Source: @fxlliqstxrs on Instagram
As conversations on mental health become more commonplace, social media users step forward to educate others using the popular video-sharing app TikTok. Opening the door to mental health topics like age regression, TikTok user Gracie (@whois.gracie) uses her videos to educate and advocate for the age regression community.
However, talking about her mental health and coping method on mainstream media has made her the target of demeaning comments, invalidation and sexualization.
Posts tagged #Agere on TikTok
The response towards Gracie?s content has shed light on the disturbing over-sexualization of women who behave younger than their age, and the narrow-mindedness of people towards lesser-known coping mechanisms.
What is age regression?
To put it simply, regression occurs when a person mentally reverts to an age younger than their current biological age. It is largely used as a coping mechanism for those who have faced trauma, and may or not be intentionally triggered.
In addition to regressing in response to trauma or mental illness, some people also regress as a hobby, for fun and to relieve stress. Regression is used in hypnotherapy and psychology by mental health professionals, and also as a self-help tool.
Regression branches out into many different aspects depending on the victim?s situation, and can be split into 4 types: regression as a symptom, a clinical purpose, a coping mechanism for trauma, and a self-help defense mechanism.
The regression process
When someone regresses, they will feel, behave and think just like the age they have regressed to. A 20-year-old teen may regress to a toddler and will begin to think and behave like a toddler would, with toddler behaviors such as thumb-sucking, wearing diapers or wanting a pacifier. Some may revert a couple of years younger and others may even revert to infants.
Source: Lil Kitty?s Life on Youtube
Regression can be voluntary and involuntary. Involuntary regression occurs when someone cannot control when or where they regress. This type of regression sometimes stems from trauma or mental illness, and can be triggered by both positive and negative environments.
Voluntary age regressors can choose when they want to regress, and they may do it in a happy setting or to cope with stress.
Invalidation and fetishization
Many age regressors like Gracie refer to their regressed selves as ?Littles?, short for ?Little me?, and their normal selves as ?Big me?. Oftentimes, the Little community is subjected to disbelief and scorn when they are open about their regression.
People who are not familiar with the coping mechanism are usually confused upon watching Little content on social media and try to challenge the validity of those who regress by dismissing regression as an authentic coping method.
The community is also very often trying to defend itself from kink accusations and fetishization. The internet?s obsession with women who appear to look like little girls has been weirdly normalized, and young women like Gracie are frequently bombarded with questions and insults relating to the kink term DDLG (Daddy Dom Little Girl).
Taken from Gracie?s Instagram story highlights (@whois.gracie)
Invalidation and fetishization are 2 of the biggest struggles the regression community is trying to combat. The following are a few common misconceptions people may have at first glance:
Littles are just pretending to be younger. Wrong. There?s no acting or pretending involved during regression. When they revert, they are mentally the age they?ve regressed to and should be treated as such. The involvement of roleplaying or pretending is where you begin to cross the line over to kinks.
Littles are into DDLG/DDLB/age-play kinks.Wrong. There is nothing sexual about regression. Confusing regression and kinks is harmful to both the regression and the kink community.
Littles are fake and only do it for attention. Wrong. Regression is a very real coping and defense mechanism. One doesn?t have to go to regression therapy for their regression to be validated.
Something?s mentally wrong with people who regress.Yes and no. Those who turn to regression are people who have gone through trauma, mental illness, stress or are just regressing to relax and heal. So, in a way, some may be mentally unstable and are regressing to deal with the instability. Regression itself shouldn?t be seen as a negative process as it is a coping and defense mechanism. It?s a completely safe, normal, and healthy way to cope.
Only people with problems need to regress.Wrong. Everyone regresses. It just depends on the intensity of the regression. For example, Gracie regresses to a very young child and exhibits child-like behavior such as sucking on a pacifier or playing with baby toys. A milder type of regression can be seen in a stressed out professor who turns to sucking and chewing their pen (infant-like behavior) to cope with the stress, or a college student turning to a cuddly bear when upset.
Safe spaces and support
Little space (Source: cottontailedbun on Tumblr)
Like any other mental health community, Littles seek safe spaces to feel safe and happy. ?Little spaces? are safe spaces for age regressors, and are usually the spot their Little selves to go to when they need to feel protected while regressing. Little spaces vary for individuals. Many are affectionately decorated with baby toys, a baby cot, night lights, and soft blankets for the ultimate comfort.
Sometimes, Littles may look for a Carer/Caregiver. Carers are people who act as a parental guide, and prioritize the safety and mental well-being of the Little they are caring for. The relationship between a Carer and a Little is never sexual, at least not during regression.
As mentioned earlier, one of the common misconceptions is assuming the relationship between the Caregiver and the Little involves intimacy. It?s vital to understand that the Carer?s role is to act as a carer during the Little?s regression. It?s their responsibility to protect.
Little Gracie excited to see her Caregiver.
Age regressors are very sensitive to their surroundings and will need to be in the presence of people they feel comfortable with to revert to their Little selves, and this safe space is what a Carer provides.
Age regression is genuine, and Littles are to be treated as the age they?ve regressed to. It?s normal to find it confusing at first, but once you understand that regression is a legitimate and healthy coping mechanism used by mental health professionals, the concept is simple.
The Little community tries its hardest to spread awareness on age regression through articles, videos, vlogs, and social media posts. It isn?t easy to educate people when regression is something that still hasn?t quite hit the masses through mainstream media. When it does reach the mainstream audience, the response is not as positive or open-minded as the mental health community would like it to be.
On top of dangerous fetishization and border-line predatory behavior towards age regressors, Littles struggle to break free from the invalidation and shaming of their regression. Being told they aren?t ?real regressors? because they don?t regress with a therapist is backward thinking as therapy isn?t something accessible to everyone.
The biggest thing the age regression community needs is basic respect and understanding from outsiders. Contrary to what most people think, regression isn?t exclusively for those healing from trauma or mental illness. All of us regress in some form, some on a higher level than others. When people come to realize that this is normal, the alienation of age regressors will slowly come to a halt.