Blog 18. How And Why We Choose Our Partners: Learn About Regression in Relationships.
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A remarkable thing happens when you sit in the therapist’s chair. As a therapist I watch a client, I watch their body language, I listen to what they are saying and how they are describing their issues. If it’s a couple the same would occur and also, I would watch the reactions between the couple.
Something else also happens: When the client/s are talking I watch for what is called Regression. This is when suddenly the client begins to look younger and I (which takes experience) sense the age that the client/s have regressed to. It’s at this point that it is crucial for me to ask the client, whether what they are talking about, has any connection to the age they’ve just regressed to. I would then explore this connection with the client to see how it relates to the present. I would also ask their partner (who may have also regressed to the same age) whether what had been discussed has any bearing on what may have happened to them, at the same regressed age.
Spotting regressed moments is crucial in couple therapy: Once a couple begin to realise that they share childhood experiences, experiences which they probably would never have thought important enough to speak about, the couple can begin to understand one another better. Understanding regressed experiences can also help the couple understand why they react to certain situations as they do, and this often enables understanding on a deeper level.
Much remains buried and unspoken between a couple and without knowing it, they usually share a lot more than they realise. And this is what brings the couple together as they begin to understand each other and this can help deepen their intimacy levels.
Spotting regressed moments is a very important part of therapy, except that the therapist needs to be well up on regression spotting.
But we all regress to some degree. So what happens when we regress?
Regression usually occurs when emotional developmental stages are not overcome and worked through sufficiently. They can also occur if a trauma has not been dealt with either. Traumas can range from anything from a feeling or situation that has not been worked through, to abuse.
Regression can frequently be seen in the behaviour of children. On the arrival of a new baby, an older child may often become frustrated over the perceived loss of a mother’s attention and may seek to recover it through regression to an earlier stage in life – when mother’s care and support were necessary. Thus, the child may begin to cry more, wet their bed again or soil their pants, etc, even after having been quite capable of not doing this for quite some time.
Regression involves taking the position of a child or any earlier developmental stage in problematic situations, rather than acting in a more adult way.
Regressive behavior can be simple and harmless, such as a person who is sucks a pen or it may be more dysfunctional, such as crying or using petulant arguments
In adulthood if you are reminded of situations or feelings, which you may have not resolved in childhood then you might resort to behaving or reacting in similar ways as when you were a child. Usually you are totally unaware of your regressed change in behaviour or body language.
During therapy however, when regression is observed, it’s uncanny that whatever the client may be talking about usually has a reference to their regressed self – the self in childhood. Regression is like a signal however most people are not aware that it happens or what the signal means.
Once it is explored, the client can often begin to connect the past with the present. This process therefore helps the client understand how, why and when their emotional behaviour patterns or habits may have started.
This process can also helps a client/s remember how they felt due to a trauma, a situation or something said or done in the past, and therefore this process helps the client understand and link, how they may feel, think or react in present situations.
And when seeing couples often both partners, will share this regressed age. As I have written so many times before we attract what we know and we usually attract people who have had similar experiences to our own. Sometimes this can be unconscious or the couple just haven’t spent enough time talking about their past to realise just how much they do indeed share.
During regression the couple may begin to look the same age of say 5 or 12 or whatever. And so when prompted, the couple may even remember different situations – however their feelings or reactions to the situations may have been the same.
That is why it sometimes takes a while with a little digging, before the similarities, which the couple share, come to light and are revealed.
Sure we don’t all have time to talk in depth with our partners, if we could we may just find out a lot more about our partners than we realise.
During therapy however, regression between two people can have a positive outcome: Once the couple begin to understand just how much they actually share, what brought them together and even what they both unconsciously may have hoped their relationship will heal (as discussed in previous Blogs), means the couple can begin to feel closer via their understanding of some of their shared childhood feelings or even experiences.
And then during this process, the couple can have a moment of acceptance, acceptance of one another, their relationship, the past, with all it’s flaws. This I will explain in my next Blog.
Note: © 2014 Information Copyright Deidré Wallace
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