It is interesting to see the scenes in two popular TV drama series recently where flashbacks have been acted out. The first has been in Channel 4’s The Good Wife where a lawyer returns to court after being injured in a courtroom shooting and the second is in the controversial series that has just concluded on BBC1 called Happy Valley.
These two drama programmes, whilst fictional, do offer some visual understanding to the general public about flashbacks, trauma and post traumatic stress syndrome. However, in these drama scenes the flashbacks just happen – taking over the characters’ thoughts and behaviours until they come out of the flashback.
What happens in real life is that a trigger or triggers start off a flashback. Flashbacks are frightening and consuming at the moment in time when the trauma is being re-lived by the person and for the people around them at the time too. The trauma may be isolated or it may be part of someone suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Some people will feel unwell, faint, start to sweat, shake or have other symptoms during a flashback.
As the actors showed in the drama series, flashbacks are different for each person. In psychotherapy counselling we work together with people by introducing coping mechanisms to control flashbacks. Just like the flashbacks, the coping mechanisms are different for each individual person.