Transcript for Episode 8: Co-regulating Nervous Systems across a Lifespan

Allison Sweatman & Andrea Coston

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Here’s the transcript for episode 008 of the Trauma-Informed Everything podcast:

I’m Allison and I’m Andie and welcome to trauma informed everything.

On this podcast we examine how trauma shapes our individual family and societal experiences. We demystify trauma and promote a world of trauma informed everything because like it or not trauma informed everything. As always remember our disclaimer? Everything we say is for informational purposes only, and nothing on this show is meant to replace treatment from a licensed mental health professional. Thanks for listening and enjoy the show.

Andie, what’s your favorite book about trauma? Seriously, do you even have to ask? I mean, Alison, do you even know me? Well, what’s mine

I mean, exactly. That’s what I thought. Okay. Okay, how about this? On the count of three? We’re both gonna say our favorite trauma book. Cool. Cool. Yeah. Okay. All right. All right. Ready? 123 the body keeps the score. I know, right?

It took me months to finish because there was so much good stuff to absorb and learn and fly. Yes, me too. That’s why when I recommend it to people, I tell them to take their time. It’s gonna be a lot. You know what I mean? Oh, totally. Oh, wait, wait, wait, here’s an idea, huh? Here’s, I did hear me out. Okay. Okay. You ready? Pretty good.

Let’s let’s you and I get some folks together to read this process and apply the concepts from the body keeps the score. Hey, why don’t we start in the fall.

Ooh, that sounds like a good idea. Okay, okay, but seriously, y’all, this book is thick. It’s important, and it’s key for understanding trauma in the real world. That’s why we’re choosing it for our first ever fall book clubs starting this September. We’ll have regular online gatherings printables to help you process while you read journal prompts, and more. We want you to get the most out of this incredibly important piece of trauma research, so we’ll be there with you every step of the way. To sign up, click the link in the notes for this show or go to Allison Sweatman comm slash fall book club.

Since we have limited self regulation reserves, and perhaps for traumatized people, the most limited self regulation reserves, we can co regulate. Yay, we could co regulate co regulation is something that I’ve been talking

About on my Instagram account for a few months now. And it wasn’t until planning this podcast that I really sat down to dig into the research. But everybody’s super into it. Like the idea is really great. And I asked everyone a couple of days ago, what are some questions you have about co regulation? And this this question right here shows you how much we need this podcast episode. Are you ready, Andie? I was waiting to hear someone said,

How long have you been practicing co regulation? Oh, and I was like, since I was in utero.

I mean, let’s be honest. We are conceived in a moment of CO regulation. Ideally, yes, ideally.

So I just think that we’re going to talk about intention.

correlation. But it is true that in a healthy society, we’re all co regulating one another all the time. So that’s what we’re going to jump into. So, co regulation is not just for Parent Child relationships, but that’s where most of the research is done. So we’re going to start there. Andie, when did you learn about not just as it pertained to yourself and your own experience as an adoptee. But when did you learn about co regulation for parent infant dyads? Oh, boy. Was it before after you were a parent? It was before because I helped raise my niece. Okay. So that was my first parenting experience. And by helped I mean there were three to four adults in the home at a given time caring for this child for the first. I was there for four years of her life before I got married. And my husband took me away. To this day she’s still mad about that. Um,

But just, you know, I went with my sister to some of her pregnancy stuff, you know, the classes. And so that’s when I first started hearing about the infant co regulation. And I don’t even think they used that term. No, absolutely not. No. But just anytime we’re talking about attending to a baby Who’s crying, we’re talking about co regulation. Yeah. So that’s why I say when people ask How long have you been practicing co regulation, or whatever, it’s like, we really are all talking about it just with just in different terms, right. So yeah, it can be called bonding or attachment.

Just you know, caring for our internal self regulation is called self care. Yeah, for sure. For sure. So, a baby being shown that when they’re hungry, milk will be provided, is laying a foundation for them to know that they can meet their own basic needs.

