Defense Mechanism of The Week: Regression

Newport Beach, Orange County- What is regression? If you have ever watched a toddler start to act like an infant right after a new sibling is born, then you are familiar with the defense mechanism of regression.  The truth is, social and emotional development does not progress along a straight line. In essence, regression is the temporary or long-term reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development for purposes of handling emotional conflict.

This phenomena is easy to observe in psychotherapy; a patient who has finally summon up the courage to try out a new way of behaving will frequently revert back to older habits of thoughts, feelings, or behavior for several sessions after trying something new and challenging.

Strictly speaking, it is not regression when a person is aware of needing some extra comfort and asking to be held or reassured because of it.  In regression, the process must be unconscious.  Therefore, a good example would be when a woman lapses into a girly, babyish voice just after she has completed a large ambition, or when a man starts a fight with his girlfriend after they have reached a new level of intimacy.

Some people use the defense of regression more than others.  For example, those that tend to somatize tend to regress, reacting to the stress of growth and change by getting sick.  This process is never conscious and it may cause anguish both to the regressed person and to those involved with him or her.  It has been widely noted that when somatization and other childlike ways of dealing with life become a cornerstone of a person’s character, he or she may be characterized as an infantile personality.

If you are interested in counseling or psychodynamic psychotherapy in Newport Beach, Irvine, or the Orange County area, please call Jennifer De Francisco at (949) 251-8797.


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