Unconscious flashbacks – emotionally charged memories that can trigger strong emotional reactions and destructive urges and impulses without ever coming into your conscious mind can cause serious damage because they force you to MAKE UP reasons for your reactions.
Women who have been sexually abused sometimes will have the urge to divorce their husbands when their child reaches the age that they were abused. Anyone who has kids knows that they make you relive your childhood. When your kids are three you think about being three, when they turn five you relive your memories of being five. So what happens if something very difficult – like a molestation – happened when you were seven? Your daughter’s 7th birthday subconsciously triggers your abuse memory. If you have trained yourself not to think about the abuse, if you have put it out of your mind – then your conscious mind listens to you and keeps the memory from your awareness. However, the subconscious instant replay button has already been pushed causing you to re-experience the emotions you had when you were molested.
Since you were abused by a man – you all of a sudden stop trusting men. Also – since you are married to a man – you stop trusting your husband. You don’t have any idea of the real source of these deep feelings of mistrust. Your mind looks around for the most likely explanation. As you are struggling with these strong feelings you walk into the bathroom and as you go to sit down on the toilet you almost fall in – your husband has once again left the toilet seat up. Suddenly it all makes sense, you rush up to the bedroom where your husband is watching another one of those stupid football games and you scream “Do you know how many times I have told you not to leave the toilet seat up, its been years and years and you have never listened to me, if I can’t trust you for something little like that how can I trust you with the rest of my life?” All of a sudden – seemingly out of the blue – you realize that you can’t trust your husband, that you will never be able to trust him. Filing for divorce seems like a logical choice.
- Blank, A. S. (1985). The unconscious flashback to the war in Vietnam veterans: Clinical mystery, legal defense, and community problem. In S. M. Sonnenberg, A. S. Blank & J. A. Talbott (Eds.), The trauma of war: Stress and recovery in Vietnam veterans. (pp. 293-308). Washington, D. C.: American Psychiatric Press.
- LeDoux, Joseph E. (1996). The emotional brain : the mysterious underpinnings of emotional life. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Öhman, Arne, Carlsson, Katrina, Lundqvist, Daniel, & Ingvar, Martin. (2007). On the unconscious subcortical origin of human fear. Physiology & Behavior, 92(1-2), 180-185.