It is becoming more and more clear to me just how much we need human connection to live a life where we can thrive, not just survive.
Our body is designed to be close and connected to other bodies, a fact that is becoming painfully clear in our society right now.
Like all mammals we are wired to connect to the bodies around us to survive and to thrive.
Animals need to know instantly if one of the flock members perceives a threat that they can’t see themselves, so that they can react accordingly before it’s too late.
Hence there is a function in our nervous system called neuroception, through which our body constantly scans the environment and other bodies for signs of danger or safety.
This is a survival mechanism wired in our system from the times when we lived in the wild and had to be prepared for attacks from animals or other tribes.
In the society we live in today the threats look a bit different, but our nervous system still reacts in the same way.
A sign of a possible threat today can be a fast moving car heading our way, the train to work being late or someone honking at you in traffic. It can also be someone near us raising their voice unexpectedly, moving their body fast and unpredictable or a facial expression we cannot read.
If our neuroception picks up on a sign of a possible threat in our surroundings our sympathetic nervous system activates our survival instincts: fight/flight/freeze.
When our survival instincts are activated we do not make the best decisions. We can no longer access our logically thinking mind, feel empathy for others because those parts of our brain get temporarily shut down. Instead our whole system redirects it‘s resources so that we are ready to fight, flee or freeze in order to survive the perceived threat.
If there are signs of safety our nervous system relaxes and activates the ventral vagus complex. This part of our system redirects our resources towards rest & digest. Our heart rate slows down, our muscles relax, the digestive system can work in peace and our social engagement system opens up again.
This is where we feel safe: we can access our logical mind, assess the situation, feel empathy and curiosity for others and engage socially.
Through neuroception we attune to the bodies around us, reading the state of their nervous systems to adapt accordingly to any possible threat.
This amazing function is also there to help us regulate our own overwhelmed nervous system, through attuning to other calm and regulated nervous systems.
When we pick up on signals of calmness, our nervous system automatically starts to regulate and calm down as well.
When we hear another being breathe deeply, our breath slows down as well.
When we feel another heart beat slow and steady, our heart beat slows down too.
When we perceive another body moving in a calm and relaxed way, our muscles relax and slow down.
This is how we can help each other thrive and bring more peace into the world: by giving one another the gift of co-regulation.
Through learning how to regulate your own nervous system, you will also impact the nervous systems around you.
Through recognizing when another is triggered and disregulated, you can help them come back by letting them attune to you.
Imagine a world where we all help each other co-regulate, how would our society look like then?