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Self-Regulation & Co-Regulation / SNB109

Updated: Mar 19, 2023


  • In this episode, I wrap up the Polyvagal 101 series by looking at self-regulation and co-regulation.

    • If you are listening to the podcast for the first time, I recommend you go back to episode 101 for the beginning of the Polyvagal 101 series.

  • My name is Justin Sunseri.

  • I’m a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist obsessed with the polyvagal theory.

  • Welcome to Stuck Not Broken.


But before I get into things -put yourself first. I keep every episode as safe as I can, but just by the nature of the topics, you may experience some stuff come up. Take a break if you need to.

This podcast is not therapy, nor intended to be a replacement for therapy.


  • The capacity to regulate the autonomic nervous system

    • To climb the polyvagal ladder (from 101)

  • From defensive to social

  • Out of defense and into social engagement

  • Problem with regulation if you cannot climb up the ladder


  • Regulation of the ANS

  • Something that happens between two mammalian organisms

    • Only mammals have the capacity for social interaction and receiving cues of safety from other mammals to help them into their ventral vagal state of safety and social engagement

  • Not self-driven

    • Not imposed by the other either

  • Something received

    • Passively mostly

  • Neuroception (from 101)

    • Process of detecting cues of safety or danger unconsciously

    • We will detect cues of safety from people who are in a regulated state

    • Biologically hardwired to help us regulate

      • Smiles, eye crinkles, eyebrow usage, upper check, greater range of motion

      • Vs wide eyes, stiffness, smiles with no upper cheek movement

    • Possible to fake these, but can be detected from a well-regulated person

      • I think sociopaths, con artists, frauds, swindlers, hucksters and mountebanks are able to fake it convincingly

    • A baby receives co-regulation from a parent that has a soothing voice, gentle touch

      • Baby doesn’t choose to calm itself

      • The baby as an organism detects safety, which triggers the polyvagal shifts

  • Important to surround ourselves with people who are able to provide co-regulation

    • Safe people, friends, relationships

    • Not always possible or easy

    • Maybe safe people at home but not at work

    • Having someone is important, if not everyone

  • Maybe even from the media we take in

    • Watching news clips does not provide co-regulation

      • If i came out against all those liberals or conservatives who are obviously racist and don’t care about others and all their policies are disastrous and they’re to blame for everything wrong with this country

        • This would feed your defensive energy

      • Not co-regulation

    • Listening to a prosodic voice in a meditation might

  • Co-regulation we receive growing up is foundation to the ability to self-regulate


  • The capacity to regulate the autonomic nervous system

    • Solo

  • Climb the polyvagal ladder on your own

  • Very dependent on the modeling and experience of co-regulation early on in life

  • Traumatized individuals have a hard time with this

    • Stuck down their polyvagal ladder in defense

    • Neuroception is off

    • Ability to be still is off

      • Meditation, yoga

    • Ability to look inward is off

    • Knowing what safety feels like

      • Might be very new

    • Know what brings them to safety

      • My course can help with these pieces

  • Self-regulate through recognizing where we are currently at

    • Allowing it to be without attempting to change it

    • Listening to the impulses of what to do next

  • Self-control is not exactly self-regulation

    • But better than nothing

    • Maybe can buy you time

  • Knowing how to climb depending on state

    • What works for dorsal won’t work for sympathetic


  • I hope you’ve learned something new to help you climb your polyvagal ladder.

  • Bye!

This week’s Patreon episode -

Intro/Outro music & Transition Sounds by Benjo Beats -

National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1 (800) 273-8255

National Domestic Violence Hotline -1 (800) 799-7233

LGBT Trevor Project Lifeline - 1 (866) 488-7386

National Sexual Assault Hotline - 1 (800) 656-4673

Crisis Text Line - Text “HOME” to 741741

Call 911 for emergency

This podcast is not therapy, not intended to be therapy or be a replacement for therapy. Nothing in this creates or indicates a therapeutic relationship. Please consult with your therapist or seek for one in your area if you are experiencing mental health sx. Nothing in this podcast should be construed to be specific life advice; it is for educational and entertainment purposes only.

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