- 6 months ago
Hi! It’s really great to have you here!
So, as I understand it, your partner is being encouraged to use regression as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns stemming from a traumatic past.
I’m going to be pretty straightforward with you…
Pretending to be a child, who is naturally incapable of coping with a traumatic experience, is avoiding. Avoidance does not resolve. Avoidance does not make progress. Avoidance does not help recovery. A therapist who recommends avoidance techniques is not a good therapist. No decent therapist should ever recommend avoidance techniques or encourage a person to do something that is likely to lead to avoidance. This is really unacceptable because it’s dangerous, potentially causing the person to lack any future potential of personal growth. This is setting up a person to stagnate, leading to more failure than success. The therapist should have their licensed revoked for recommending such a harmful, damaging tactic.
Point blank: Regression is not therapeutic. Regression cannot replace therapy. Regression is not a “coping mechanism”.
Regression is a personality trait. It isn’t so much a lifestyle choice unless you modify your living conditions to center around the personalities that already exist. It isn’t something you can pick out and choose. It’s something that is a part of who an individual is and how they interact with their environment and others.
It’s that goofy way she says she’s excited. It’s how she gets totally sucked into cartoons. It’s her bouncing and peppy mornings. It’s her teary eyed over a scratch. It’s her quietly worrying that her old doll has gotten lonely. It’s her curiosity of the mundane, the simple. It’s her coloring “because it’s pretty”. It’s her childish daydreaming. It’s her wanting chocolate milk over coffee. It’s her cutting the food into silly shapes and getting far too excited that one really does look like an elephant this time. It’s her blushing when you tell her she’s pretty. It’s her always sliding her hand into yours when walking through the parking lot. It’s her dreams of being at the playground again, going on picnics, or taking a trip to Disney that sounds far too magical. This is what we mean by “it’s a personality”. I’m sure you could ramble off a handful of your own things that aren’t very mature about her!
As with any other type of personality, there are parts of it that can hold an individual back from fulfillment. When a Little uses their regression to avoid (“cope”) they are not doing something healthy. There is nothing about regression as a “way to cope” that is helping the individual move forward or overcome. That isn’t coping with difficult feelings while you’re overcoming something. That’s outright avoiding by believing you’re just naturally incapable.
Take, for example, a person who is naturally very reserved and “shy”. Being shy itself isn’t so bad, right? But, while this may be their base comfort zone, if they allow this to persist fully in all situations so that they never have to exercise any level of confidence they will miss opportunities they truly wanted to take, and would’ve been fully capable of taking. They will be overlooked when they would’ve desired otherwise. They will lead a less fulfilling life because they allowed their personality trait to lead important points in their life that required them to experience personal growth. They will miss out on personal growth if they are constant fully reserved and timid. And if that person were to say, “Being overly timid makes me comfortable. So, I’m going to use it as a reason to stop interacting with all people. That way I can ‘cope’ with the anxiety of having to engage with others by avoiding having to engage at all!” it’d be clearly unhealthy.
There is a line for these things. The line is clear when the person begins using it to avoid uncomfortable (but not dangerous or harmful) situations that are actually good for their mental health and future successes. Hiding from your own negative feelings so that you don’t have to fully address them is not healthy.
Resolving past trauma is a good, positive thing for a person’s mental health. It isn’t easy to achieve but it isn’t dangerous. It’s just hard work that’s uncomfortable at times. But it leads to a better mental health state and future.
Allowing regressive tendencies to lead one’s life is not safe. Using regressive feelings to avoid resolutions, personal investigations and discoveries, and stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is disallowing personal growth.
Instead, Littles need reassurance and encouragement to flourish. They still need to face battles. They still need to be adults. They can benefit from life achievements. Instead of sheltering them or assisting them in avoiding uncomfortable situations a Caregiver should offer the encouragement, reassurance, and support they truly need to help them move forward.
So, be the parent that gently pushes their child to the classroom and gives words of encouragement for the day ahead. Be the parent who offers a long, warm hug after the school day is over. Be the parent who dotes on the child by saying their proud their child went out of their comfort zone, made new achievements or progress, and is growing right in front of their eyes. Be the parent who whisks their child off for an ice cream and a walk through the park after they’ve had a hard day because even though they may feel tired you know they’re growing and need the encouragement to keep going forward. Be the parent who slides in the bed beside their child and gives a snuggle because they’re scared of what comes next but you know it’s only for their good. Be the parent who wants to see their child grow, not stagnate. Stagnation is easy but growth is rewarding.
Your partner needs to find a new licensed therapist. Your partner does not need to hide from past trauma by using their personality trait as a shield. Your partner needs to work (which is not always easy) at finding the resolution they need to move beyond that trauma. That is possible. But that isn’t going to happen through regression, even if that’s the most comfortable “choice”. And that isn’t going to happen without a good, licensed therapist pushing them to work through that past.
Therapy can be hard. Healing is hard. Some days it’ll feel like too much. Be there to support and encourage. Help through praise and reward. Be proud of any progress. Push to continue doing better. Love by wanting the best, recognizing that the best is an achievement and achievements take work.