ERP 254: How to Understand Co-regulation in Relationship [Transcript]

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Hi, thank you for tuning into the Empowered Relationship Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, licensed psychologist and relationship coach. In today’s episode, 254, “How to understand co-regulation in relationship” we’re gonna be talking about some of the very important ways that our nervous system are responding to one another, and how critical this is for developing long-lasting intimacy.

Before we get started, I wanna take a moment and just center with you, inviting you to take a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. And as we do this, just bringing our awareness more fully to this moment, perhaps noticing what’s around you, where you’re at in your time of day, and taking that moment of pause, connecting with yourself as you begin to reflect on relationship, understanding that what gets brought up in relationship is an opportunity for growing, for healing, and as we expand our capacity to grow, we also grow our relationship.

The conversations on the Empowered Relationship Podcast are intended to support you in this endeavor. Along the journey of intimacy and long-lasting relationship, likely we are going to experience a range of emotions. Some might ask us to expand our capacity for joy, more love than we’ve known before, that might rattle us a little. It’s maybe outside of our comfort zone, so it’s uncertain, and therefore the nervous system will respond, in an attempt to protect.

When we go through hardships, perhaps feel fear, or even threat in relationships, again, our nervous system will want to similarly protect. As we are trying to develop relationship and closeness and bond, that can feel at odds with our need for that sense of security and safety. So as we talk about cultivating the security and the stability in relationship, essentially helping the bond and the connection feel safe.

Now, I talk a lot on the Empowered Relationship about having a safe, secure relationship, and in today’s episode I’m gonna be referencing more of Polyvagal theory; I’m not gonna go into that just yet, but I just wanna invite you, again, to just get your mind and your heart around the idea that relationships are a teacher. They inform and alert us to perhaps what needs attention, perhaps in a dynamic, or as we notice our own reactions and responses.

Ultimately, we wanna bring more consciousness, more mindfulness and intention to this process. It is a human need for us to feel love and belonging, particularly with a close other, often in the way of a romantic partner. While this is a fundamental need, again, that we’re wired up for bonding, for connection – again, as I just mentioned, we might be confronted with the propensity to protect, especially when we’ve known pain and trauma and loss in previous relationships or early upbringing. And these can feel at odds, and can create conflict in ourselves and in our dynamic.

Again, the topics on the Empowered Relationship Podcast are all intended to support you along this journey. And if you’ve been a long-time listener, you’ll hear me reference my own journey and my own process, and I am along this path with you.

If you would like to access more resources to support you, you can visit DrJessicaHiggins.com. There you’ll find other articles, you’ll find self-paced courses. You’ll also find a tab “Work with me”. I do have a short waitlist at the moment; however, my intention is always to support people in getting what they need and what helps support them in transforming into being able to integrate the practices and the healing, so that they can be on their way, and not perhaps needing as much of a support person… Therefore I do have spots that open up periodically.

You can learn more about how to schedule a free strategy session there. You can also find today’s show notes on the Podcast page; there in the top navigation bar you’ll see  Podcast. Click there and you’ll find today’s episode closer to the top. Again, 254, “How to understand co-regulation in relationship.”

Pioneering researcher and developer of the Polyvagal theory, Dr. Stephen Porges, who’s actually a guest on the Empowered Relationship – I did interview him several weeks ago; and since I have several episodes in the pipeline, his episode will not be airing until a couple of months. But I encourage you to stay tuned, as he is such a prominent contributor in the understanding of our nervous systems and how we are relating in relationship, as we (again) are wired up for connection.

One of the things that Dr. Stephen Porges emphasizes as we look at relationship, particularly couplehood and romance, is that safety is required for connection. In a moment I’m gonna go into a little bit more about Polyvagal. I’m not gonna give an extensive overview. There’s so much online that you can access; I’ll also put a few books on today’s show notes, if you wanna go a little deeper into what Polyvagal theory is, and the applications of it.

When we look at our nervous systems and our state of arousal – how excited we are, or perhaps how shut down we are, or how open we are, a lot of us are familiar with the fight/flight response, and that’s the being mobilized to address a threat, either through the way of fighting, or through the way of fleeing, running, distancing, or bucking up, these two responses, to try to work with the threat.

The other response is being immobilized to the threat. This is when we are unable to address the threat through fight or flee, therefore we freeze and shut down.

