? I mean it's a part of our psyche or whatever that got stuck.

I haven't been able to read through too many books. I start and then I literally can't keep reading or I can't remember anything. It's a little discouraging, because I love to read and have always gotten a lot of help from books. When I was a new parent, I found an attachment parenting book and followed it like a bible. My parenting skills went like this. When in doubt do: 1) what I wish NM had done, 2) the total opposite of what NM had done or 3) what a book says. Kids turned out OK somehow.

So... now time to parent myself. It's hard though. I gave my kids value and valued them: treated them with love, safety, loyalty. Gave them a safe space to live. I was rabid about it. I had no safe space and really don't feel like I deserve it. Someone is going to catch me if I try to value that little one. Someone is going to catch me and tell me it's wrong, she's bad, she's shameful, don't you dare protect her. When I start thinking like this, my T will say, "She's innocent." Maybe that's a good statement? When I start going, "I hate me. I don't want to be me." maybe it's time to tell myself "I'm innocent." or "She's innocent."

Has anyone ever tried that?

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keepfighting

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2014, 12:45:50 PM »
maybe it's time to tell myself "I'm innocent." or "She's innocent."

Has anyone ever tried that?


There were times when I've played Billy Joel's "Innocent Man" so often that if it were still an old fashioned record, it would be broken by now.  ;)

It feels good to shout loudly (in the car, by myself): "I am an innocent man - oh yes I am!"

I think it's one of the most liberating and positive messages you can treat yourself to.

Thank you for reminding me - I really needed to hear that today.  :)

So... now time to parent myself. It's hard though. I gave my kids value and valued them: treated them with love, safety, loyalty. Gave them a safe space to live.

It's probably time to be as nice and understanding towards yourself as you've been/still are towards your children. You deserve it just as much as they do!

Maybe put up a picture of yourself as a little girl and tell her every day how wonderful she is, that it isn't her fault how she's being treated and that you (the older version of yourself) will be there to take care of her once she's grown up.

I really hope you can find a way to take away the shame and guilt that weigh her down.

Sending good thoughts your way!
« Last Edit: September 11, 2014, 02:01:55 PM by keepfighting »

Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2014, 03:53:17 PM »
I had never heard of the term dissociation before I read Pete.  And then I realized that I spend so much of my life in that state.

I've read all kinds of grounding techniques, and none really work.  When I did it at T, she threw a pillow at me.  Sounds nuts, I know, but it maybe was one of the most effective ways I've ever had to ground me.  I have heard about ice cubes, which I've never tried.  I tend to dig my nails into my palms, and that has limited effectivness.

You mentioned your child self.  I haven't done too much research into this, but there is a whole theory about this but googling failing me now.  I will try to look for what I am talking about and link it.

Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2014, 07:35:00 AM »
I did some work with my inner child. It started out as a written dialogue with my inner critic, because of some writing advice I read in a book. (Henriette Klauser's Writing On Both Sides of the Brain.) It developed into a kind of dialogue with several parts of my psyche. I even got to talk to my creativity. This technique alone helped me so much. The difference it made was incredible. I had the feeling that there was real, proper healing because of this.


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Butterfly

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2014, 05:40:14 PM »
Very helpful post.

"My body remembered it and now that I'm integrating, I'm feeling it now just like it would have been felt then... only it's not then." Excellent thought process and I like the thought of being integrated.

BUT the whole inner child stuff so difficult for me. I try to call to her but she hides, in the dark of the closet or the basement crawl space where she hid literally in her childhood peacefully enjoying the safety and quiet. She likes her safe place. I don't stuff her away, she stays peacefully hid away unwilling to come if I call. Maybe she shows up on her own and I don't recognize her. Maybe this is why the EF and nightmares. Need to read book more. Do I need to find her? I think about her and know how she feels, is that being in touch?

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Badmemories

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2014, 06:09:03 PM »
Butterfly wrote:

BUT the whole inner child stuff so difficult for me. I try to call to her but she hides, in the dark of the closet or the basement crawl space where she hid literally in her childhood peacefully enjoying the safety and quiet. She likes her safe place. I don't stuff her away, she stays peacefully hid away unwilling to come if I call. Maybe she shows up on her own and I don't recognize her. Maybe this is why the EF and nightmares. Need to read book more. Do I need to find her? I think about her and know how she feels, is that being in touch?

I think My inner child is hiding underneath the trailer we used to live in. I used to hide under the trailer to get away...

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Butterfly

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2014, 06:16:11 PM »
Badmemories, :hug:

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Kizzie

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2014, 07:51:28 PM »
I think we need a great big group hug:

{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{HUGS ALL AROUND}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}


We are so brave for coming here - yay us!! 

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bee

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Re: Phantom Fear
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2014, 09:18:28 PM »
Thanks for posting this sasha. Lately I've been putting off going to bed, trying to explain to T why. This helps me understand myself a little, and it helps so much to know I'm not alone in my struggles.
When I turn off the light to go to sleep, if I am not tired enough, it hits. First off, like you, I am safe in my bed, safe in my house. 99% of the time there is nothing for me to worry about, but that does not stop my brain. It finds something, anything, to panic about. When this happens, sleep is impossible until about 2-3 in the morning.
Lately I have been trying to connect with my body more(as recommended by Peter Levine - good books on trauma). I think this is resulting in me being less dissociated. That's good, but I have no experience dealing with feelings, and this means I feel raw and exposed. I have been attributing it to anxiety, but maybe there is a flashback/inner child component there. I will bring this up to my T to discuss.