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Defense Mechanisms

Conscious and Unconscious Regression

Revisiting earlier experiences that may influence how you behave now

In a psychological context, going back to early or past behavior is termed regression. Originally Sigmund Freud classified regression as a defense mechanism for coping with stress, where one reverts to earlier, more childlike patterns of behavior to cope.

Since regression is a common phenomenon that occurs most often under stress, we all do it constantly, yet most of it is unconscious. When an executive feels stuck on a problem they might regress to infant behavior, sucking and chewing their pen down to the cartridge. When a spouse feels neglected they regress by throwing a tantrum and threatening to take something away. A new college student misses home and regresses by cuddling with their childhood Teddy Bear.

Notice the next time you chew your pen like a teething ring or throw a wild, kicking-and-screaming tantrum. Ask yourself, “Am I regressing to cope or not feel something, or am I avoiding that tough conversation or decision?”

Since this coping mechanism is so prevalent, we might as well consciously embrace and direct regression to our benefit. Whether you do hypnotherapy, breath work, or inner child work, consciously going back to high impact moments that influence how you behave today can be enlightening and healing.

Helping clients and myself regress and go back in time through breath, body and movement awareness has surfaced material that has enabled us to understand the source of our behaviors, and the opportunity to have a do-over, get things off of our chest and change negative behaviors.

If there’s some pattern or behavior you want to change, I recommend returning to the original, related moment and having yourself a do-over. Say what you didn’t get to say. Move the way you wanted to but couldn’t as a child. Breathe deeply, since most likely when a past traumatic moment happened, you held your breath.

Go back ... and move forward!