Regression is a psychological defense mechanism where you protect yourself by reverting to an earlier development stage. In other words, it’s when you respond to stress by acting more immature than you are. It’s common, but it seems people rarely talk about it. And it’s only when I recently started looking into such things that I found that it explains a lot about my childhood.
Growing up was never easy. I was bullied a lot in kindergarten and school (harshly enough that I had to live without friends most of my childhood years). I was shunned by the neighbor kids. Even my parents were hurting me a lot. More than anything else in the whole world, I always wanted to get away from them all. But, naturally, I wasn’t allowed that choice, and would be punished for trying.
Of course, school was also hell on Earth for other reasons. For example, just because you already know everything they’re trying to teach you (because it only takes you a day or two to read and memorize the whole book), that isn’t considered a valid excuse to not be forced to sit there, hour after hour, day after day, bored out of your skull, wishing you were anywhere else. An adult forced to go through this would no doubt complain about human rights violations, but for some reason, it’s always been okay to torture children for political and ideological reasons. (No doubt there’s a reason why children aren’t allowed to vote.)
All in all, there was almost nothing positive about existence, except for being able to use some of my free time to escape into books and computer programming. How do you suppose a child, any child, might respond to this kind of existence?
Yes, it would obviously try to protect itself by using some kind of psychological defense mechanism. I may have used several, but the most interesting one was what I now know is called “regression”.
I remember that they did a lot of psychological testing on me to find out why I was behaving the way I was. Eventually, they decided on the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, an autism-spectrum disorder. I didn’t have clear symptoms of it, but it was the best fit they could find at the time.
As an adult, I’ve later had psychologists check it again, and they’ve concluded pretty conclusively that I don’t have Asperger Syndrome. But that still leaves the question of what happened back then.
An autist is a person whose brain is not functioning normally (for whatever counts as normal) because of physical reasons, such as genetics or birth defects.
It seems I was a person whose brain chose not to function normally, in order to protect itself from a horrible world where he was shunned, hated, bullied, lorded over, hurt, and tortured. And it had to keep that protection up almost continuously, because there was hardly any respite anywhere, except maybe in the books and computers. In that sense, it’s perhaps no wonder I looked like an autist.
But apparently, it was really regression, not autism, at work. And now, I sometimes have to wonder how many other children might get misdiagnosed like that. Diagnosed and treated like autists, when the actual cause of their behavior is that they’re living in hell.