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Acting Childish – What is Age Regression?

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CW: This article references adult topics, including kink. Reader discretion is advised.

I received a notification from Tik Tok that my video had been taken down. It was my video on little alters.

I did a series showcasing different types of alters, and for each video, I dressed and acted like the type of alter in the video while providing helpful information.

So in the little video, I held stuffed animals, had a pacifier, and acted childishly. It got taken down for “adult nudity and sexual content.”

I was able to appeal and get the video restored, but I was not surprised at this reaction. When people see adults acting like children, they automatically think it’s related to pedophilia.

My entire life, I have been complimented for seeming mature and grown-up. Now that I’m an adult, I’m bombarded with the need to experience childhood. I needed a safe space to be cared for as a child.

Age regression is a complex topic that we don’t know a lot about. Science has almost no research on voluntary age regression, and the little that’s been explored has been on involuntary or hypnotic regression.

Social media has shed light on age regression, showing a community of people coping similarly.

What is age regression?

Age regression is the voluntary or involuntary experience of reverting to a childlike state (little space); mentally, emotionally, and somatically. It is not a sexual experience but a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, particularly if the person has experienced childhood trauma.

Age regression is exhibited in many mental conditions, including anxiety, BPD, PTSD, DID, OSDD, autism, and more.

Involuntary age regression is often the result of trauma and may be a cognitive/primary sensory flashback. This may look like going temporarily mute, suddenly having a reduced vocabulary or higher pitch, being flooded with childhood memories or emotions, craving that a loved one “makes it better”, or any other behavior that is regressive to your usual state of being. This is done without a conscious effort or control over the reaction.

Conversely, voluntary age regression is an intentional state of regression that is a coping mechanism to de-stress and regulate.

In many ways, age regression is a form of self-hypnosis, where you enter a trance-like state to achieve mental relief.

There is a hypnotic therapy technique that involves a therapist initiating age regression but has been critiqued for its tie to false memory recovery. Voluntary age regression is different as it is not for memory recovery or necessarily done with a therapist.

Since there is not enough literature to conclude whether voluntary age regression is healthy, the subject remains controversial among therapists. Some worry that it is a state of avoidance to distract from difficult processing, whereas others believe it’s a healthy coping mechanism that allows the individual to return to homeostasis.

I agree with this second school of thought, where as long as it’s being practiced safely, I think there are health benefits.

Age phenomena

Age regression is a small piece of much broader “age phenomena.”

The one that age regression is most commonly compared to is age play. Age play is a sexual kink dynamic where two consenting adults usually pretend to be a child and caregiver. However, age play can be any age, and some will play out other dynamics involving being older than they are, etc.

Age play has a negative stigma because many view it as tied to pedophilia. Age play does not involve minors and is usually done for the power dynamic and level of care the “caregiver” provides the “little.”

This can be confusing compared to age regression because many littles in this dynamic describe “little space” as an age regressor would, where they are cognitively similar to the age they are roleplaying. The most significant difference is that age play is for sexual intent, whereas age regression is strictly not.

Another commonly confused term is “little alters.” Little alters are alters in a DID/OSDD system that is cognitively like children and often stuck in time. Littles do not regress, they are generally permanently that age. Regressors, however, revert back to the adult age they are when the session is over.

The last confusing term is age sliders. Age sliders are also unique to DID/OSDD systems, and they describe alters that are not a set age but switch ages depending on the circumstances. They may regress, but they stay that age cognitively until they decide to slide back. Some can also slide to be older than they are, so it flows in both directions.

While many of these terms are used interchangeably like “littles”, “little space”, “caregiver” and “regress”, context is important for determining the type of age phenomenon being discussed. Depending on whether discussing systems or non-systems, sexual or non-sexual, you can determine whether what is happening is age regression or something else.

Benefits of age regression

Age regression can be very beneficial for establishing a good relationship with a caregiver, engaging the parasympathetic nervous system to calm down, return to a state of homeostasis, and heal the neglected needs of your inner child. It can help process difficult emotions or as a form of temporary escape.

It can also be powerful in engaging play, which improves brain functioning, connection, and well-being. Especially when someone has experienced childhood trauma, play can become a foreign experience, and returning to a childlike state can help facilitate this.

How to safely age regress

I’ve mentioned safety several times in this article. What does age regressing in a safe way entail?

The most significant safety consideration is regressing alone vs. regressing with a partner (referred to as a caregiver in the age regression community). Regressing alone gives you more freedom to do whatever you need in the space and prevents harmful dynamics from forming. However, you lose out on the connection to a caregiver, and it can be harder to exit if you’re unfamiliar with your own triggers.

Regressing with a partner gives you the experience of being taken care of and can be a powerful bonding experience. Many adults are uncomfortable taking on this role, which may force someone to look online or in other public spaces for a caregiver. This is where safety really comes into question.

While most age-regression spaces forbid sexual content, many predators lurk on the forums looking for vulnerable individuals under the guise of non-sexual regression. That’s why it’s crucial to vet the person you want to regress with. I would highly discourage minors from looking for caregivers. For this reason, it’s much safer to regress by yourself. Never bring a non-family adult into your regression if you’re under 18.

Another safety concern is that you should not be in little space when interacting with children, as this violates the boundaries between adult/child relationships. Even if you may feel cognitively similar in the moment to the child, you have the brain and body of an adult. Little space should be achieved in your own time, in a designated environment.

As for regressing by yourself, a big part is letting go of feeling like you’re doing something wrong. Our society looks down on children, so people are critical when an adult desires to act childlike.

One of the most helpful ways of regressing is using kids’ toys and materials to help enter little space.

I set up my closet with a soft rug and rainbow lights. I replaced the door with a shower curtain and a comfy chair to give me the space to regress.

Some of the products that I would recommend:

Entering and Exiting Little Space

Something to watch for when trying little space is what takes you in and out of it. You should choose activities and items that will help you regress in a controlled manner and take you to a comfortable level. There’s no hard and fast rule on how to get there. You’ll just have to observe your own state as you regress. I’d recommend starting with items or activities you enjoyed doing as a child.

The other important part of regression is to have triggers to pull you out. That way, if there’s an emergency or an interaction you have to be an adult in, you can quickly come out of the headspace. After all, if you think of this as hypnosis, it would be very irresponsible of a hypnotist to leave you hypnotized without pulling you back out.

Some exit triggers could be entering a new room, engaging in a more complex task, having a ritual for putting away your little space stuff, setting a timer that signals the end of regression time, counting up from 10, or having a cool-down activity like playing with play-dough to re-gain your mental capacity if you have time.

Age regression can be an amazing tool for healing a wounded inner child and regulating the emotional demands of adult life. Understanding that age regression is a healthy, non-sexual coping mechanism can help fight the stigma against it.

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