Co-regulation is the capacity for two nervous systems to come into a sense of well-being, together.
When we are young, our caregivers dance with us through this medium, following the fluctuations of our emotional and physiological changes, lending their nervous systems to help us regulate, and shaping our ability to dance with ourselves in this way as we move through life.
Co-regulation is a capacity and a tool we can lean into later in life to help re-shape our experiences and ability to be with ourselves, and the arising. It may look like two friends leaning together. Sometimes one holds or lends presence for the other, or vice versa. Other times, we can “lean together.” Picture standing or sitting back to back. Both parties feeling their connection to gravity, their ground and the stability this provides, but also leaning into the “together” space. It’s kind of like this when our nervous systems rest together, but may include emotions, breath, and fluctuations of space as two fields adjust to continually find their meeting place.
Have you ever felt calmed by a friend’s hand on your knee, or just to feel someone with you? Have you ever sat in the enjoyment of presence and connection? These are forms of co-regulation.
Co-regulation is also an essential part of therapy. The therapist provides a safe space where the client can borrow resource- warmth, well-being. It is through the safety in this dancing connection that our material can come to know itself in new ways.
If we experienced trauma early on, it’s also important to know that our ability to co-regulate may be impacted by this. The sense that connection is a safe place to rest and calm, may not be immediately available. Therapy is also a place where we can work through these experiences. A skilled therapist can meet us here and hold space for the patterns that tell us “connection is unsafe” to unwind. Finding co-regulation may be our goal in therapy itself.