How we define and understand ‘regulation’ has a profound effect of our experience, and our perception of our capacity and safety when engaging with our horses and the world.
I long ago replaced the idea of nervous system regulation with adaptability for this simple reason:
In many people’s minds, the idea of a regulated state defines a point of return. A place of calm and centredness that we endeavour to act from, or seek to return to, should we find ourselves in ‘dysregulated state’.
This regulated point that we understand as the ideal exists along with a very specific feeling that’s entirely subjective.
For most people, if I ask them to define what regulation feels like in the body, it’s a state of relative neutrality; where there’s an absence of sensation; where they feel they have some control over the feeling state inside them.
And herein lies the problem.
A body that is vital and engaged with the world is a body that full of energy and sensation. A sensing body is a safe body; it is one that is constantly feeling into the situation it’s in and using that information to interpret how it needs to respond.
If I seek to be truly responsive to my horse, my environment, the relationship I’m in, what I am seeking is not a point of return, or a fixed place, or feeling I carry with me, but a state of accurate responsiveness, where my brain and body respond appropriately to the situation I’m in.
Because my environment and the demands placed on me within it are constantly changing, my responses and how I meet the moment are constantly changing in a way that’s not predictable or pre-determined.
With that in mind, there is no one state to be, no one energy or way of being that is required of me, other than the one that most accurately meets the moment.
If we are attempting to cultivate an ideal state, or to maintain relaxed and calm, what we are experiencing is not regulation but patterns of control.
To be in flow with my experience requires the surrender to constant change. To be adaptable is to be present. It is allowing the moment to inform how I respond, and taking the next best step from there.
As a side note, when we get stuck in repeating patterns of behavior, find ourselves in repetitive loops of experience, or have fixed ideas about how we need to be and behave, we have identified some fight flight patterning, which can be a combination of both conscious and unconscious forces. Unpicking these patterns involves both the awareness of what is currently playing out and the reestablishing of nervous system adaptability, so, again, my brain and body responds appropriately to the situation it’s in.
Adaptability and responsiveness is a key focus of our work in JoyRide. If you want to learn more, you can check it out here.