When I have a flashback, I get stuck in the past. When I have nightmares, I feel like I am in an alternate reality. Everything in my mind is clouded by fear. Everything in my body is clouded by adrenaline and pain.
Sometimes I go blind during a flashback. Sometimes I go deaf too. Other times, my body heats up; then gets chills. During the worst ones, all of that happens as my body cramps up and I lose control of bodily functions. That is the fear and adrenaline alternately makeing me run (flight) and paralyze (play dead) myself to get away from overwhelming experiences beyond my control.
At times like this, sensory grounding doesn’t help much. I have to rely on my intelligence, trust in self, and creativity to search out facts or truths about my present. If I can get beyond the fear and pain to the sacred vault that holds this infornation, I can use it to calm down and stop the panic.
Here are some questions my therapist started me with first time I tried it in session:
- What day is it?
- What year is it?
- What month is it?
- What is your name?
- Where are you now?
- How old are you?
- Where do you live? City, street, state?
- Where do you work?
- How long have you worked there?
Here are some other questions that help me:
- How long have you lived at your residence?
- What is your favorite color?
- Who is your favorite cartoon character?
- How long have you been (insert hobby or sport here)?
- What is your favorite fruit?
- What color is the sky
So many lists of questions can be made depending on the person’s life and activities. Sometimes I state facts I know to be true about myself and my life if questions are too hard to come up with. Here are some examples:
- My name is….
- I am _ years old
- I was born in _
- I have 87 alternate personalities
- We are 88 in our system
- I am safe; you are safe; we are safe
- The monsters are not part of my life anymore
- I am financially stable
It feels and sounds a lot like mantras and affirmations, yes? The biggest difference here is that instead of saying something I want to be true, I am reminding myself of who I am now. And the energy gets redirected from fear and adrenaline to cognitive thinking. My system calms down. And the panic attack symtpoms decrease as the adrenaline stops.
It works great coming out of nightmares and in busy, crowded public places too. How and where else can it work? I guess the versatility depends on how one applies the strategy.