From a Polyvagal perspective, there are three neurocircuits. The dorsal, which I just mentioned, is the most primal; it’s the oldest in our evolutionary development, so it’s the most primal. This is that shutdown. The second-oldest is the sympathetic circuit; this is the fight and flight, which we were talking about, and trying to respond to the difficulty or the threat through mobilizing and responding.

Polyvagal theory has really done so much to help us understand the third circuit, the ventral vagal circuit. Now, this is the newest circuit. This is the circuit for social engagement and connection. What is incredibly important to understand about these three circuits – this is operating at all times, and is primary to our functioning all through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve goes from the brain stem, through the heart, the lungs, through all the organs, the digestion, and is essentially the pathway for communication and sending information to the brain, and also our body’s ability to function. So when we’re in these different states, or the different circuits, our organs and our brain – everything’s gonna be functioning very differently. And the most critical piece of this from a relational standpoint is that we cannot be available for connection, for intimacy, for openness and bonding unless we feel safe.

Dr. Stephen Porges talks about we need to really like each other, we need to feel comfortable with each other… And this isn’t a bored comfortable, this is a safe comfortable, and that we treat each other well.

He emphasizes this point because passion is not the same thing as lasting relationship… Because we can be passionate about someone and actually not feel safe with them, dislike them even… And this type of dynamic often results in conflict, and unfortunately sometimes violence. Prioritizing the importance of safety in relationship, and that connection, so we can really be available for bonding, responding, that reciprocal engagement – the importance of this safety can be confusing, especially when we’ve had unclear, or perhaps chaotic, or even traumatic early experiences around relationship and connection. And you might have even heard the phrase “Intimacy is not intensity.” Sometimes, again, if we’ve had models or imprints of relationship dynamics that we’re familiar with but are not healthy, we can tend to be attracted to that, or even recreate it in our relationships, because it’s what we’ve known.

Sadly, in a dynamic of conflict, particularly when partners don’t feel safe, or perhaps even had a history of pain, neglect, trauma in relationship, there’s not a trust and a felt experience that it’s okay and safe to reach to the other person, and that they’re gonna respond… So that underbelly of pain is almost hidden. And then we react and we protest. It’s like those secondary emotions of anger, criticism, attack… And that can escalate in conflict.

Last week I was notified of a heartbreaking, tragic news about a couple that I worked with. Granted, I had worked with them for just two sessions… And they both got Covid, and being concerned about their financial situation brought a pause to the sessions… And unfortunately, their conflict escalated and some horrific tragedy occurred. I’m not gonna go into the heaviness and the details of that, other than to say this is extremely important. And I know that oftentimes the conflict and the hurt doesn’t go to this degree, but many people really feel a sense of pain and injury in these conflictual, unsafe interactions and dynamics.

This is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about offering information, research, understanding, principles in developing healthy relationship. Because so often, left to our own devices, we will continue to do what we’ve known. And somehow we think more effort, or just trying harder, or time will resolve the conflict. And again, as this episode is really honing in on, it’s about creating safety together, so that your nervous systems can be available for connection and closeness. And when we don’t feel safe, we are essentially gonna be protecting ourself, trying to mitigate against that fear through fight, flight, or even shutdown.

The progression of this, as we look at connection, is focusing on safety first. That sounds like a commercial, or something… But again, as I just was saying, if we are feeling some sense of danger or threat, the nervous system is going to respond, and we’re gonna try to mitigate that. And if we’re looking at connection, we wanna get into the social engagement system. And the only way that we can get into that social engagement system where we’re available, where we’re responding, where we can feel close and be in physical contact and then experience intimacy and bonding is through safety. Again, because we cannot access the social engagement system if we feel threatened.

As I am recording this episode, granted, in between sessions, it is early February. And in the greater climate of the world we’ve been in the Covid-19 pandemic… And I’m sure we’ve all experienced various degrees of stress and trauma as it results to this pandemic. And this has taken a tremendous toll on mental health for individuals, as well as the health of relationship.

I have found that  many couples are reaching out for support and feeling the compounding effects of stress and threat with the current stressors, whether or not it’s financial stress, or a lack of social support, lack of community involvement, and really seeing face-to-face contact, and really having that engagement. Because not only is it important for us to have engagement with our primary people in our attachment bond, but also in the larger scale, as we are wired up to be social animals and we need to be in contact with others.

