Growing Yourself Back Up, by John Lee

What’s great about this little book is that it identifies all kinds of situations where people spontaneously regress into childish behaviors. Maybe a guy in the car behind me at a red light blows his horn and nudges forward as soon as the light turns green. His behavior makes me feel ridiculously helpless, because he mimics my father’s arbitrary anger. Or a friend calls to cancel a date and I spiral into fear that no one loves me. These out-of-control feelings are typical of regression.

The book distinguishes between “trance regression” and “conscious regression.” “Trance regression” is the kind that happens when we are triggered into an unconscious replaying of old roles—or you might say, our Inner Children come forth and start acting out.

“Conscious regression” happens when we decide to go back to some old hurts and see what it’s like to be that wounded child again. This can be very useful for getting in touch with feelings and for healing, as I discuss in my booklet “Caring for the Child Within—A Manual for Grownups.”

Why do we regress unconsciously? It has a lot to do with fear. In a chapter on responses to fear, the author illustrates the basic responses of fight, flight, and freezing in vivid and useful examples. (There’s part I don’t agree with. When he illustrates freezing, he cites calm, quiet states like being at peace in nature. I think that’s plain wrong—the freezing response is not a peaceful one but more like a catatonic one.)

I think that Lee’s simplifications tend to make it look like we can snap out of regressions quicker than we can in real life. Nonetheless, I found this a helpful and unique book that shows how often people regress and how to cope with it.

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