The Polar Express Ride of Regression

The Polar Express Ride of Regression - BeMo Journal

Regression can be a necessary road to travel. Jumping on the Polar Express of childlike understanding allows you to see life through the eyes of your inner child and gain more information in order to choose your actions, reactions, and intentions more wisely at the moment.

The holidays are fraught with regressive tendencies because this time of year has been so magical and, at times, disappointing for children everywhere, regardless of traditions and upbringing. The key to regression is to try to recognize it and be willing to see why you’re experiencing this slingshot into the past when you’re standing in the middle of your presents (pun intended).

Regression is when you travel back in time to previous, childlike behaviors and experiences. Often, you are not aware of this happening.

Sometimes there’s a difference between wanting to be childlike and being childlike. Sometimes, there’s not.

You may find yourself taking a sharp left to dismiss stress and feelings by choosing instead to be childlike with games, gift-giving, ice cream, bread, cheese, chocolates, and all the wonders of the season! Reveling in these joyful things as an avoidance mechanism won’t be healthy for your emotional, mental, or physical state. Allowing yourself to cope mindlessly will almost always ask for a more prominent, in-your-face moment in which your emotional state will insist on being seen and heard.

Similarly, you may enjoy all these things as a conscious choice on how you’d like to enjoy the season for yourself and with others. You’ll choose to have your cake and eat it too, knowing that you are here now and the moment is temporary. Even then, being conscious of those fort-building, ice-cream-having moments can allow you to revisit unsafe childhood emotional experiences and create something better. You can do this by consciously noting that you are here now, safe, seen, heard, and able to live out your joys in a chosen childlike state because you know you will show up to your responsibilities as they come.

If you’re unsure if you’re enjoying the moment with the innocence of a child or regressing to childlike behaviors, the key is to try to slow down at the interchange of choice. If you missed the road sign because your train is off the tracks, veering across polar ice, that’s fine. You can choose any moment to check in with your why.

Regression Awareness

Creating awareness around regressive behaviors is just one of the things your BeMo practice can help. Regressive behaviors happen as an expression of unmet needs, stress, trauma, or neglect. Regression is when a person dealing with stress begins to act in an immature or age-inappropriate way to cope with stress (current or triggers of post-traumatic stress). Regression like this can manifest as knee-jerk reactions and arguments (those childlike tendencies of he-said, she-said views or competitive one-upping, matter-of-facting, say-soing).

As you recognize these moments, note that regression is normal and temporary.

By noting this, you’ll be able to stop yourself sooner. All too often, these terrible moments fling themselves into shame-blame cycles of embarrassment that make disagreements larger and louder than they need to be if you could just slow down long enough to forgive yourself for going there in the first place.

Regression in Parenting vs. Regression in Renurturing

If you are a parent, you have witnessed regression in your older children (especially this time of year) when they get to the end of their rope. Keep in mind how you react to their regressive behaviors is a GIFT. Choose your response wisely. What is it you are trying to give them? “Grow up! You know better than this.” vs. “It seems to me like you’re feeling overwhelmed with how much is going on. Do you think maybe it would be a better idea to just go home and snuggle up to a movie until it is time for bed?” Note that kids go above and beyond their emotional threshold this time of year because they want to spend time with you and not miss out on joyful tidings and memory-making. Help them note their feelings and understand they have a voice and a choice. (As does your inner child. Same practice.

You may have a 14-year-old that is suddenly acting like he/she/they are 2. As a parent, you understand that it’s temporary. You get that it is too much sugar, being away from home too long, and more.

As an adult experiencing a similar meltdown, you may not be as tuned into your own regressive behaviors as those around you are. At that moment, you see your meltdown through the eyes of previous experiences. Caregivers and close relationships alike create a post-traumatic reaction. If your repeated experience is perceived more along the lines of, “Oh come on! Get off the floor. Grow up. Keep walking. It isn’t so bad. Santa isn’t going to bring you anything this year if you keep acting like this,” that is what you are reacting to at this moment.

Because this is uncomfortable, you will lean into tried and true coping mechanisms based on these previous experiences. Coping will cause you to react very deeply with dismissive, anxious, or fearful behaviors based on your attachment style.

To top it off, regression can be triggering to other adults around you who may feel immediately dismissive of your display of emotions or anxious that it is somehow about them or fearful that it is on them to fix it. The reason for this is that regressive behaviors usually come in large, emotional packages or strongly dismissive, stonewalling packages. These are the moments you feel that pendulum makes big swings inside yourself or with others.

For advanced BeMo journalers, you’ll read more about attachment styles and associated behaviors in your renurturing guide. So now that you have this information, what do you do with it?

Allow Yourself to Time Travel Safely

Take a time-out. Allow yourself to be where you are now, even if that manifests like a five-year-old in the moment. Try to take note of your surroundings, however joyful or scary they may seem. Understand where you are and why you are there. As you allow yourself to go back and forth between the present moment and where your coping behaviors want to go, try to pinpoint what it is about the present moment that gave you a similar feeling that made you believe you were back at five years old. Why is this coming up for you?

By simply recognizing why your mind packed up previous baggage and left everything about the moment behind in order to take off with a load of coal delivered in lumps of negative BS (belief systems), you have freed yourself from having to travel that road repeatedly.

How? The reason our minds repeat these patterns is for us to recognize something about them. Just like a child noting, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” in an attempt to show their mother something, your inner child will push you over a snowy edge of internal thought until you actually turn, look at them and say, “I see you. I hear you. I understand. I know…” If you want to stop time traveling, be willing to be where your mind takes you until you safely return without the baggage you carried there.

Time Travel Gracefully

If you’re like me, even with all your “knowing,” you still time travel when you least expect it. Be patient with yourself. Slow down. Look around again. Try to understand why you are here… again. Is it because you have more information your psyche wants to give you about this previous moment? Or is it because you were surprised by a trigger that sent you back there unknowingly?

Take note of how it is different this time.

Maybe the difference is in seeing more information from your past than you noticed before. In that case, be willing to join your inner child – see, hear, understand, and know them fully with this new sight.

Maybe the difference is that you allowed yourself to be surprised and taken back to a previous place. This is actually a great sign! Whether you tend to be more dismissive or more anxious, allowing yourself to be surprised is a sign that you aren’t adhering to the roles you were previously pegged to play. This is great! If you didn’t see it coming, you’re expending less energy looking for impending badness. Celebrate that.

Note more positives about how your experience is different this time. I am willing to bet because you have done the work before, you stayed in the past for a much shorter period of time and were able to work through a regressive FUNCK in real-time. Celebrate that. Give yourself grace. Each time you go back and forth is a chance to practice showing up for yourself and soothing your inner child.

BeMo About It

Of course, if and when these uncomfortable patterns happen, take a chance to journal about it in your BeMo Journal. Work through the FUNCK – then and now. Show up for yourself and understand how it was you were feeling at the time, what your unmet needs were then and how they relate to what is happening to you in the here and now. Note what you care about and what choices you have in order to meet your needs. Ground yourself in what you know – what information have you gained from this experience that is now solidified for you?

After all, is said and done, welcome back. You are here now. You are safe. You have the ability to show up for yourself and self-soothe. You are empowered. You are enough. You are here.

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