Just emphasizing the impact of stress on our nervous system, and that also inhibits this social engagement system and the ability to feel more relaxed and available for contact and connection. As I think about this process, particularly as we talk about the social engagement system and the importance of feeling safe for connection, it can be too difficult of an ask, or too big of a reach to going from feeling a little lethargic and shut down, or even depressed… Again, be it for many different reasons that one might be experiencing in this day and age, and in this particular time in history… Or perhaps go from feeling anxious and a little wound, and feeling a sense of pressure from the demands of the day, to feeling super-engaged and connected. If we’re looking at the sequence of  how our nervous system responds, we need to get into the safety-first before we have the capacity to connect and engage.

So as we’re looking at – if you’re interested in celebrating Valentine’s Day, or this is something that you enjoy doing, to really recognize, particularly this year, that it might be a lot to expect, to put pressure on yourself, or even your partner, that your partner should do a certain thing for you, a certain romantic gesture, or gifts, or an elaborate plan… Or even for you to do, and wear, or say, or show up in the exact way that feels sexy, and again, romantic, and in the Valentine’s theme of things. And not to say that that isn’t beautiful. If you feel inspired by it and that brings you joy – of course, by all means, follow that spark. But if it feels a little out of reach from what’s true for you – yes, that would be beautiful, but it feels a little beyond where I’m at – I really wanna encourage a part of your connecting time be about creating safety… Perhaps some rest, some restore, trading foot massages, or going for a nice walk, or whatever it would be to help you get into nature. There’s many, many activities to restore and rejuvenate… But again, paying attention to this, creating safety in how you guys are responding to one another, and then from there, being able to deepen in the intimacy and the closeness and the physical contact.

And I’m not saying “Oh, that has to come before sex”, but just that, again, before we jump into romance and play together, even if it’s adventurous play out in the world, and exploring something new, or if it’s being close and physically connected sexually, that the safety is prioritized to then allow yourself to open to feel more responsive to that connection.

As I reflect on my husband and I and some of our most favorite shared bonding and connecting times, date times together, often we are doing some level of this rest/restoration, and then from there being able to play and connect in our intimacy.

I think you may have heard me say on previous podcasts – if you’ve been a long-time listener – that my husband and I really enjoy soaking in natural hot springs together… And in Colorado there’s many places that we would go. The one we would often frequent was Glenwood Hot Springs… And in Santa Barbara, a local area, we tend to go up to [unintelligible 00:20:46.15] They have been closed in the pandemic. Another place that we like to go is Sycamore Hot Springs, and that’s up in San Luis Obispo (SLO). It’s just a way for us to really get in our bodies, be out in nature, and the therapeutic benefits of the mineral springs… And it does do this for us – it helps us unplug, unwind, really get into that social engagement system, and then from there really being able to play and explore through hiking or whatever activities we have, and really deepen in our bond and in our intimacy. It’s a natural progression.

So I really just wanna again reiterate how important it is to have this time to help the nervous system feel safe, to get into that social  engagement place to then be able to connect.

What is co-regulation? Co-regulation is essentially your nervous system’s ability to read the state of another person. It’s this [unintelligible 00:21:53.14] so to speak, where your body picks up on these subtle cues about stress, arousal, tension, or being relaxed and available.

Basically, co-regulation of which we harmonize with the nervous systems around us. If we’re in a room, our brain and nervous system are gonna be reading the state of the other person in the room with us… Again, whether or not how calm or how stressed they are. And we pick up on these cues most notably through facial expressions, through the eyes, through the micro-facial expressions in the face, the forehead, as well as the mouth, the smile, as well as body language, and even our partner’s respiratory state.

Last year my mother sent me an article – and it was meant to be humorous – about how couples are reacting to each other in the pandemic. For example, one was “My wife just got mad at me because I blinked too aggressively.” And it was all these variations of how nuanced and subtle – whether or not it was a remote control – or how heavily, or how much one person sighed… And we might be able to see the humor and how reactive people are during the pandemic, but it also indicates how much we pick up on these cues from the people around us. And again, during stressful times, like a pandemic, and we don’t perhaps have the language or even the awareness around recognizing these cues consciously, and therefore being able to navigate that more skillfully with your partner. So partners might be reacting to the cues that they’re getting from one another, but again, they might seem so subtle that it’s difficult to really negotiate this in any way that feels fruitful or productive.

I can definitely even say for my husband and I, with the pandemic and how much time we have spent together now that he’s working from home, and we’re pretty compliant with how we’re following the recommendations of the stay-at-home orders, or the CDC’s recommendations… So we have really limited our social interactions to just for me going for a hike,  or getting outside, but we haven’t done a lot indoors, socially, with others. So therefore a lot of our social community interactions has been greatly reduced… And therefore we have noticed just our own reactions to each other, and just the subtleties. So we’ve negotiated that, and it’s brought much more awareness around what’s going on, and how we can support each other.

