It took over 40 years for Nicolas to really see what happened to him when his mother put him down. In our session, Nicolas was sharing that his mother is used to tell him he’s stupid or he will not amount to anything, like his father. On a recent visit, she criticizes or judges him again.
That time and each chance, Nicolas feels angry, confused, and helpless as though he’s 7 years old again. It’s a horrible feeling that he continues to experience till now. Therapy helps him discover his compulsive regression to a younger age whenever his mother mistreats him.
Psychotherapists call the phenomenon “age regression.” It means going back, repeating an ancient pattern of reaction. It’s autopilot reversion to an earlier survival mechanism. Often, one age regress when hurt by an authority or loved one, such as parents. During this, one becomes dysfunctional, helpless like a child, or out of one’s Real Self.
From countless individuals who see me in therapy, I hear and witness such age regression too commonly among those with shame and pain. And I’ve become convinced that one of the best ways out of this prison of the self is to tell the story of the trauma to safe, loving, supportive others.
In my work with Nicolas, I hear him tell his story and share his shame to me. By such process, his predicaments and pain are validated. He is unconditionally accepted as he is. His exposed wounded self, with all of its weaknesses and struggles, is helped to heal its shame. Doing so also helps me as a fellow traveler in the human journey.