I have lost myself. I was in a abusive relationship for many years. I became someone is wasnt proud of. Now that im in a very normal loveable relationship, i find out that i dont know who i am. I have a lot of flashbacks of the past. How can i overcome this?
How to make this phenomenon make sense in simple terms... I'll have a bash:
What you describe as flashbacks is actually very normal for one who's made such a leap of progress. Normally a transitional, "rebound" relationship occurs between Mr Abusive and Mr Healthy as reflects ones roughly halfway stage of recovery at that point in time (and the fact that even recovering 'patients' still need a cuddle and sh*g, etc.), and its this 'halfway house' that allows ones mind to make comparisons of all the starkest/main differences between the two as well as to learn from certain past repetitions of mistakes where concerns ones initial selection judgement and both parties' behaviour from there (as forms the long-term dynamic). Obviously, comparing heinous to SEMI-crap/SEMI-good is a far less gargantuan task than what *your* mind's having to take on and come to terms with. Mr Healthy will make Mr Abusive seem far more abusive-in-memoriam whilst Mr Abusive-in-memoriam will make Mr Healthy seem far nicer. Without the benefit of that transitional yardstick man, that halfway house, you can end up very overloaded and confused for a while. Was this seeming love lottery win by unconscious design or just good luck or both (and what proportion)?, for example. What are all the things I'm doing this time that I failed to or didn't know how last time?
This process takes time... because it's not as simple and speedy as comparing the characteristics and behaviour between, say, the colours Red and Green. So if you've hooked up with Mr Healthy whilst still somewhere on the final leg of that whole recovery path, you have to complete this coming-to-terms-with-everything process 'on the job' (your new relationship). Not until you're long USED to being treated well (for as lengthily or 'weightily' as you were treated badly) does it stop or ease to where you can consider yourself beyond the path's chequered flag.
You haven't lost yourself, you just haven't (yet) caught up *consciously* with who you are today...your new and improved self as has attracted to you new and improved people and things/situations), replete with less tolerance for crap, greater wisdom and savviness, and far higher expectations (but where those changes in oneself aren't always immediately obvious to you yourself and take an outside act to bring it home to you.
What then exacerbates this lack of current-self intimacy is that during the abusive relationship and its aftermath, what with your mind having been so taken up with trying to fend off the abuse and then the job of sifting, reading, filing all the baggage on top of greater demands of functioning (organising your new single life), you can be almost sleepwalking. Those 'blurred' years need conscious registering/acknowledgement, understanding and filing away correctly as well. So you can be left, on 'being woken by your prince's kiss', wondering what happened in the past and how, and who you are now....playing conscious catch-up, as I say.
I don't doubt for a minute that these flashbacks get triggered both by Mr Healthy having said/done something else impressive and self-affirming/validating (no matter how subtly) as then demands that your mind immediately starts making comparisons with how Mr Abusive was in the same/similar situation (so THAT you can file or re-file the latter partner and relationship correctly). In other words, you didn't realise until now just how much you've bitten off. It's clearly *not* more than you can chew (plus it's delicious) but BOY does it take a lot of chewing!... to the point where your subconscious 'backroom filing gals' need rare extra assistance from their 'receptionist' (conscious you).
Let me give you an example as one who's been there and back (and had quite a lot of operations): During my crappy marriage, following an op, and despite having assured the consultant he'd ensure I had complete bedrest - Mr Crap did NOT take care of me, didn't even take that day off, left me bed-ridden and then having to really struggle to function (which wasn't recommended because it would hamper recovery and healing...which it did, as then led to the need years later for a re-op)). During my rebound relationship, Mr Okayish Rebound (but still more crap than not where concerned things that really mattered) did do SOME things to take care of me when I was similarly laid up (different problem), however, it was halfhearted as well as just too obvious that he was trying to use my vulnerability and need for assistance to his advantage (to avoid having to earn my forgiveness for a then-recent, significant transgression), meaning the action WAS there but the intention behind it wholly selfish and self-serving.
Now fast-forward to a repeat scenario with Mr Soulmate (and the re-op). He couldn't do enough for me before and during my hospital stay, *and* while I was under the anaesthetic, cleaned the house and garden top to bottom!...which he did over 36 hours *straight* - no sleep! He is no clean-freak. He had nothing obvious to gain. He did it FOR ME/OUR RELATIONSHIP - to impress upon me how much he loved and valued both and how worried he'd been about me. He then took a whole WEEK off work to play nursie-stroke-maid extraordinaire. I felt like Lady Muck! (As if he hadn't been impressive enough already!)
Coming home and walking through the door to be met by a showroom-clean and-tidy property, I instantly broke down into involuntary, hysterical sobbing. The chasmic, *shocking* contrast in both the actions package as well as the meaning behind it compared to Mr Semi-crap and, before him, Mr Outright Crap was just too much in terms of a trigger to start examining the comparison and filing it away. Despite joyous, it was like being given years'-worth of homework to do in days. And that homework included - yup - flashbacks. Lots and lots of audio-visual memories and thoughts popping unsolicited into my head to do with this and all similar types of scenarios.
They were snippets of the CCTV footage. I needed to see these tapes...to help my back-room staff answer all those sudden questions and dilemmas: "How come this one's treating us like a queen?... is it because he's foreign, is it me, is it him, is it us together, would he be like this with another woman (and was he - in which case, why didn't they appreciate him), and if HE can do it how come Crap and Semi-Crap couldn't/didn't/wouldn't....what-how-when-where-who-WHAT?'. So my mind turned detective (so much so that I could see and feel it in real time), sat and waded through years', DECADES'-worth of footage snippets in order to spot all the crimes and mistakes, nick them and send them down (into solitary confinemenet). Basically.
As I say, every single time Mr Healthy does something good and loving (which the ex didn't), it triggers this process so majorly that conscious you is aware it's happening (despite you don't really know what it is or why).
How can you 'overcome this'? You don't need to, you only need to know it's normal and healthy and thereby to relax and let it do its thing in its own sweet time. The really good news, however, is that a GOOD relationship is born from Like Attracting Like, meaning, I'd bet any money you like that your Mr Healthy & Normal has been experiencing the same thing, whether or not he realises it on the conscious level or merely keeps it to himself out of male pride because he isn't aware it's happening to you.
Does that help de-mystify it?