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  • Writer's pictureAubrey Harris

Regression Is A Sign of Growth

Regression happens when we behaviorally backtrack or revert to adolescent coping mechanisms (i.e., angry outbursts, impulsivity, poor self-management).

These responses are created by internal conflicts triggering feelings of fear, uncertainty or excess stress. 

For individuals navigating trauma and/or significant mental health challenges, regression during therapy is a common response to feeling overwhelmed by cognitive/emotional shifts beyond their comfort zone. 

Instead of feeling discouraged by experiences of regression, use the following tips to harness it as a powerful tool for reinforcing growth: 

Identify triggers. Be curious about the ‘why’ of your behavior. Where did you learn it and what does it do for you? 

Use it as a baseline. Regressive behavior is our ‘default setting’ when outside of our window of tolerance.

Consistent self-regulation practices (i.e., mindfulness, breathing, labeling feelings) help increase our capacity for things that are different.

Heal your inner child. Though regression can happen at any life stage, it’s often rooted in adolescent narratives about your ability to handle stress and challenges.

Embracing the experience is an opportunity to reprogram stagnant behavior and thoughts.

Remember, it’s only temporary. Regression is not forever and happens less the more you change.

If you trust and stick with the process, those updated coping skills will become your new baseline.

At its core, regression is a coping mechanism intended to preserve our ego from feelings of psychological anxiety or threat.

It’s important that we handle these feelings with empathy and curiosity rather than guilt or shame.

As the cliche says, “Two steps forward, one step back” but eventually you’ll stride.

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