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What are the Nuts and Bolts of Co-Regulation?
Co-Regulation is our birthright. It is a biological imperative. You do not have to be an expert to start co-regulating, nervous system to nervous system, you already do it. Mothers and infants do it. Friends and lovers do it. Co-Regulation means shifting emotional gears in our nervous systems in connection with others. By definition, co-regulation means good for you and good for me, too.
Co-Regulation depends on expression, reflection, and response. Expression is about showing ourselves, our feelings, our vulnerability, our autonomic state. Showing who we are and how we feel is the essential first step in co-regulation. Reflection from others is how we know we are seen. Being present is about seeing the other as they are. Verbal and non-verbal communication lets us know how we are seen and accepted. (The neurological elements of attunement are how we read each other non verbally: eye contact, tone of voice, posture, gesture, movement, rhythm, timing, intensity, words, rhythm, motion). Responses let us know how our self expression affects our communication partner, friend, family member, etc. This is the red or green light for going deeper. To co-regulate, we each need to be able to recognize and to report on how we have been affected by the other. The distinction between reflecting and responding helps us avoid jumping to conclusions and believing our projections.