Glossary of Common Terms

  • Attachment: Our ability to connect and bond with others. It builds a solid foundation, gives a home to come back to, the ability to self-regulate and to communicate with others. Love, safety, resilience and identity all start with attachment.
  • Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA): Sexual Abuse of a Minor. Please view our “what is CSA page” for a larger explanation of what sexual abuse may look like.
    • Child on Child Sexual Abuse (COCSA): The sexual abuse of a minor by another minor.
  • Consent: An agreement to do something. Consent is imperative in life and if it is not present in a sexual situation then it is sexual assault. Consent has for major parts:
    • Informed: Everyone must know what they are getting into.
    • Free: No one can be under any duress or manipulation.
    • Enthusiastic: Everyone must want to be doing it.
    • Ongoing: Consent can be revoked at any point.
  • Core beliefs: Thoughts a person has that determine how they interpret their experiences. For example: “The world is unsafe”, they will believe that all people will be dangerous and might hurt them. Core beliefs are formed during early childhood.
  • Body Memories: The common colloquial term to refer to Somatic Flashbacks [definition of somatic flashback can be found under flashback.]
  • Dissociation: A function in the mind that allows the person’s consciousness to separate from the body and disconnected from the self and surroundings. Can cause dissociative amnesia. Highly connected to traumatic experiences. Notable in Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) other dissociative disorders and trauma-based disorders like C-PTSD.
  • Flashback: Flashbacks are psychological phenomena during which a person relives a past event or fragments of a past experience. They generally occur involuntarily, abruptly entering an individual’s awareness without the aid of premeditation or conscious attempts to recall the memory, and they may be intense. As flashbacks involve past events, they may have no relevance to what is happening at present.
    • Emotional Flashbacks: Feeling as if you are mentally and emotional back into a traumatic event. This can be distressing enough to disrupt everything if you have a panic attack or dissociative episodes. Another thing that may happen is acting behaviour like you did during trauma.  This can be like returning to a state of submit or freeze (as in flight/fight/freeze/submit dynamic). Emotional flashbacks can often be tied intrinsically to somatic flashbacks (body memories) as emotions are felt in the body, like stomach pain from fear or sweating from anxiety.
    • Somatic Flashbacks/Body Memories: This is feeling the same things in the body as you did during trauma. This is often very distracting like any sudden pain would be. This too can trigger behaviours used to cope during the time, can disrupt connection with the current situation. These can even cause extreme reactions like vomiting or passing out. Body memories can’t really be experienced without an emotional flashback happening at the same time.
    • Visual Flashbacks: This is the experience of the event with visual stimuli. This can be disjointed or a strict narrative. This can be like being back in your body (1st person view) or experience it dissociatively (3rd person). This often disrupts what you are doing and can trigger panic attacks or dissociative episodes. This again generally includes emotional flashback symptoms too. Some people can tell they are not back in the moment and see a mix of flashbacks and current situations. It can also be experienced as a complete disconnect and lose the ability to recognize the current location/time. Symptoms of panic attacks are common but not required, numbing out can also be an effect. 
    • Auditory Flashbacks: Experiencing the same sounds you experienced during the moment. If experienced alone this can mimic hallucinations or intrusive thoughts. These also often overlap with other experiences of flashbacks. 
  • Felt Sense: An internal bodily awareness of a situation, person, or event. An encompassing non-cognitive physiological sensation of emotions and presence.
    • A felt sense of safety is where you feel safe in both body and thought.
  • Gaslighting: A psychological/emotional abuse tactic that breaks down the victim’s perception of themselves, the abuser, relationships and even physical reality. Often a part of grooming [defined below].
  • Grooming: Grooming is when someone builds a connection with someone to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, child porn production or sex trafficking. Grooming can be done in person and online. Grooming is most commonly done by people who are known to the victim like parents, other family members, friends, teachers, babysitters or other kinds of caregivers. Grooming itself is a form of emotional and psychological abuse in and of itself.
  • Hyperarousal: Our central nervous system becomes locked in a state of excessive activation and a survival mode. Our body can’t bring itself out of the fight & flight responses. This presents as hypervigilance, anxiety, agitation, anger, fear, paranoia, and similar experiences. When we are in this survival state our ability to relax, focous, connect, sleep, digest food, regulate our blood pressure and manage our emotions. We are more likely to be triggered into panic attacks, flashbacks, risky behaviour and episodes of outward anger. This can often switch to hyperarousal and back.
  • Hypoarousal: Our nervous system is under activated and locked in the survival responses of freeze or fawn/submit. This presents as emotional numbness, dissociation, depersonalization/derealisation, somatic symptoms, communication issues and a struggle understanding and regulates emotions. Hypoarousal is common in those who have developmental trauma, dissociative disorder and structural dissociation. It is often also experienced after and in conjunction with hyperarousal.
  • Incest: Sexual interaction between two people who are related by blood or law. This includes parents with children and between siblings. Depending on the law uncles, aunts and first cousins (by blood or law) may be included. However, all of these are generally viewed as incest in psychology & recovery communities. Any sexual interaction between family members is automatically sexual abuse.
  • Intrusive Thoughts: Unwanted, cognitively disruptive and emotionally disruptive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are usually thoughts about actions, scenarios or fears the person finds upsetting. Intrusive thoughts don’t have to be realistic at all or based on an event that happened to the person.
  • Rape: Non-consensual penetration of the anus and/or vagina with any body part. Oral penetration with sexual organ and/or in a sexual situation. There is no necessary depth or level of force needed. The definition of consent is above
    • USA DOJ: “Forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means penetration by the offender(s). Includes attempted rapes, male as well as female victims, and both heterosexual and same-sex rape. Attempted rape includes verbal threats of rape.”
  • Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is usually undesired sexual behaviour by one person upon another. It is often perpetrated using force or by taking advantage of another. When force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. Force includes things like coercion via emotional and psychological means. All sexual acts towards children is abuse.
  • Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
  • Somatic Symptoms: Symptoms in other parts of the body than the brain caused by mental health conditions. A key feature of Somatic Symptom Disorder. Also present in most conditions, think fatigue in Depression and heart palpitations in Panic Disorder. Something to keep in mind, it does not mean these are fake or made up, they are real and deserve to be respected. [Not to be confused with somatic flashbacks.]
  • Trauma:  A responses to a stressful event that pushes our brain and body past their windows of stress tolerance.
  • Trauma Bonding: A response to long term abusive relationships. This can present in all kinds of relationships, platonic, parental, familial, mentor/mentee and romantic (including adults who pretend they can “date” their child victim.) Trauma bonds are formed by the pattern heightened stress & most severe abusive actions, a refractory period of the abuser “comforting” the victim, and then generally a baseline period. This creates an addictive response, a false sense of the abuser caring, extreme relationships and a sense of going crazy, Gaslighting, grooming and other emotional abuse are generally part of this as well.

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