People will resort to all kinds of methods to accomplish their own way. One means of getting your own way is regression. To regress is simply to revert to childish ways of reacting to unpleasant situations.
How does a child get his own way? A child will resort to tears, screams, temper tantrums, or sulking to get his way. He will break things, fight, throw up, refuse to eat, or become generally hard to manage. He finds that such methods work amazingly well in getting what he wants. Because of past successes, he is reluctant to give up his tried and proven means to an end.
But, as he grows, he learns that his childish techniques must be abandoned or at least restrained; he learns that other people have rights that must be respected. He discovers that to live happily, he must accept the fact that he cannot always satisfy his wants and desires. He learns, for example, that honor, respect, praise, and love come not from demand or by force but because they are earned by work, honest effort, and continuous adjustment to changing circumstances.
The person who progresses steadily from childhood into adulthood shifts gradually and quite normally with the situations of life. Sometimes, however, a person will meet rebuffs, disappointments, failure, or tragedy with regressive behavior.
Sometimes regressive behavior works, sometimes it doesn’t. But even when it succeeds in achieving an objective, it leaves the one who uses it with at least a vague disappointment in himself.
Many of the unhappy people who seek the help of a counselor are getting all they want, but they wake up to the fact that they are out on a limb alone thanks to their childish behavior. Other people avoid or ignore them. Some put up with them for the sake of politeness, or because they have something to gain for their tolerance.
Getting your own way by hysteria, by bullying, by vengeful silence, by cleverness and scheming does not give you contentment. Yet how often we attempt to get our own way by any means we think will work.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and personnel directors all agree that regressive behavior is a hindrance to wholesome relationships and a sense of self-respect. The Bible summarizes regression and its antidote in Ephesians 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (v. 31). Clearly this is a description of childish behavior with its excessive emotions and careless, hurtful expression.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you” (v. 32). This is an obvious description of a Christian who is “grown-up.”
Most people who seek counseling say they want to be mature. They want to earn the honor, the admiration, the respect, and the faith of others. Not all, however, are willing to recognize that to become such a person is to exercise reasonable self-control. Some are slow to learn the means of avoiding regression to childish behavior.
The Apostle Paul charted the route to maturity in writing to the Colossians. He told the Christians of that city to “put off” anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, and not to “lie to one another” (Colossians 3:8-9). In place of such behavior, he instructed them to “put on” mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, and forgiveness (3:12-13).
“But above all these things,” Paul continued, “put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (3:14-15).
This information is an excerpt of Chapter 6, “Other Faulty Patterns,” from Dr. Brandt’s book The Struggle for Inner Peace currently available as an e-book.
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