Unpacking the Psychology of Regression

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

Have you ever found yourself reacting to stress by exhibiting behaviors you thought you had outgrown? This phenomenon, known as regression, is a common psychological response to stress or trauma, where adults momentarily revert to behaviors from an earlier stage of development. In this article, we will delve into the underlying causes of regression, examine its impact on our everyday lives, and discuss how understanding this mechanism can lead to healthier coping strategies. Why do our minds push us into the past when faced with modern-day challenges?

“Regression is a psychological defense mechanism in which an individual copes with stressful or anxiety-provoking relationships or situations by retreating to an earlier developmental stage. Regression may be seen at any stage of development in both adults and children when someone behaves in a way that’s immature or inappropriate for their age.” The same source, Verywellmind, affirms, “in Freud’s conception, the defense mechanism of regression is closely tied to his stages of psychosexual development. Freud’s theory specifies several stages children go through from infancy through adolescence but specially focuses on development between birth and the age of six”.

According to Therapy Reviews, “regression in psychology can be a relative delicate subject to discuss as the behavior we all exhibit during childhood won’t be a comical thumb sucking or wetting the bed. The effects of regression can be more subtle. Chewing nails or pulling out hair can be a simple coping method that is also an example of regression. Despite disagreement from many psychoanalysts, renowned psychologist Carl Jung described regression as a positive psychological behavior. He believed it was an attempt to cope and was, therefore, an effective coping mechanism.”

What about therapy? Britannica considers, “therapy is aimed at removing the underlying cause of regression or addressing unmet needs that may be precipitating episodes of it. Behavioral interventions may be necessary for altering or correcting maladaptive defense responses, especially aggression and emotional outbursts. Some patients may benefit from regressive hypnosis therapy, in which they revisit painful memories through hypnosis to help them confront and overcome negative or traumatic experiences from the past.”

In sum, regression under stress is a natural, albeit complex, psychological phenomenon that reflects the ongoing influence of our developmental stages on our adult behavior. By delving into the causes and manifestations of regression, we can gain valuable insights into our psychological makeup and the unresolved issues and mitigating the impact of regression can lead to significant breakthroughs in how we handle stress and trauma.

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