regression defense mechanism

Defense Mechanism of The Week: Regression

Defense Mechanism of The Week: Regression

In relationships, things can get tricky when we react to difficult feelings without even realizing it. Imagine your partner acting like they did when they were younger after an important or intimate moment. That’s what we mean when we refer to the regression defense mechanism—going back to how we used to handle things when we were younger, especially when things get tough. It’s like taking a step backward emotionally. This can sneak into relationships and cause a bit of a shake-up. Understanding how this works can help us deal with difficult feelings and make our relationships stronger.

What is Regression?

In psychology, defense mechanisms are like mental tools our minds use to handle difficult emotions or situations. They’re ways for us to protect our feelings. When something challenging happens, our minds automatically kick in to shield us from overwhelming emotions. It’s like wearing emotional armor. One common defense mechanism is “denial,” where we might pretend something isn’t happening to avoid feeling upset. Another is “regression,” where we act younger than we are when we face stress. These defense mechanisms are natural ways our minds try to make things feel safer.

Regression is like taking a step back in how we handle our feelings when things get tough. Imagine you learned a new way to deal with something, but then you find yourself going back to the old way without even realizing it. That’s regression. It happens when our minds unconsciously go back to an earlier time in our development, like acting younger than we are. An example of regression is behaving immaturely when we’re stressed or after a big change. This can show up in relationships, too, when one person might start acting like they did before, maybe a bit like when they were younger, especially during challenging or emotional times. 

The regression defense mechanism can cause issues in a marriage or relationship, but understanding it helps us make sense of why we might react in certain ways and how to work through these feelings.

Relationship Issues That Can Cause Regression

There are many issues within relationships that can exacerbate the regression defense mechanism in relationships. For example, a partner may sometimes have a hard time directly expressing what they want from their relationship. Their inability to be direct may lead that partner to attempt to deal with this situation through regressed behavior. 

In other cases, one person in the relationship may not even be sure what they want. Instead of attempting to understand their wants and needs, they may become overly dependent on their partner, which can place stress on a relationship.

In situations like these, when someone tries to honestly express what they want, it can make them feel like they’re in an emotional tug-of-war. Imagine wanting something, but a part of you says it’s not okay to want that. This can cause a clash between what you truly want and what you’ve learned inside your head about what’s acceptable.

So, when a person is scared to be direct or finds it hard to openly admit what they want, they might go back to using old ways of dealing with things, like behaviors they had when they were younger.

For some people, checking if what they think about their partner’s actions is accurate might be tricky, and this can make them go even deeper into using old ways of coping. Others might stick to thinking relationships should be super easy without putting in much effort or talking about what they want. Understanding these things is super important for figuring out how relationships work and making sure everyone can talk about their feelings and wishes healthily.

Find Out How Marriage Counseling in Newport Beach Can Help

In the intricate dance of relationships, the regression defense mechanism can indeed create challenges leading to emotional tug-of-war and unexpected behaviors, especially during tough times. The good news is that understanding how regression works provides a powerful tool for navigating these complexities. Here’s where marriage counseling can play a crucial role. A skilled therapist can guide couples through the maze of regression, helping them unravel the intricacies of their emotional responses and fostering healthier communication. 

By providing a safe space for open dialogue, marriage counseling becomes a beacon of support for couples aiming to strengthen their bond. It’s an opportunity to explore feelings, desires, and challenges, ensuring that each partner’s voice is heard and acknowledged. In this way, couples can transform regression from a potential stumbling block into a stepping stone for personal and relational growth. If you find your relationship facing the challenges of regression, consider the empowering journey of marriage counseling to enhance understanding, communication, and emotional well-being.

Jennifer De Francisco, LCSW, stands ready to facilitate this journey in Newport Beach, Irvine, and Orange County. Embarking on couples counseling is not just a step towards healing; it’s a stride towards unlocking the potential for a more connected and fulfilling relationship. Contact Jennifer at (949) 251-8797 to schedule an appointment and embark on this transformative path together. Your relationship deserves the opportunity to thrive.

If not now, when?

You don’t have to go through this alone. Seriously. Let’s get started.

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