Later in life whenever they are distressed, right and they realize okay, this will get better, you know, this, this foundational understanding at a very primal level of their brain is saying, if something is not good, if something is in distress within me, it will work itself out. Right and that that is like so over simplistic, but it’s absolutely true that that is in general what is being shown to a baby’s brain body system whenever we respond to their very basic needs and infancy.

building that trust, building that trust and not just between parent and child but building trust in between the world and outside, anything outside of themselves. Because a parent is the only thing that matters outside of self for an infant, you know, and even that lays the foundation for

Knowing that I myself can meet my own needs in adulthood, right? Like just knowing that they can be met by a caregiver is the foundation for knowing that they can be met by self in adulthood. So this is why co regulation research is mostly in terms of parent child co regulation because it’s so crucial early on as early as in utero when all we can measure is that respiratory sinus arrhythmia that RSA. We know that co regulation is happening.

This is why early childhood complex trauma inhibits the ability of a person to regulate impulses of all kinds. That’s why those who are traumatized have PTSD. They are flying off the handle quote unquote, or flipping their lid more easily. Whenever they

are triggered, they might have lower reserves to put in the language that we’re talking about here. This is also why when you have someone who has when that foundation is broken, when as an infant, they did not have that co regulation, they are more prone to or more likely to develop things like PTSD as an adult having experienced a traumatic event. Because the foundation is already broken, in a sense. Yeah, so a person so I guess to take it back to some things we were talking about before about how the same traumatic event can create

actual trauma in the brain for some people, whereas for others, it would not. There’s a case to be made for, what were what were those early co regulation and very foundational understandings of

Things are gonna be okay with, with the with their primary caregiver like as an infant. If that was there, then there’s less of a chance of PTSD being developed from an event later in life. And when Allison says there’s a case to be made, it’s because literally people are just now trying to make the case. Right. And

this is not the research I did for this episode, but we’ll go searching because I mean, that makes perfect sense to me, right? So like a traumatic event, being able to recover from a traumatic event within a few months, and get back to the place where your stores are replenished, you’re more or less back to baseline pre traumatic event, versus being completely a different person and the chemistry of your brain has changed. Your ability to cope with everyday stressors is just gone like those things are more likely to happen to a person who didn’t have that foundational co regulation, thinking about something

Muscle when we use our muscle and we’ve worked it out and we’ve created these habits, then it’s easier to jump back from an injury. But when you don’t have that muscle built up, it takes a whole lot longer more therapy to jump back to where you were.

So earlier, when we were talking about self regulation, it’s important to understand that the CO regulation between two people cannot happen as effectively without those early infancy experiences.

So in the general population, it’s known that the need for co regulation to kind of get back to a regulated state declines with age. So this means the older you get, the less you need another individual’s presence in order to regulate your emotions, regulate your behaviors, regulate your thoughts, even so

The ability to do that on your own in general

increases with age. But this is not necessarily true, as we have just discussed. In the case of those who have experienced trauma, not at all. I say that from my own personal experience.

And as we said before, as well. We’ve talked about the research that says that those who experienced one adult who was safe throughout childhood, one adult who was safe throughout childhood, were able to more successfully be treated for the trauma they experienced in childhood. That one safe adult is a huge indicator for the success of treatment. But the truth is, as we go throughout life and try to co regulate one another, the same is needed. The same thing is needed. So

A warm supportive relationship is one of the components of

CO regulation even in adulthood. So warmth between two people, whether they’re adults or whether it’s a child and an adult, that is necessary for that warmth isn’t necessary for co regulation. And there’s that felt safety again that we talked about. So in childhood, knowing that you had one adult who you felt safe with. The same is true in adulthood when we’re trying to regulate one another. Being being able to feel safe. And I just want to say, Andie, I feel really safe with you.


