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By Kapila Love

I found Self-Reg via Facebook posts, and was intrigued enough by the pretty infographics to look further, to Stuart Shanker’s Self-Reg book. From there, it was a rather lovely, slippery slope into the Foundations Course, which commenced in the Fall of 2020.

I tumbled headlong into Foundations, not exactly knowing what I would find, or why I was there. A reviewer on the Self-Reg website mentioned how much the course helped her as a person and a parent, and I totally dug that idea, of change coming from within. Well, I haven’t looked back – or, put another way, I’m looking back at everything, completely differently and with new eyes. Here are five lessons I have learned at the halfway point of the Self-Reg Foundations Course.

1. Stress is everywhere.  We’ve all heard stress is a silent killer and have felt its effects in our everyday lives in the workplace and at home. What was new to me was the realisation that, as soon as you have a pulse, you are bound to experience stress. By itself, this is not necessarily a bad thing; indeed, some stressors allow us to challenge ourselves to learn and grow. It’s excessive stress – which, for myriad reasons, we are unable to deal with effectively –  that is detrimental to health, growth, and learning. Self-Reg challenges us to take a good, long look (with soft eyes) at the many places in our lives or in the lives of our loved ones, where stressors may be hiding.

2. While stress is universal, stressors are personal. Akin to the proverb, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” an event that triggers a stress response within me may not do so for you. The implication for helping those we love, in the Self-Reg journey, is the need to practice openheartedness when it comes to identifying what might be causing distress for another person.

3.  A stress response behaviour, even a maladaptive one, is not a character flaw. Looking at the myriad events and interactions of our lives through the lens of Self-Reg, we come to understand that we are all actually trying our very best. Our bodies are trying to cope and adapt to stressors every moment of everyday. When things go south in my household and I lose my cool, it’s not because I’m a bad person. It’s because I haven’t yet figured out how to apply the process of Self-Reg to myself in that moment. Self-Reg is not simplistic at all. Self-Reg is, however, very gentle and it engenders a capacity to free oneself of the shackles of self-criticism and blame. 

4. Limbic resonance is a thing. That strange feeling I would get in the pit of my stomach when talking to someone who felt uneasy or nervous. Or that feeling of walking ever so lightly on eggshells when my mum was super-duper-over-the-hills-stressed. What was that? Limbic resonance! A deep, primal form of subconscious communication between individuals. Self-Reg has taught me that we are connected in ways that I would have never dreamed of before, with all the lovely science to back it up.

5.Unpack your biases, it’s time to reflect and reframe. Reflection is a necessary part of the process of Self-Reg. I gained a new appreciation of this through the Foundations coursework, which very often led me to think about past experiences in light of the course content. For example, it dawned on me that most of my child-rearing problems stemmed from my expectations of what I thought my son should do in any given moment. Such a self-imposed parenting blinder did not allow me to see anything except what I thought needed to happen next. 

This is where the need to reframe became crucial. I am now more willing to stop and try to see both myself and my son in a different light. Reflection and reframing, two of the five Rs of Self-Reg, are continuous and dynamic processes and have had the greatest impact on me thus far. They have allowed me to begin the exciting task of stepping out of my invisible bias boxes, into a more fluid space that allows for new possibilities of understanding myself as a human and a parent, and problem solving for a better, more examined, more connected life.