In relationship we are co-regulating with each other, even when we’re not aware of it. Perhaps you’ve noticed if you’ve been around someone that’s really calm, really centered, that you might feel yourself relaxing or feeling like it has a calming effect on you. Or perhaps you’re around someone who’s a nervous wreck, and you might even feel a  sense of scatteredness or anxiety in yourself. Co-regulating is how we are wired. It’s our natural process.

In Dr. Stephen Porges’ book, “The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe”, he says:

“The real issue in understanding the Polyvagal theory is to realize that humans, being mammals, need other mammals, other humans to interact with to survive.”

He goes on to say:

“The important aspect is really the ability to reciprocally interact, to reciprocally regulate each other’s physiological state, and basically create relationships to enable individuals to feel safe. If we see this as a theme throughout all aspects of human development, and even aging, then concepts like attachment start to make sense, as do concepts like intimacy, love, and friendship. But there again, concepts like bullying and having problems with individuals, or spousal conflict, also start to make sense. Oppositional behavior in the classroom starts to make sense.

Basically, our nervous systems crave reciprocal interaction to enable state regulation to feel safe. And disruptions to that availability to have reciprocal interactions become a feature of dysfunctional development.”

As I talked about a little earlier, the three neural circuits – again, the fight/flight and the shutdown, and then the third being the social engagement system… And Stephen Porges talks about this social engagement system being a playful mixture of activation and calming that operates out of a unique nerve influence. Essentially, we can within milliseconds, when we’re in that social activation, respond; that can be either a little more activation, or a little more calming. it’s these nuances.

If you imagine the subtleties of play, sometimes it gets more excited and sometimes it gets a little more calming. And there’s this dance that’s happening. When we’re in this social engagement system, it helps us navigate relationships, because there’s a lot of moving parts… And it offers more flexibility in our ability to cope and adjust.

This can be seen in the ventral vagal release, in that it takes milliseconds… Whereas for the sympathetic activation, it takes seconds. The fight/flight can take two seconds for it to respond, but there’s chemical reactions that are going on in that process… And it can take 10-20 minutes to return to the pre-fight or pre-flight state because of all of those chemical reactions that have been activated… Whereas with the ventral vagal activity, it doesn’t involve these chemical reactions, so we can make these quicker adjustments in activation or calming.

And when we talk about relationship, you can see how important this is, that when we’re not able to dance with fluidity or flexibility, we might mis-perceive or we might feel that threat, and we’re almost hijacked into that chemical response of defensiveness, and trying to mobilize against that threat. And also, we are not working with the full capacity of our prefrontal cortex, and our ability to perceive emotion… So this is where people really have regret when they’re in that fight or flight. Perhaps they’ll say or do something that they regret, or perhaps they don’t see clearly and they misunderstand, or misperceive… Because one of the things that Dr. Porges talks about is that when we’re in the threatened state, that we actually don’t perceive neutral faces accurately. We actually see them more negatively. And therefore, everything becomes a little more threatening.

Co-regulation is helpful in relationship, because we can get signs and signals that help keep us safe. If you’ve ever watched a nature channel, and perhaps you’ve observed, let’s say in the desert there’s a herd of gazelle and maybe off in the distance there’s a lioness on the prowl… And perhaps one of them gets a signal or hears a motion or hears the grass [unintelligible 00:30:08.17] and one of them starts to get that spooky feeling, the whole herd will respond. That’s that resonance of co-regulating. We don’t all need to be able to pick up on the same cue; we can learn and resonate and feel protected together in that information.

Co-regulating helps us in human relationships to offer that seeing, understanding and empathizing with, that can feel so comforting and so soothing and so helpful. We also have the ability to regulate with. It’s almost this counter-balance. When one partner is excited, and perhaps maybe even getting over-aroused, that the other partner can offer a calming, soothing effect. Or perhaps if one is feeling a little down and perhaps maybe avoiding, the other one can help stimulate and help distract, or help excited, and engage. So we have this ability to reciprocally manage, co-regulate together, that offers more stability overall.