I really do well, and as I was thinking about it, and I was like, what’s an example of how adults co regulate one another? I think me and you have regulated each other before and a lot of that comes from I know you understand trauma.

I know that I can text you I can talk I can tell you my innermost thoughts.


Not gonna judge like, you’re gonna be like, yeah, Mm hmm. Or even if you don’t get it, you’re able to look at it from like a physiological standpoint, and I know what’s happening in your body right now. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And I just I think about that felt safety. And as an infant that felt safety is literally, oh, this is the same adult who continues to come back and feed me, you know, or whatever, whatever. But that felt safety throughout life. It’s the same. It’s not that someone is changing your diaper and feeding you. It’s just, oh, this person responds without judgment. Whenever I talk to them, this person the same, it’s the same thing and it’s the same thing. And so whenever we talk about the need for safety, I’m just like, oh, my goodness, I wish that we could understand how primal and human that is. Because I think that a lot of times, there can be judgment when we’re talking about the need for people.

to regulate with someone with whom they feel safe. The need for safety never goes away it right. So it just it’s in us, it’s part of us. It’s not something we outgrow. We don’t hit the magical age of 18. Even though we feel like at 18, we got this covered

that the need for safety is always there until the moment we pass that. I mean, that’s why we have hospice because people need to feel safe. As they’re passing. It does not end. And we have this societal idea that we hit a certain age, and we can be an individual and take care of ourselves on our own. But that’s our brains are literally made and need to be in community. We need to regulate with other people to be healthy bodies. Also 18 we just decided that that was the age that you’re just, you know, like all all of these. You’re

Brain is literally still developing, like, and all of these things that we expect of you, regardless of what you’ve been through 18 is when you better get your act together. Otherwise, there are constant legal consequences. Like we just decided that I haven’t researched why we decided 18 was that age, but my goodness, it can’t have been a good reason. It wasn’t based on development. It wasn’t based on science, because science, science says, our brains don’t First of all, our brains don’t ever stop developing. But they don’t reach a point of a what I would call stable development until we are 23 to 25. Yeah, so just blows my mind while we push these baby birds out of the nest at 18 and expect them to fly when make their wings aren’t even developed. And then we wonder why we have so many young adults who struggle or who fail out of college or who can’t get their act together or who you know, participated in addiction even though they had a great childhood. You know, there’s there’s

All of these things that we sit here and wonder why young adults struggle with it’s because their brains aren’t fully developed yet and they still need assistance in making those decisions.

Yeah, and this is not a free pass and lack of accountability. There’s there’s a difference. There’s a difference. You know, I think that’s what’s so hard is that it’s really, really difficult for people who come out of a pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and you get a pack pat on the back and kicked out the door when you’re 18 or 22, after you graduate, kotlik whatever it is, and, you know, now it’s time for you to figure it out. You know, I just think that that

there’s merit to it because we have to be teaching people to be on their own. But if there are very basic neurobiological reasons that that is more difficult for them, then it is the typical person then my goodness, you’re doing

Only the days are numbered before that explodes into something even bigger than, Oh, I can’t keep my grades up, you know, or Oh, I’m kind of, you know, rude to mom sometimes, or whatever, whatever the behavior is at that age that is getting on everyone’s nerves. So.

Okay, so the types of support that are necessary for co regulation, I found this in one briefing just about general co regulation across the lifespan, and we will link that briefing in the show notes, but it’s a warm relationship. And there’s that felt safety again, a warm relationship and environmental structures. So we assume that kids need less structure as they age, but that might not be true if there’s trauma, like a five year old might need the amount of structure that you give a two year old in terms of the what’s happening throughout the day, and you know, those updates. Okay, five more minutes of this buddy and

We’re gonna go do something else. And those, in order to stay regulated, they might need more of that support that you wouldn’t expect, you know, maybe maybe like, let’s say an eight year old or a nine year old to need, you might be quote unquote, treating them like a two year old, which is not bad and not worth judging them for.

