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Healthy Regression
by Mark Sichel, LCSW

In The Domino Effect, we discussed how important it is to listen to the messages sent to you by your unconscious. When you strive to allay the fears of your unconscious, you are less likely to succumb to a panic attack. Healthy regression is another way of fulfilling the urges and demands of your unconscious in order to preclude the possibility of having a panic attack.

We discussed regression in somewhat negative terms in Regression. The important thing to realize is that not all regressive behaviors are bad for you. Regression, like the flight/fight response, is universal. Every one of us has times when we regress. There are many regressive behaviors that are actually healthy and adaptive. Below you will find behaviors which clinically are considered regressive, however, they are what psychologists call "regressive in the service of the ego."

Psychologist define the ego as the part of our psychological makeup which functions as the executive in charge of our psyche. It is each of our CEO's when it comes to operating and competing in the world. The ego makes decisions, controls our impulses, and encompasses a wide variety of functions pertaining to our survival skills. The strength of our ego is actually the sum power of psychological muscle.

Regression in the service of the ego consists of activities and behaviors that help us to repair from the stress of life, and replenish ourselves in order to continue to function well.

Check off those regressions in the service of the ego which have helped you to feel repaired and refreshed, as well as those you could possibly integrate into your life:

Healthy Regressions
Having sex with your lover.

Playing: sports, cards, boardgames, with children, with your mate, etc.

"Shutting down" for an evening and treating yourself indulgently ("vegging out in front of the tv," eating Chinese food directly from the container, etc).

Soaking in a bathtub for as long as you like, rather than bathing as an everyday task. Add bubbles for extra points here.

Sitting and staring at nature's beauty.

Sleeping as long as you feel like sleeping.

Indulging in "comfort food" such as chips, chocolate pudding, donuts, or whatever makes you happy.

Sharing a bottle of wine with someone you love (provided that you do not have an alcohol problem).

Sitting in a sauna or steambath.

Watching your favorite movie for the twelfth time.

Reading a trashy magazine or novel.

Doing an arts and crafts project.

Singing karaoke.

Having a girl's or a boy's night out with your best friends.

Building something.

Tearing something down.


Dancing around to your favorite music.

Chatting on-line.

Getting your palm read.

Getting a massage.

Hanging out in bed all day.

Our point here is that in today's world, we are all so driven and consumed by demands, that we often neglect to nurture ourselves. We all need some pampering. The above are all activities that have no financial or "real world" goal attached to them. These are activities that are simply sheer, unadulterated pleasure: something that many of us do not allow in our harassed day-to-day existences.

If you live an ascetic lifestyle, start indulging yourself within reason; meeting your regressive needs in a healthy, controlled manner will allow you to avoid panic. Healthy regression, regression in the service of the ego, is a pre-emptive strike against panic.

If you do not wish to complete the interactive exercise at this time, but would like to learn how to build psychological muscle, please read Building Psychological Muscle.

If you would like to start at the beginning of the Panic Disorder lessons, please read What to Expect When You are Diagnosed with a Panic Disorder.

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