It’s not always cool to admit it but a lot of what we’re reaching for in our lives, women and men, is a deep sense of bodily safety. We want a safe enough place to fully be ourselves and do what we really want to do. But safety isn’t a lens our society looks through often.
The word has been up for me recently, tied to another word that’s not well known yet which refers to something central to our human experience: co-regulation.
Co-regulation is at the heart of this interview with psychologist Stephen Porges and is central to his “polyvagal theory” (gr. ‘polus’, “‘many’” + ‘vagal’, “‘vagus nerve'”). The vagus nerve regulates stress vulnerability and reactivity. The vagus nerve has implications for problem areas of stress but it also regulates the deep trust and openness that is part of our evolutionary capability. We’re often guarded and careful around that deep trust. It’s no social norm!
At the stage of development most of our society occupies, we’re led to see ourselves as separate egos attempting to self-manage or “self-regulate” in a world of others who are also self-regulating. We imagine we stay separate. Porges’ interest is in the very real possibility of overcoming that separation by co-regulating. We can come into deeper resonance with each other when our body – and it does come down to the body here, however spiritual we may be – relaxes and resonates with others. When it co-regulates.
Each of us knows what that body sense feels like. It might come for you with a deep breath released. Or perhaps with the feeling that your deepest intuitions and highest powers are online, available to you and in service to the whole. At those times you sense that you’re blessed, connected to a world of possibility.
But it’s not just you and who you’re with in the moment that are co-regulating. The whole world is continually co-regulating with you. Our bodies are made to understand this mutual cooperation. The world is continually offering to regulate us higher. How much it can do so depends on how richly our body, our nervous system, is able to relax to get into the higher areas of response – into those more conscious levels where love and deep understanding lives!
Is it too much to think that the evolutionary impulse itself – the force that’s turned the primeval mass of gases into this world of wonders – is there in the world like a great beating heart for us to co-regulate with? Is it too much to think that it’s continually co-regulating us, the more so when we move with it intentionally.
It won’t be a surprise to you that the small groups that many of you are experimenting with (those hosted here and those hosted elsewhere) are, among the many other things they are, co-regulation opportunities.
It’s co-regulation that makes them so growthful.