But that that type of structure of the environment might be necessary for kids older than we think. me like 37 year old

or 30 year olds, like honestly, the structure that I have built into my life since I started getting serious about trauma therapy, it’s like there are some things that I am going to be healing, literally healing within my brain and then there are going to be some things that I just changed my environment because of how my brain works, right? And that’s what we’re talking about here. The environmental structure, the things you can control the making as many choices before you go to bed as possible. That’s that’s changing. That’s that’s changing what you can control. That’s adjusting

environment to the fact that your brain has fewer reserves or your child’s brain has fewer reserves than other children their age. Mm hmm. Yeah. For me, it’s been interesting as I’ve gone through trauma therapy, and I realized that there are a lot of things that are still very unhealed, that I still am way back at two or three or five. And that doesn’t mean I’m in mature. I’m incredibly You know, I’m intelligent. I’m a grown adult, I pay my bills on time. But I take care of my children. I’m an excellent wife and mother. However, the need for scheduling in my life, I have to have a schedule for myself because I do not have the executive functioning to remind myself to eat or when to shower Absolutely. Like when to do these very basic concepts because my brain is so busy trying to regulate itself that it has to look at a schedule. Absolutely. I the lists that I make our word notebooks. I have so many

notebooks who knows what room they’re going to be in and who knows which notebook contains the note that I need at any given moment. But the lists that I make are so incredibly detailed, I feel incredibly childish, making them. But it’s true. Like, it doesn’t matter. I’ll probably talk to our Patreon community about this later. Like how specific I get in my lists. This is not the time for it, but the point being, adapting your environment to the needs that you have at any age is not something to be ashamed of. No, not at all. So we have actually something to be proud of.

recognize your need and you seek it out whether it’s consciously or unconsciously. That’s that’s a that is a coping skill then is a whether or not the thing you are doing looks responsible or immature to other people. It’s irrelevant. The fact that you have in yourself found a way

To keep your self regulated is an incredibly mature move. Yes. And that requires so much self awareness. Yes. And does have self awareness that other people haven’t developed because you’re able to see that the self awareness to say, Okay, my brain just works differently. I think that now that I know that I’m really thinking about it, my therapist probably spent a year

trying to get me to stop asking why am I the way that I am and start figuring out how can I work with the way that I am, you know, and we’re still we’re still working with the y and we’re still working with that foundational healing through through some some modalities and things that can actually rewire the way my brain works. But in the meantime, in the meantime, we’re just gonna work with it. And whenever whenever things go awry, we’re gonna ride it out.

That’s gonna end that’s, I mean, that I think is so crucial is this is this understanding that? What if, what if this thing that I’ve been told or taught is quote wrong with me, can actually with a few adjustments on most days be okay? Like, I’m going to be okay i’m going to be functioning, I’m going to be getting things done. And I’m going to generally at the end of the day, feel accomplished and at peace with my day. Like that only happened when I accepted, okay, this is how my brain works. And this is what I need in order to feel that way at the end of the day. So saying, Yeah, and you have to unlearn the shame of eating something different than most adults your age need. You need to read your Bernie Brown. Do your homework and learn about shame. Start there. Learn about how your parents become your inner voice and Oh


You have to not judge your spouse because you’ve married your father, who is your voice.

And this is Andie’s story if you haven’t.

That’s funny. So we have a warm relationship, environmental structure. Wow, I unpacked those heavily before we moved on to the third, the third one.

