Self-regulation vs co-regulation. 

Nov 01, 2022


The other day I wrote a story about how I laid in bed and cried, unable to get my kids up or do our morning routine. 


I have a traveling husband—Chris—whose work schedule is brutal right now, which means parenting and general life is left to me. I have two huge projects in my business, and my business partner, Jenine was hit with Hurricane Ian, taking her out of commission and leaving the business work load resting squarely on my shoulders. 


Instead of allowing myself to get swallowed up by my feelings of sadness and overwhelm, I reached out to Chris and Jenine for help. 


In the story, I went on to stress the importance of co-regulation, and how in Kindhearted Badass we provide you with an entire community to co-regulate with. 


One of my own coaches, who I highly respect, made a comment on that post about how crucial co-regulation is for growth. 


And her comment got me thinking about how sometimes she says things in her posts and I have no idea what the F she’s talking about. 


And that little thought trail brought me to the conclusion that everyone might not know what self-regulation and co-regulation mean. 


In case you don’t know what the F I’m talking about, let’s chat about regulation for a second. Because co-regulation is one of the most important parts of what we do in Kindhearted Badass. 


Emotional regulation is the ability to exert control over one’s own emotional state. 


Emotional regulation requires emotional intelligence. You have to be able to notice and label your emotions. Once noticed and labeled, instead of ignoring them, you deal with them. Which isn’t always fun or comfortable.


If you are self-regulating you would use tools to manage the emotions on your own instead of numbing them by doing things like scrolling social media, eating a box of cookies, having a bottle of wine, playing video games. 


If you are co-regulating you would reach out to someone for help working through the emotions. 


Note: When you co-regulate it’s imperative you choose someone who isn’t going to be judgmental about the emotions you’re feeling. 


Example: your sister got engaged and your boyfriend of 5 years hasn’t popped the question yet. You feel disappointment, jealousy, resentment, anger etc about this situation. If you need to co-regulate through those emotions, don’t reach out to your mother if all she’s going to say is that you should be happy for your sister and you always make everything about you. 


When I was feeling overwhelmed by my workload and sad because I was missing my husband, I reached out to Jenine to co-regulate. I was able to do that because I knew she wouldn’t judge me for crying over my seemingly much less significant issues than she was having dealing with a hurricane. 


Co-regulation can be incredibly damaging if you choose the wrong person to regulate with. 


Which brings me full circle back to Kindhearted Badass. Inside Kindhearted Badass there are a gaggle of humans ready and willing to help you regulate when you need it. 


According to Polyvagal theory (which is where I learned about co-regulation) co-regulation is the reciprocal sending and receiving of signals of safety. It is not merely the absence of danger, it’s the presence of safety. 


When I texted my husband that morning while I was crying in bed, he was out of town, so he called me. I was too upset to talk at that moment, which I told him. He wasn’t able to help me regulate just then, as he was due to board a plane to head home shortly after our exchange. 


When he landed he immediately drove to Grit & Grace Ranch where I was taking my weekly horse riding lesson. When I rode back from the trails to the barn, my husband was waiting there to give me a hug. He drove 50 minutes out of his way to give me a hug and let me know that he saw and understood my sadness. 


That hug was a signal of safety.


If you are lacking safe people to co-regulate with, I would love to invite you to join us in our monthly membership group, Kindhearted Badass Crew. We can be your signals of safety. 


If you’re in need, you can check out all the details here. If you have questions, feel free to email me at [email protected] 



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