Posted by: Donna Cunningham | March 26, 2009

PTSD and Second-Hand Angst: a Healing Resource, by Michele Rosenthal

 Donna notes: My guidance recently has been that many of the people who are paralyzed with fear about our economy are suffering a form of PTSD, as this scary time evokes memories of earlier traumas–even conceivably catastrophic events in past lives.  I was told that we can be suffering from Collective PTSD.  For instance, many people worry that “something might happen to Obama,” but my guides assure me he has powerful protection from the angelic realm. They say that what is happening is that we are suffering from 1960s flashbacks to the assassinations of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and other charismatic leaders.

 Today on the Blog Catalogue, I searched their listings under healing and encountered a site with a wealth of information about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and many healing techniques to help those who suffer from it and those who suffer because loved ones have it.  (What I’ve called in an earlier post Second Hand Angst.)  The blog is called Meandering Michele’s Mind, at, and I’ve asked Michele Rosenthal to be our guest blogger for today. 

                                                  Meandering Michele’s Mind: 18 Tips For Coping With A Flashback

©2009 by Michele Rosenthal, no further reproduction without permission.

If you’ve read my post ‘25 Things About My PTSD‘ you know that like many PTSDers one of my prevalent PTSD symptoms was flashbacks. And if you read the post you know that the flashback I most often got caught in was the moment I felt myself leave my body.

The truth is, in the original experience of that moment during my trauma, I didn’t want to come back. I wanted to keep going into the tunnel and abandon my body forever. Later, then, it was a strange flashback in which to be stuck. Non-violent and peaceful, the memory stole over me at odd moments without a definitive trigger and the next thing I knew, I was back in that place, hovering ½ way between my physical body and a black tunnel, reliving the panic and fear of the moments prior to my escape, and then lingering in the peace of that ultimate disconnection from the world around me. Suspended there, my mind shut down and I sank into the deep, despondent wish that I could get back to the tunnel and leave behind the rest of the PTSD hell in which I lived.

Not easy, as we all know, to cope and carry on when intense moments of the past overwhelm us. I’ve been thinking, lately, how much we all struggle to control the flashback experience – or not control it. Since my PTSD experience was undiagnosed for 25 years, I just accepted that this memory would bowl me over weekly, would, itself, hover over me on a daily basis and that was just the way things would be. I didn’t develop strategies or coping mechanisms for it. I let it wash over me, felt myself float away, and knew at some point I’d come back. It was easy to live like this since the flashback wasn’t violent in nature.

But for many survivors flashbacks are a big issue that becomes physiological and destructive in its experience. We need a ‘To Do’ list for interrupting the flow; a list of strategies to reconnect us to the present moment.

This week, I’ve been on the task. I’ve polled some PTSD friends. Today, I give you a collective list of what ten PTSDers do to stop a flashback in its tracks:

1. Count 1 – 10 slowly; repeat until the flashback ends.

 2. Practice breathing techniques to reconnect the body to the mind.

 3. Focus on one of the five senses, i.e. slowly look at what’s around you and notice the details; take a deep breath and smell the air; chew a piece of gum and taste the fresh flavor; put your hands together and feel the skin; listen to the sound of traffic.

 4. Let the flashback flow and view it as you would a movie, as if you are removed from it and it is appearing on a screen. You are in the present moment; the flashback is a separate event.

5. Snap an elastic band around your wrist.

 6. Hold onto an ice cube.

 7. Put a squeeze of toothpaste into your mouth (very unique texture/taste/smell).

8. Take a swig of vanilla extract.

 9. Stomp your feet.

 10. Say the alphabet backwards.

11. Journal. “Put it in a box” and put the box away.

12. Smelling peppermint oil (helps with head-aches, nausea, and jolts the senses).

 13. Reach out. Talk with someone.

 14. Surround yourself with things that help ground you (clocks, calendars, music).

 15. Develop a channel for safe venting if/when necessary. In the words of one survivor: “I used to take old jars from the fridge and smash them against a brick wall several blocks from my home, slamming a door, or screaming at the top of my lungs when no-one could hear me.”

 16. Stretching, Yoga, biking, running, walking, or working out.

 17. Counting without limit – -begin counting when it starts and don’t stop until the memory recedes.

18. For this last tip, I’m going to post the words of a vet, but any civilian can use the technique, too, by substituting his/her triggering sound: “The sound of a huey chopper would set off a flashback, so the therapist had me install a huey sound file on my computer and listen to it over and over. My anxiety still goes high at the sound but now no flashbacks.”

 About the Author: Michele Rosenthal is a trauma survivor who struggled with undiagnosed chronic/extreme PTSD for 25 years. After a diverse and largely self-empowered healing journey she is now 100% PTSD-free. She blogs about healing PTSD at Parasites of the Mind, where she also runs a free, ongoing healing workshop. Currently, she is launching Heal My PTSD, LLC, an organization whose mission is to advocate for PTSD awareness, education, treatment and healing for all segments of the PTSD population. Michele welcomes email at

Articles to help fight fear and despair on this blog:



  1. The Vietnam War is one part of our dark history, an infamous conflict during the early 70s. This is a military event between the Communist forces of North Vietnam supported by China and the Soviet Union, and the non-communist forces of South Vietnam which was supported by the United States. It was a fierce battle between the Vietcong forces and the U.S Troops which ended after the Fall of Saigon in April 30, 1975..

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