The third type of support for co regulation is instruction and coaching. And so I think that’s another one that we take for granted. The older that someone gets, the less they’ll need instruction and coaching just throughout life and to do things but the truth is, I think we see this in a move toward mentorship, right? Like we see people talking about having mentors at every stage of life, someone who’s 10 years quote ahead of you, which maybe that’s not the right concept but someone who is doing something in a way that you hope to do that, and or who you just admire in the way they show up in the world having a mentor, that’s not something that just goes away, then

For that, in terms of CO regulation doesn’t just go away as you grow up it seeking out someone who to you looks more skilled in that area. I mean, and I think that’s why we see this huge push now towards, you know, coaching. Oh, yeah, there’s, you know, coach, it’s a buzzword and, you know, so and there’s certifications just for being a coach, you know, like, like someone like as, as people who are working toward being clinical social workers, I would hope that we value what we could offer in the therapy room, but also also, there are some people who also need that coaching presence, so that therapy can be used therapeutically instead of for life coaching, you know, or mentorship. You know, that’s the difference. My therapist is not my mentor. She’s cool enough to be I would love for her to be my mentor. But as it stands, she needs to be my therapist more than I need a mentor out of her, you know, and so

I think that that we can’t discount the need for someone who, like you said is more skilled in an area that you want to grow in. And that relationship being being fostered throughout the life course. Yeah. And that can come out by even for those of us who are in therapy, we can have other coaches, we can have someone who helps us at the gym. We can have a nutritionist, we can have, we can get an app on our phone that helps us with our scheduling or meal planning. And while that’s not an actual physical coach, somebody has developed that app and it helps us with that regulation internally.

Hi, friends Allison here. Our Patreon community is growing and it is so exciting. Andie and I are sharing weekly resources meditations journal prompts, and even a morning show called allien Eddie in the mornin community anyone

Have you know, you know, anyway, we would love for you to join us, we’ve got three tiers that offer you fantastic value, whatever your budget, just go to patreon.com slash trauma informed everything, it’s felt just like the show. So it’s easy to find, you can also find a link in the show notes right in your app. I’ll see you there.

So to recap, co regulation involves three types of support, a warm relationship that has some felt safety, environmental structure, sort of like with the planning ahead, and things like that those kinds of environmental controls that we have, and then skilled instruction and coaching. So a mentoring relationship is what we talked about before. So those are three things. And what I want to make sure we focus on is the fact that at any point in the life course, an individual will need one

or more of these three things on some level and some people need them ongoing. So like I said earlier, this idea that the older you get, the less support you need to regulate.

That kind of, I don’t know where that comes from, I think that might be an assumption that we make about, you know, if everyone begins their life with just excellent co regulation foundation with their caregiver, then sure that might be what happens. But as it stands, that’s not the way that our society is. That’s not the way that humans are coming into the world and moving through the world and growing up from a very young age. So I want to make a case that it’s actually pretty ablest to assume that every person in the world will need less and less support as they age. I just think that that assumption can actually be really harmful, extremely damaging, extremely, because that’s when we become that’s where the shame and the guilt

He comes into play and this that breeds hopelessness. And when we I talked about this, you know, prior to this episode, that hope is the foundation of healing. And if we have hopelessness, if we’re feeling that in our bodies, our bodies are going to feel it, our relationships are gonna feel it, and it can lead us into a very negative downward spiral that can lead to, you know, more negative behaviors, which then just doubles down on the shame and


yeah, so the shame that can set in whenever we we have that assumption is really, really problematic. And so, what the truth is, though, what the truth is, and when we’re talking about having a trauma informed society or building a trauma informed society, we need to remember that many adults will require things like detailed stuff

schedules supportive coaching and instruction from a mentor controlled environments and goodness knows a warm and safe relationship in order to function and move through society in even what society would deem as an acceptable way to show up. That’s not something that is that’s not even something that is only true of individuals who have experienced trauma. Like we don’t have to have someone be diagnosed with PTSD of any kind, in order to show need for co regulation with these three concepts throughout the life course. I, I don’t know. I just really think that if we could let go of this idea that the older someone gets, the less support they need in these areas. We would all be happier we would adjust our expectations according to actual humans instead of according to this, this idea that you know, okay, at some point, everybody’s going to be just okay on their own. You know,

I don’t know. I don’t know where we got that idea. Maybe capitalism.

