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The following is a letter to Self-Reggers around the world from Stuart Shanker. It is part of a series of letters he writes from time to time, about every day realities and dealing with the stresses these things can cause. We feel these letters help to connect us.

To read Stuart’s full library of “Dear Global Self-Reggers” letters, visit here.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Dear Global Self-Reggers,

We begin planning each Self-Reg Summer Symposium almost immediately after the last one is over. We think about the issues that arose over the week or the areas of science that we want to explore a little more deeply. By January of this year we pretty much had our program for SRSS 2022 set and were getting ready to start writing. And then something happened. Stress levels went from extremely high to stratospheric.

Everywhere we turned we were confronted with an alarming rise in stress-related problems in infants, children and teens, parents, and educators. Emotional and social problems. Problems in concentration, motivation, satisfaction, health. But Self-Reg isn’t just about describing problems or explaining their causes. It’s about using all the science that we study to help us return to wellness, mental and physical. The need for Self-Reg has always been great; now it is desperate.

From the moment we are born we are bathed in stress. Stress that floods our body with the energy it needs to grow, learn, thrive. But if too much energy builds up inside our body it becomes hard to dissipate it in healthy ways. We find ourselves turning to maladaptive modes of self-regulation, which only compounds the problem. We soon find ourselves struggling and flailing.

Our first response is to recognize the signs of when we ourselves, or our children and students are overstressed. We can’t flee from all the stress today, so instead we have to tame it. Learn how to manage stress in growth-promoting ways so that we can quiet the different forms of hyperarousal. And here is where I am going to introduce you to a truly game-changing way of thinking about self-regulation.

All too often we think about self-regulation at the “self-help” level: various strategies or programs to control out-of-control impulses. Every year we are deluged with books and podcasts designed to strengthen our willpower. Which only seem to make the problem worse: if not in the short term, then certainly in the long.

Over the past several years Self-Reggers have learned a great deal about the need to calm a Red Brain that has seized control of our self-control. But it’s finally time to look at a very basic question: Why do Red Brains get aroused? Is it because of what we want or think? Or are there processes beneath the Red Brain – mechanisms in the *Gray Brain – that cause the hyperarousal that extends up the neuroaxis, first to the Red Brain, and thence to the Blue Brain?  

Once we begin to understand the bottom-up/top-down dynamics of the neuroaxis, we can take our self-regulation to a whole new level. Mitigate the stresses that send the *Gray Brain into homeostatic imbalances, which are the ultimate source of the multiple problems we are dealing with today.

In each of my luminaries this year at SRSS, I’ll be focusing on a different aspect of this argument: how it relates to children, to parents, and to educators. I’ll participate in a Q&A with all of you where, as I like to put it, the pedal meets the metal. And I’ll be talking about the new translation of Self-Reg into French, which represents a huge step in our becoming a truly pan-Canadian movement.

So come and join us. Hear all the new things that I’m so eager to share. And help me learn from you what I need to be thinking about as I start to turn my mind to SRSS 2023!


* Self-Reg’s brown brain has been renamed to gray brain. Join us at SRSS 2022 to hear the story of that important transition. 


Stuart’s Luminaries & Talks at SRSS:

Monday July 4, 11:00 AM

The Pathway to a Safe and Secure Childhood

Wednesday July 6, 1:00 PM

What Can Parents Do in Such Stressful Times?

Tuesday July 12, 11:00 AM
Q&A with Stuart about Votre enfant, Self-Reg et vous

Wednesday, July 13, 11:00 AM
Is an Emotionally Safe School More Than Just a Dream?