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Self-Regulation, August 12, 6:30-9:30pm

July 30, 2010

Just what self-regulation means and how it applies to everyone is the topic of my last Feldenkrais Intensive of the summer at Portland Yoga Arts on August 12, 6:30-8:30 pm.

In the broadest sense, self-regulation is about managing your own behavior so you can take part in your life in a way that helps you get your needs met and builds relationships rather than breaking them down. When someone gets angry and stomps away, it may be an indicator that the person is overwhelmed and maxed out and cannot cope with the situation. But, for another person who holds anger inside and never lets it out, maybe letting it go now and then is actually self-regulating, sort of a blowing off of steam. This certainly illustrates that our behavior cannot be limited to a narrow range. It can have flow and stopping and starting and stuttering and rolling and bending and curving and circling.

In the course of a day of life, any human can expect to encounter many moods, emotions, feelings and sensations. We are very interested in how an individual responds to those daily living types of situations. Does the person get disrupted in his  forward flow of moving through the day when something unpredictable happens? Does the individual have the self-soothing skills to sort and sift through the ocean of feelings that can get kicked up when something unexpected takes place or when someone is angry or when the person doesn’t know what to do or expect and feels unsure and anxious.

To give an example, what if someone cuts you off in traffic. Maybe you think you might have been in danger if they came any closer and you feel it was too close for comfort. Your heart rate increases dramatically, likely also your respiration and your blood pressure. Your thoughts begin racing to what might have happened and the value of your life and that this other person doesn’t seem to be considering anyone but himself. And the spiral of negative feelings goes on and on and on. How do you return, and when can you return, to some sense of homeostasis.

Homeostasis is our ability to maintain the necessary conditions in our bodies to sustain life. It includes regulating temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and so on. In addition, making decisions about what to do in any given moment is heavily influenced by these underlying physiological and psychological conditions. So, in that sense, the quicker the body and mind can return to a place of homeostasis, that place that is “neutral,” the better.

Awareness Through Movement® lessons are one way to achieve this return to neutral. In addition, they can assist the organism, i.e. human, in getting to neutral quicker and with less discomfort. Any lesson will do, but some lessons in particular are well-suited for the task of self-regulation.

When we are in a state of self-regulation that means we can move in any direction, at any time, without a lot of preparation. That means posturally, i.e. physically. But, it could mean emotionally. It could be easy to move from anger to joy to sadness to elation. Quickly, smoothly, and without a lot of thought or effort. No guilt or judgment. And, it could mean that our thoughts could flow in these same ways. We have the potentially to move easily within the terrain of the mind and not be stuck on one particular thought that comes in to interrupt all the other thoughts or possibilities of actions.

Perhaps, self-regulation is one of the most important things any human can learn and one of the most vital things the Feldenkrais Method could be used to teach somehow how to do. Self-regulation is as important as potent posture. You need them both to have a healthy life, to move quickly and responsively in the direction you’d like to go.

  1. I agree that self-regulation is critical (and it’s difficult!). I work with leaders on this very idea (and do my best to practice what I preach, some days better than others). Nobody can do it all the time but I do think we can get better at it. Thanks for this great article.

    • It is indeed difficult, isn’t it. I’m thinking of it these days as the growth and maturation we older adults do. It comes with time and practice and attention to the details and letting go of the well-oiled strategies to uncover some that we haven’t used before. Thanks, Margaret, always enjoy your thoughts on the subject since I know we overlap in some of our intentions.

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