Ah, yeah, probably, probably that’s probably a component of it. But all that to say, certainly the need for regulation for co regulation goes down as you get older. But the idea that it is this like,

this absolute linear situation is ludicrous. It is, it is.

it’s mind blowing. Because, you know, I think it’s so easy to sit here. And I really encourage our listeners to do this, you know, there’s this, this popular thing going around, you know, raise or put down a finger F or raise a finger. It goes both ways. Like, look at those three things, and ask yourself, do I need these? Are they already built into my life? Am I looking for them?

And just realizing that if we are within ourselves struggling with these three things or have a deficit, or are experiencing a positive feedback from having those three things, like why, why can’t everyone else be like that? And I think that’s where the capitalism and the individualistic thinking, only feeds into it because we’re, you know, it’s a dog eat dog world and every man for himself and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And, but but really, you know,

we have as a society are only digging ourselves in deeper with that concept and that shows up in everything from our personal relationships, our marriages, our education system, our foster care system, our capitalistic policies that promote you know, the doggy dog world where you better shape up or shift does that shape up or ship out? Mm hmm. If you can’t, you know, if you can’t keep up

With us, then you are less than worthy. Hmm, absolutely.

I think that another idea behind all of this is this idea that that felt safety, environmental structure and mentorship that those things are privileges instead of birth rights, because what we know about developmental psychology and developmental neurobiology shows that those are necessary throughout a life course for most individuals. And so this expectation that at some point, you just won’t need those things. At some point, you’ll be able to completely handle yourself, you know, like, that’s self sufficiency that is

expected. That is not true of what we know about human development and what we know about the way that the brain develops. And so that even develops the functions. Right? Right. We have to be in relationship with people for our brain to be happy.

See, we have to be, and because if we’re not, then we don’t we don’t have that felt safety. So, yeah, and relationship and connection is

wrapped into all three of these ideas of CO regulation, that warmth, environmental structure, and instruction coaching and mentorship. Those are all about connection which is absolutely necessary for survival. And our most basic parts of our brains know that we need connection for survival. So when you are in the grocery line, and and the woman ahead of you is having an outburst because she doesn’t want to put a mask on your question should not be judgment, it should be. Where is she feeling the loss of felt safety?

Where is she missing connection? Because she’s eight she’s trying to find that when somebody outbursts

in public, they are begging, they are seeking their body is literally screaming. I need connection. Mm hmm. Absolutely. And so,

as we have pretty much debunked this idea that infants and young children are the only ones who need co regulation, let’s just talk about how anyone can co regulate. So co regulation, let’s just go ahead and get a definition. co regulation happens when a dysregulated person is in contact with someone who is regulated, who then helps them come back into regulation. And like we said, Andie, and I have co regulated in moments of distress for one another. In healthy partnership relationships and marriages, you’re gonna see examples of CO regulation from one moment to another. And it’s important to remember that connection is what it’s all about. We can break it down with those three things.

samples from earlier, but connection is what gives way to co regulation. And to bring it back to the nervous system talk that we had last week. The parasympathetic nervous system supports that social interaction and is necessary for human connection. So we have to be in our parasympathetic nervous system in order to connect socially. So it’s necessary for survival that we come back into that parasympathetic. And it’s not that you have to get into your parasympathetic so that you can connect socially so that you can regulate, all three of those things are happening at once. And really, they are all kind of the same thing. But we just use different components of that experience to describe it. So I don’t want people to think Okay, first I get into my sympathetic, then I hang out with people and then I can regulate, it’s like these are all happening at the same time. And it could there is a case to be made that they’re all talking about the same thing within the organism of a human being

But those are those are the things that we’re talking about when we’re talking about co regulating you got to get into that parasympathetic. Yeah. And yeah, it’s not a checklist. Yeah.

