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Why We Regress When We Go Back ‘Home’

During the time of coronavirus many people made the leap early on to shelter in place with parents or family in order to stave off loneliness and get the comforts of home. Unfortunately, this also means all the not-so-comfortable dynamics rear their ugly heads making that stay less than ideal.

Old Roles Haven’t Changed

Have you ever experienced being a home for an extended period of time (during corona or otherwise) only to find yourself feeling like you’re 16 years old again? A lot of people have and there’s a good reason for that!

Even if many years have passed since you’ve lived at home with your parents, the dynamics of the relationship may not have changed so much. You may have moved into your own place in another city, but what it is it that brings you back so quickly (and often painfully) to being an angsty teenager when you’re at home? Maybe the roles haven’t actually changed that much.

Have you grown into your own, more mature person? Sure! However, when we go back to the places where we grew up we tend to slide back into old patterns and dynamics subconsciously. This is because the pull of those memories during your formative years are very strong. And, if you’re staying with your parents (or other caretakers) you likely fall back into old patterns of being that remind of your earlier years. You may confine yourself to your bedroom or pop in headphones when walking around the house just like you did when you were younger and starting to carve out your own sense of independence. There’s no harm in that.

The irony is that your parents might also be subconsciously motivated to act in ways similar to when you were younger too! They may unintentionally try to monitor your schedule, eating habits, etc. and that can be frustrating. That dynamic can be hard to see, and escape, so it’s important to keep a watchful eye on your own thoughts and feelings when you’re back home. They might reveal some core issues that still impact your relationship with your parents today.

Familiar Territory Also Means Triggers…Triggers Galore!

Being back home also means being faced with triggering people, events and situations. This will likely bring up challenging emotions that you had to deal with in your younger years. As teenagers many of us dealt with feeling misunderstood and unheard. As we grow up we learn the skills necessary to ask for our needs to be met, but this is much harder to do with your parents.

This, unfortunately, means that you’re likely experiencing some of the same feelings that you felt when you were younger and it might cause you to act in ways like you haven’t in years (maybe even decades!). This is likely because you’re automatically responding to triggers in your environment that aren’t a part of the life (or less so) than you’ve created for yourself as an adult. This might look like family comments about how dissatisfied they are with your weight or your love life. Maybe you’ve told friends and other contacts how to better engage with you, but haven’t quiet taken the leap to set up some boundaries with your parents. It’s hard and scary work. Doing so changes the dynamics and roles which can be very disconcerting for both you and you parents. After all, most people don’t like change. It stands to reason that changing the most influential relationships in your life might cause quite a disruption.

Considerations for the Path Forward

Being able to make the unconscious conscious is one of the strengths of therapy and is likely your best tool in managing your feeling and actions as you’re adjusting to life with your parents again. Try to be mindful and aware of the ways in which you might be behaving that seem out of character for you now. Are you more irritable than normal? What about more isolated to yourself? These might be signs that you’re temporarily regressing.

The good news is that you’ll likely adjust back to your normal self when you’re able to get back to your own home and your everyday lifestyle. However, as we prepare for the longterm repercussions of the pandemic, many more folks are staying at home for longer periods of time. This is opportunity to practice greater self-reflection. And, if you feel so inspired, to do your best to change some unfulfilling dynamics with your parents. Odds are, being able to speak your truth will leave you feeling more confident and in control of the life you want to lead.

Author: Jor-El

Jor-El is Co-founder of Viva Wellness and a foodie and film buff. He most often writes about mental health, relationships, food and mindfulness. When he’s not busy working, he typically can be found lounging or walking around NYC with his pup Nomi.

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