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 feel what it’s like to be that wounded child again. This can be vital for uncovering emotions, understanding them, and healing.

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 one 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—I experience the freezing response not as peaceful but more like catatonic.

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. My booklet, Caring for the Child Within—A Manual for Grownups explains more about taking the time to heal that scared inner child. Nonetheless, I found Growing Yourself Back Up a helpful and unique book that shows how often people regress and how to cope with it.

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