Wouldn’t it be great? Wouldn’t it be helpful? Yeah, you go to step one and step two, and it’s not Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we’re not working our way up the pyramid is also integrated is and so interwoven. Mm hmm. So they have to, we have to be in parasympathetic in order to connect. The flip side of that will hopefully help us foster some empathy for traumatized individuals that we might encounter encounter. And that is, we cannot connect if we are in the sympathetic, which is the fight or flight. So a person who is constantly in fight or flight cannot connect with other human being. This reminds me of the statement that at any point in history, no one has actually calmed down by being told to calm down

Absolutely, absolutely. And it could be said that without an understanding of what we’re unpacking here, administering punitive consequences for someone’s

behaviors that society has deemed unacceptable is not actually helping the situation. If we actually have the research, we have the research. We have the research for that, that punitive consequences such as, Oh, I don’t know, the prison industrial complex. Those are unhelpful for actually minimizing the behaviors that quote unquote, land someone in prison. It’s actually if we go back to trauma that is perpetuated by the same systems often and perpetuated by generations of oppression. Those are what needs to be addressed if we want to reduce the people in prison.

The number of people in prison. But the truth is, we have a private prison system that thrives and make some money off of having more people, mostly people of color, mostly black men, be a lot darker, but mostly out of foster care, be be put into that prison system. And so at the end of the day, it’s all about these conflicts of interests. And that’s why it’s so difficult to get the people in power to look at the root cause here, which is trauma. So you’ve got people living in fight or flight, because they did not have the CO regulation that they needed as an infant, to not live in fight or flight to live in their parasympathetic to actually connect with other human beings and get more of that empathy, more of that mirroring with others so that they can grow in their capacity for empathy throughout their life, and then they grow up there in fight or flight.

They exhibit a behavior that is unacceptable. And there we have it. And and on and on we go. Hmm. So this goes back to what we were saying about capitalism, and how it affects the actual mental health and the systems in our society where we have a system in place right now with punitive actions that actually creates money for our capitalistic society. And to change that would mean actually caring about rehabilitation and actually addressing these childhood traumas. Oh, which by the way, would also mean that we have to change other systems like the foster care system, our our mental health system, education, our education system, our treatment of women, and those systems. There would need to be a complete societal overhaul. And so it’s just easier and quote unquote

Less expensive, hello capitalism, things the way they are.

Who knew that you would get a political


No, but it’s true. We can’t. And back on social work, which we should do an episode about how all of this connects to social work, but we cannot with any integrity, knowing what we know, separate the experience of an individual in their very first experiences with their caregiver. in infancy, we cannot separate that in utero. in utero, we cannot separate that from them living in fight or flight in their adulthood, which then leads them to act out in behaviors that have consequences societal Lee that land them in prison like we cannot separate trauma from the very earliest times of life.

We we just can’t do it. No, it is impossible. I mean, you can sit if somebody really wanted to, we could sit and interview every single person in the prison system, it would come back to trauma every single time.

So I think you and I have effectively escalated one another,

which is apathy.

Yeah, so that is actually the next point that we want to make is that when we talk about the possibility of CO regulating one another throughout life, whether it’s a person you’re very close to like a partner or a good friend, or it’s just a person at the grocery store, who you can tell they are escalated, and maybe you can provide a warm presence even though you don’t know them any at all. You can provide a warm presence that can help bring them back into regulation.

We all have those stories of Oh, yeah. You know, a stranger helping us. Why can’t we be the stranger sometimes

Absolutely, absolutely. So just as we know, we can do that with any other human we can, the opposite is possible. So we can escalate one another, like how many times have you seen or participated in an argument between two humans, one person takes it to the next level, whether that means they raise their voice, or they’re more visibly agitated, like their affect the way they’re presenting their emotions comes out in some bigger way. Like they just take it up a notch. And then the next thing you know that other person is taking it up a notch as well. So and think of thinking about this with a child and parent think about what happens when you’re just a little bit ticked off at your kid for doing something but then they also scream while they’re doing the thing or they continue doing. So then you kick or they look at you out of the corner of their home while you do the thing.