If you’ve listened to the Empowered Relationship Podcast for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me give several examples of how to turn towards, how to respond to your significant other. This could be your partner comes home from the end of the day, and they look like they’re bumming out, or they look like they’ve had a really stressful, hard day. Part of the witnessing and attuning to that, or even feeling it in your body, is to turn towards and maybe offer support. “Do you wanna talk about it? Do you wanna take a hot shower? Then we can have a meal, and then maybe you can tell me about it.” Or “I wanna rub your feet later.” Or whatever it is that offers that comfort, whether or not it’s through talking, or offering physical support and just presencing, or distraction… Whatever it is, but being able to help that person manage some of that upset.

If I look at my husband and I’s history around this, he’s been great at offering support and comfort when I’ve had a difficult time. And I typically can tell him what would be helpful, whether or not I wanna talk about it, or want some encouragement, or just wanna be held, and feel his arms around me, and just feel that soothing touch.

Whereas when my husband is having an upset or a struggle, it largely depends on what is going on and how intense it is for him. Because one of the ways that he processes is the more introverted, more internal, wanting to feel through it and process it individually. So when I have the more extroverted style of trying to solicit, he’s not always ready for that, or really wanting that, for that matter.

So there’s been a process of me learning how to offer comfort in other ways that are not maybe verbal or trying to draw him out. And sometimes I still will notice the facial expressions or the nonverbals that I am assuming or picking up on as that he’s not in a great mood, or perhaps he’s grumpy, or something’s going on for him.

In the past I’ve asked “What’s wrong?” and he’s like “I don’t like that question. You’re assuming something’s wrong.” So then I transitioned into “Are you open to sharing what you’re experiencing right now?”, so really leaving it open-ended, instead of judging it as “What’s wrong?” And I think that worked a little bit. But there are definitely times where he doesn’t really wanna engage around it.

As I struggled with this a little bit – because there were times where I felt like I was getting the message of like “I’m good. Just give me some space, and I’ll come back…” Well, I’m very okay with that. When we put on the co-regulation lens here… I remember asking him at one point “How am I not supposed to notice? I see your face and I see your non-verbals, and I care. You matter so much to me. I feel it, and I wanna respond. How do I not respond?” And then he checked in about it, and he’s like “Well, sometimes I feel as though you’re wanting me to have answers, or tell you more, and I don’t always know.” And I said “Look, that’s very okay with me. I wonder if there’s a way that if you can jsut even name, like “I’m feeling a little grumpy and I don’t know why”, or “I’m feeling something. I don’t know what it is yet.” And so that’s our new iteration of it.

It seems to be working thus far, because it allows for me to be able to regulate and feel him, and be in that co-regulation. But also, if he’s not ready, or doesn’t have the words, that there’s now pressure for him to process. It’s a difficult dance, but as we’re bringing awareness to what we’re noticing and what we’re experiencing together, and how to have this balance, it’s sometimes easier said than done.

From a Polyvagal perspective, some of the quickest ways that we can send cues of safety to our significant other – again, we want this to be genuine, but if you’re looking at paying more attention to what signs and signals you’re putting out there, let’s start with number one, voiceprocity. And this has to do with the timing, the phrases, the emphasis, the intonation, and when we can feel more variation, and rhythm. It’s almost like sing-songy, a little bit; how we might talk to a child that we’re playing with… And this helps us get that cue of safety and rapport building that starts to help us enter into more of that social engagement that invites a reciprocity. It’s almost, again, this dance.

It’s funny, my husband and I were over the weekend, he had wanted to watch a movie called Eurovision. It’s  a comedy, it’s a spoof on the Eurovision contest in Europe. The main actors are Will Ferrell and Sarah McAdams… And it’s essentially this couple that are childhood friends that have this affinity for each other, and really deep connection… And they like each other, and probably really have a love for each other, but they have not yet entered into that territory. I’m not gonna share the whole thing, but there is a part of it that they do this kind of game with each other; they did it when they were riding bikes, and playing, and then it’s part of another scene. And it’s this back-and-forth, this reciprocity of “I see you… There you are…!” And then the other one is like “I’m checking you out…”, and then the other one is like “I’m checking YOU out…!” And as you can hear, they’re kind of like playing, and have that voiceprocity.

So as you consider you and your partner — there’s times  that I might see my husband and I’m like “Hi…!” or “You’re home…!” It doesn’t always have to be that excitable, but there is some voice communication and affection that we can convey through the voice.

