Whenever we have an overwhelming experience, we have an amazing capacity to set aside the most intense portions of that experience to deal with later. We sometimes call this phenomenon "flipping into survival mode" and that's exactly what it is. Setting aside the most intense parts, aka disassociating, enables us to survive. It works well at the time.
Then later, perhaps years later, when we are safer, away from the traumatic situation and perhaps grown up, "the rest of the story" returns to help us finish healing that overwhelming experience. It is as if something inside us holds those most intense portions to protect us from them as long as we need it to. Eventually, when we believe we can handle them, it begins to return these leftovers as if it is asking, "Are you ready to finish this memory yet?"
We call these returning moments flashbacks. We flash back to whatever remains unprocessed from those earlier overwhelming events, especially the feelings we found too intense to handle at the time. Flashbacks can be triggered by any little thing in the present that we associate with the earlier event, perhaps a specific touch, scent, word someone says, taste and something we see.
No one welcomes these painful and welcome moments. Why would we? These flashbacks suddenly, and without warning, interrupt our current activities. They remind us of experiences we want to forget and not know about. Our flashbacks can take us to intense feelings we want to avoid-perhaps anger, rage, fear, desperation, loneliness and powerlessness. We may think we are going crazy, losing control