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Galler, F.B. (1981). The Two Faces of Regression: A Conceptual Review. Psychoanal. Inq., 1(1):133-154.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 1(1):133-154

The Two Faces of Regression: A Conceptual Review

Floyd B. Galler, M.D.

Regression has been defined as a return to earlier modes of functioning of the drives, ego, or superego—a regression that may be revealed in psychic content as well as in behavior. The emphasis on earlier modes in this technical definition has sometimes obscured a broader view of regression as a natural psychological process with a role in both normalcy and pathology (A. Freud, 1965). Janus-like, regression has two faces. The miscarriage of regression results in pathology, as in the neuroses and psychoses, while controlled regression contributes to the resurgence of the human spirit, and to some of its most original expressions.

Clinically and theoretically, id and ego regressions often cannot easily be separated from one another. Examples of temporary regressions in which both id and ego take part would include a husband and wife holding and cuddling each other when they are worried about a sick child, or a father who entertains phallic fantasies when he starts jogging in reaction to observing the prowess of his teenage son.

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