A Cure for PTSD Nightmares and Flashbacks


This article is a guest post from Patience Mason's PTSD Blog.
It was republished on PsyWeb.com with permission.

Much of the information about the traumatic events in your war is stored in the reptile part of your brain (hippocampus, amagdayla, other funny names) in the form of fragments of non-verbal memory (sounds, scenes, smells, words, emotions, etc). They often trigger flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares and hyper-aroused bodily states.

Moving Memories to Prevent 'Re-Experiencing' Symptoms

People are designed to form narrative memories. It is what the whole front part of the brain does, and through the process of verbalizing those fragmented incidents, you can move them out of the part of the brain that causes re-experiencing up into a normal narrative memory, which might be painful, but won't entail involuntary re-experiencing.

Therapy, if you get to talk about what happened, can do this too. That is why they want you to talk. But sometimes therapists don't want to hear or don't want you to feel bad, so they cut short parts of the story. It can also be very hard to remember some parts of it if you feel ashamed of something you did – or didn't – do. So if writing it out doesn't seem to do the job, look deeper.

An example of this: a woman who was raped was so afraid the guy would kill her and so desperate to get it over with that she moved her body as if it was good for her. In therapy, she didn't even remember this; it was so shameful in her eyes. But when she read my prayer for trauma survivors, which says, "Help me to love myself no matter what happened to me or what I did to survive," she remembered. And after that, no more intrusive memories!

Affirmation and Prayers for Veterans

Affirmation for Veterans with PTSD

I’m _____________ and I’m ____ years old.

I am home from the war. I can feel safe here.

I live in ____________________.

I live with ___________________, and _________ cares about me.

I can feel sadness and despair and fear and anger and guilt.

I can cry and those who love me will still care for me.

I need to have these feelings so I can let them go.

Each time they come up, I can use them as evidence that I need to do whatever it takes to take care of myself.

I can ask for and receive help.

Prayer for Veterans with PTSD

Higher Power,

I know that it’s not within the harmony of the universe that I be healed from the trauma of my experiences in the war without pain.

Help me through the pain. Surround me with the golden light of healing, fill me with the white light of peace and love. Help me to bear the pain as I go through these memories. Help me to cry. Help me to remember. Help me to love myself no matter what happened to me or what I did to survive. Amen.

Serenity Prayer for Veterans with PTSD

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change: the war, what happened to me and what I did or didn't do, and that what happened was traumatic no matter how effectively I have stuffed it.

Courage to change the things I can:

  • • my attitude toward my symptoms - help me to accept them as a normal response to war and evidence that I need to take care of myself by talking about what happened to me with a safe person and getting whatever help I need;
  • • my actions - I no longer have to blow up, drug, deny or repress my symptoms. I can accept them as evidence of how much I have been through;
  • • my reactions - instead of freaking out, blowing up, or trying to repress what I feel, I can focus on the symptom, whether it is numbness, anger, a painful emotion or memory, dream or flashback, or a physical reaction, feel what I feel, go through and have the pain and learn whatever it is that my Higher Power wants me to learn. Then I can share about the effects of trauma on people.

Finally, I can change how I see these symptoms - as normal responses to trauma which helped me survive and will help me recover even if they are painful.

And the wisdom to know the difference: help me to be willing to accept that I survived something terrible, and that I can learn from it and heal if I look outside my own head for help, and that I deserve to heal.

Please feel free to change the wording in whatever way works for you. I suggest keeping copies of this with you for those moments when you feel overwhelmed with feelings that you don’t want to have.

REMEMBER: It is okay to feel bad. You can’t heal what you don’t feel.


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