A BALANCING ACT
Self-regulation is an unconscious process of fundamental physiological and endocrinological functions as well as emotional regulation in response to internal and external events. –Allan Schore
Self-regulation refers to the ability of the system to function within a range of activity while integrating experience from moment to moment. –Ray Castellino
The ability to move between calmed states to active ones and back again in response to our environments is part of the balancing act called self-regulation. In the context of my practice, self-regulation is considered both a subconscious process and a consciously mediated ability.
For example, our bodies tense in response to a threat. In large part this tensing-response is purely autonomic (subconscious reflex). Once the event has passed or the level of threat reduces, we can return to a more relaxed state through a combination of autonomic and conscious activity. This cycle is all part of the process of self-regulation. It’s interesting to note that in these reflex responses it is our body that senses the situation as threatening or safe before our conscious mind does. This happens through a system of neuroception*.
The ability to self-regulate is something that we develop. As little ones we need help, for example, to fall asleep, to recover after an upset etc. We learn how to do these things by how our primary care-givers are able to settle, to respond to stress or threat and how easily or not they are able to return to calmed states. Do they give us the message that emotions need to be controlled? How do they express fear ? Are they able to move through big emotions and recover? Are they able to take pauses and settle when they start to get overwhelmed? Do they know how to relax? Is it safe for them to have sadness, anger etc.?
Through self-awareness as adults it’s possible to nurture more flexible and fluid responses to both internal and external environments, increasing our capacity to self-regulate. If for whatever reason we have developed a habitual response that keeps us in an elevated state of vigilance and tension, it is possible to re-educate our nervous systems and increase the likelihood of experiencing a greater ability to settle and be present.
In my work, this is accomplished by encouraging a conscious connection with bodily sensations, and allowing those sensations to lead the way to where the body needs to go to find balance. By using a combination of manual and listening skills, I facilitate the body/mind to move through cycling states of alert and relax as the nervous sytem finds its way to a more resourced state.
Self-regulation, sometimes referred to as “dynamic equilibrium”, is an important aspect of well being. If given the opportunity, in a respectful environment, your body knows how to find a resourced relaxed state while remaining dynamically responsive.
*Neuroception, a term coined by Stephen Porges, describes how, at a subconscious level, neural circuits distinguish whether situations or people are safe, dangerous, or life threatening.
For people experiencing serious psychological issues it is important that a licensed mental health practitioner be consulted before having a session with me.
The term self-regulation can signify:
- Homeostasis, in systems theory
- Self-control, in sociology / psychology
- Self-regulated learning, in educational psychology
- Self-regulation theory (SRT), a system of conscious personal health management