Flashbacks & night terrors | Michelle Dixon

Flashbacks suck (they usually trigger massive panic attacks – that’s in an upcoming blog). Often the source of night terrors is your mind processing a flashback in the depths of REM sleep, discharging the memories and the body-trauma simultaneously.

It can bring up unrelated fears, or terror-filled dream images that may or may not relate to your specific trauma.

Below, I’m going to explain why this happens.

Why does your body-brain torture you with ‘flashbacks’?

Primarily a symptom of acute trauma, flashbacks of a traumatic event can happen at any time, and often come without warning.

They can be triggered by sounds, sensations, including on television. At night, when the nervous system is at its most relaxed – in rest and restore mode – unresolved trauma is most likely to be released.

The body naturally discharges emotion that is stored, and often in the form of night terrors which throw you emotionally into reliving the event.

It’s important to understand that when flashbacks or nighttime terrors happen, it’s your body attempting to protect you, to discharge, to release. However, the body and mind do need human to human support to do this.

This is because as humans, we are social creatures. Our very nervous system, in particular our vagus nerve, has evolved to interact with others as a means of settling our fight or flight response (which is in permanent standby in the traumatised body).

Known as the ‘social engagement system,’ this part of our nervous system can help us come back into regulation. The social engagement system seeks compassionate and creative interaction for healing to occur.

Seeking the support of friends/family/therapists activates the social engagement system, and thereby lights up a different part of the brain than the one that HIJACKS us into a trauma response. In short, it takes us out of our primitive survival-oriented body systems.

In older societies, tribal ceremonies and group activity could provide this. Today, therapeutic support, friendship, and group therapies are effective stand-ins.

So, if you are suffering from flashbacks and night terrors:


1. It’s a normal way your body discharges (lets go of) trauma memories, so just remember, your body is working, your mind is ATTEMPTING to help you release.

2. Don’t socially isolate … (even if you PHYSICALLY must isolate)! Talk to friends, family and your therapist, and share what you are experiencing.

3. Consider consulting a naturopath about supplements/herbs to help you sleep.

4. A holistic trauma care plan can help you release past trauma and emotion from your body and relieve symptoms like night terrors, flashbacks and much more.

Solutions for Night Terrors & More

If you’d like to learn more about the different types of trauma, including acute trauma, ptsd, complex trauma, developmental trauma, as well as new insights into symptoms like flashbacks and night terrors, as well as panic attacks, memory problems, etc. – and ALSO learn holistic ways to begin to heal, you can get my free guide, just click the image below.

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