Regression During The Great Pause
Many feel like life is at a stand still at the moment, like life is on hold. For others I’ve been speaking with, they feel a distinct and frightening shift happening. I liken this to a regression.
Since the pandemic has begun, many adults have found financial, emotional, and other types of relief by temporarily living in their childhood homes. For others, however, it may have been the gold standard of adulthood and independence to move out of their childhood homes. They are experiencing this time back at home as sacrificing their independence and autonomy, which they previously cherished. It is with these people that I have been hearing about what it feels like to have been forced back into a space during Covid-19 that resembles a regressive state – one with rules, dinner times, arguments, angst, childhood bedrooms, cues of developmental trauma, dependence on a parent and more.
It might feel like regression right now because sometimes, when we are presented with an overwhelming or stressful situation, we cope by reverting to old familiar maladaptive patterns and coping skills.
Firstly, I would like to make sense of why a state of regression may be felt for some. Regression, according to Freud (https://www.simplypsychology.org/defense-mechanisms.html ), is a defense mechanism leading to the temporary or long-term reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses or circumstances in a more adaptive way. In other words, when we’re in a distressed state, we can regress. Generally speaking, it might feel like regression right now because sometimes, when we are presented with an overwhelming or stressful situation, we cope by reverting to old familiar maladaptive patterns and coping skills. We can regress back to a time in our life when this type of stress was non-existent and we felt secure or taken care of by others, allowing them to do the work for us. Or, we could regress to old maladaptive coping skills and ways of thinking when a similar felt experience of overwhelm was prevalent for us- like reverting to old substance use patterns and avoidance.
It’s that much easier to head down the slippery slope of regression when you’re surrounded by associations that accompanied childhood and adolescence like certain rooms, yelling in the home or even an enmeshment between parent and child you’ve worked hard over the years to heal through. We often slip into the roles at home that we have always played- and when everyone else is playing theirs well, it’s hard not to follow.
After speaking with some recent college graduates, friends and other young adults who have been out of the childhood house for a significant amount of time now finding themselves back at home during Covid-19, there were many commonalities with what people were experiencing.
One person in their mid-twenties said, “It is comforting to be together, but it can be stressful living in the same household after years of being apart.”
Another in a similar situation quoted, “Too much time with anyone, family or not, can lead to getting frustrated for unnecessary reasons.”
Others whom I spoke with felt regressions both in motivational states and developmentally. They stated the below:
“It’s hard to stay motivated when you’re trapped inside all day.”
“Sometimes, it feels like I am reverting to childhood.”
“I’m struggling to feel like an adult at the moment.”
With no firm end to this quarantine in sight- are you struggling with some of these sentiments yourself? Two points are crucial here to remember for healing. Understanding and patience. An understanding of what might be happening inside of you, and asking for help. An understanding that what might be occurring is situational and could make sense – your independence and progress still exist, somewhere, but are disguised as something else at the moment. And a patience that it will return in more tangible ways in the future.
Looking for more you can do on your own? Come back to a mantra that reminds you of who you are, not who others think you are.
This is fundamentally a time where we must cultivate empathy and healing- and this does not happen without help coming in from the outside. Sometimes that help comes in the form of a friend, a colleague, a therapist or a parent.
Looking for more you can do on your own? Come back to a mantra that reminds you of who you are, not who others think you are. Try meditation (https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/meditation-101-techniques-benefits-and-a-beginner-s-how-to ) or take walks alone to remind you of your unique independence and being. Communicate with those around you on your needs, if it feels safe. Reach out to friends and peers met in adulthood that bring forth reminders of independence and self-discovery.