Second is facial expressions. This has to do with the eyes. Sometimes we can look really piercingly. This is where we might look at someone and like “Ooh…” There are times where I literally could feel that somebody is attacking me with their eye contact. And it’s true. We can see in the eyes. It’s amazing what’s conveyed by just looking into the eyes. So softening the eyes, having that sense of maybe even affection in the eyes, and conveying that sense of “I’m with you, I see you, I’m interested in you, I’m curious about you…”

I think I did a podcast around just listening, and I will make sure to put the link on today’s show notes if you are interested. And there’s something really deeply special when the listener is giving that non-verbal attention. It’s probably one of the worst things when we’re talking to somebody, and they’re distracted, they’re looking at their phone, or they seem disinterested, or they’re checked out… It’s like “Why am I even wasting my breath?” So this ability to convey safety through the eye contact is really helpful.

And the other facial expressions are even our forehead; sometimes when I’m concentrating, I get the frow in my brow… And when we’re on the receiving end, it can look like judgment, or it can look like somebody’s pensively looking, and it’s like “What are they thinking about so hard?” And other times too it’s the mouth – are we smiling, or do we have a softness? I know some people tease around having this resting b-face.

So just to be aware of the cues that we’re sending… Because sometimes I’ll have my arms folded, and I’m not even realizing it, and my husband will be like “What’s going on? What are you feeling?” He’s like “You’re folding your arms.” He’ll tell me what he sees, and I’m like “Oh…” And then I think about it, and then I can tell him. But sometimes I’m not even conscious of what I’m communicating or what I’m actually even feeling sometimes.

And the other thing – so first is voiceprocity. Second is facial expressions. Thirdly is our breathing. Oh, I definitely work on this one. I have a propensity to hold my breath sometimes when I’m not sure what’s gonna happen, or I might feel uncomfortable… And I’m not even aware of it, so sometimes my  husband will make a comment about it, of like “Everybody hold their breath!” or something. He makes a joke out of it. But it is this sense, again, we’re picking up on each other’s nervous systems, and so he can feel, and I can often feel when he’s doing something similarly, like he’s anxious, or excited, I can definitely feel it. So again, how we’re co-regulating and how we are navigating that is really important.

There’s many things, but the last one I wanna note, number four, is touch. We have a great capacity to soothe and to be safe in the way that we gently touch. Again, this is not obviously touch in any aggressive or forceful way, but a real sense of softening. I have this couple that I work with, and the husband loves his wife so much, and sometimes she has issue with him, and he’s got a way that he can tease and play and make jokes, but he also reaches to her and he touches her… And it’s this reassuring, like “I’m with you. I see you”, and it’s this really beautiful form of contact that, again, is trying to help them as a couple get stability and regulate.

There is so much to say on Polyvagal theory, how it impacts our  nervous system, our ability to respond to others, to co-regulate, and what’s happening in relationship that is impacting us, being in that sense of stability and co-regulating. Because we do get off-track, that’s just a fact. Even the happiest couples get off-track. It’s just “How do we get back on track?”

What I really wanted to emphasize today is the importance of sending safe cues and prioritizing safety in the relationship… Because from safety we can begin to come closer, we can begin to play, and really bond and create intimacy.

So again, in closing, things to think about in sending these cues of safety and calmness perhaps, or even being able to send cues that you are safe to your significant other are through your voice. Voiceprocity.

Number two, facial expressions – the non-verbal communication on your face. And three, your breathing. Are you holding your breath, are you breathing shallow, or can you try to bring your breath more deeply? And your posture, your shoulders… Even as I say that, I feel my shoulders relax. And fourth – using touch to reassure, to send signs of connection and safety.

With all of this, activate that social engagement system, so we can be more responsive to each other, experience more connection, intimacy, closeness, play, and love together. This is the state that we are thriving in our nervous system, where we get to digest, and rest, and heal, and our systems are more optimal. So not only does it provide a sense of closeness and intimacy and health in our relationship, but it also supports our physical health for both partners.

If you would like access to today’s show notes, you can visit DrJessicaHiggins.com click on Podcast, and there you’ll find today’s episode, 254, “How to understand co-regulation in relationship.” On the website you’ll also find courses, as well as an opportunity to engage in coaching with me if you’re interested in getting more support… And I’ll also put a free guide on today’s show  notes. That guide will be about criticism – how to shift out of criticism, and as we were talking about in today’s conversation, creating more safety, so that you and your partner can engage on the topics that matter most to you. So there’s a really great guide that gives you examples and language to work with.

Again, you can find all of this on the website, DrJessicaHiggins.com. For podcasts you can click on Podcast and you’ll find today’s episode.

Thank you for listening and tuning in. I appreciate your listenership, and until next time, I hope you take great care.

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