Yes, so we can escalate one another and this has this there’s a word for this in the science which I learned

Which makes perfect sense to me in the science. And

the science says that this is called physiological contagion. And basically that dysregulation of the nervous system is contagious. And we’ve shown that between a parent child and in one study, what they did was they gave a child a puzzle to do and they added obstacles for completing the puzzle through like four. I think it was like a three year old. I know it was a preschooler, but they were giving the child obstacles making the puzzle harder, and the parent was there trying to like all they could do was just calming them down. They couldn’t help them complete the puzzle, but the whole idea was and they were measuring their respiratory sinus arrhythmia the whole time. And so the ability of the parent to help the child calm down in that stress induced situation, even even though they couldn’t help them complete the task, they could help them regulate their RSA regulate

Their their nervous system. Whether or not that could happen was a predictor of four or more months later, whether or not the child would be able to regulate in a preschool classroom, the parent isn’t there. So So it’s this showing of, if a parent is there and can help regulate, whether it’s just the sound of their voice or assurances that everything’s gonna be okay or even saying the words, you’re safe, I’m here, like that presence. being effective is an indicator of being able to do that on your own being able to regulate on your own A few months later as a preschooler. So, all that to say the parent staying regulated was the point there so the parent the parent who was able to keep their respiratory sinus arrhythmia, keep their heart rate down, keep their respirations at a healthy place, and be that regulated presence to help the child also be regulated.

That was physiological, physiological contagion, in terms of de escalation and in terms of regulation. So just as we can escalate one another, and we can cause each other to fly off the handle and begin ranting or begin,

you know, throwing hurtful words at one another and arguing just as we can escalate in that way we can de escalate so we can co regulate, we can use our regulation of our nervous systems, while we’re together to bring us both back into parasympathetic and have to reconnect.

I have to tell you, though, that I went into my sympathetic nervous system just thinking about that test. Does it sound horrible? Yeah, I was thinking. I was thinking about my six year old and my three year old who?

Yeah, right out of the gate.

Yeah, well, well, what what to me was helpful about this something that I spend time telling a lot of parents is caring for yourself.

Self is, is caring for your child caring for yourself is caring for your child. So helping yourself come back into your parasympathetic in a moment when you normally would not be in your parasympathetic in a moment when you would be flipping your lid because your kid is flipping their lid, being able to keep yourself regulated in that moment will help your child regulate in that moment. And it sounds so simple and so obvious. But I think we needed to hear that.

As parents, we it’s so easy to say, oh, anyone who’s ever been around a two or three nature, like it’s not, especially if you have any sort of triggers that are physical like noise, or you know, if they’re having a tantrum in the grocery store and you have a deep connected shame to you know, appearing to be, you know, perfect or appearing to look good all the time that’s going to trigger you and so you will have a less ability to meet your child where they’re at and that’s it.

That’s human. That’s, it’s, you know, we’re all gonna mess up as parents, we’re all gonna mess up as people. It’s just it’s, yeah, that’s human.

So what we’re trying to do here in our trauma informed everything community and here on the podcast is just help create a trauma informed world. We want to co create and imagine what that could possibly look like. And when we’re talking about co regulation, and this phenomenon where our brain body systems on a very primal level can help one another be okay. What we’re really saying is that a trauma informed world would foster empathy and understanding of the need for co regulation among all humans in our interaction with one another throughout the life course, not just in childhood.

That’s our show for today. If you enjoyed the show, please take a moment to rate and rate

view it on your podcast platform. Yes, please do this helps others find the show and we would be really, really grateful. So if you have any questions for us, please send them to us at trauma informed everything@gmail.com and we just might answer them in the future during our q&a segment. Thanks for joining us. And remember, trauma informs everything and we really do mean everything

Transcribed by https://otter.ai