I am aware that I am in a new inner landscape. I am more sensitive to the importance of naming and expressing feelings, to needing support from nature and from others, to choosing what I read, watch, hear, and think about, and to being committed to practices that help me express and stay centered.
“Just as we can intuit that there is a higher general level of tension, that thing’s aren’t the ‘same’, so can they [our children].” – Blog: Time to Walk Barefoot on the Earth
We emotionally resonate with what’s around us. Unless aware and able to make choices, we reflect the mood “in the room”. The room can be in our houses, at work, or in the greater world. We are each other’s mirrors.
Limbic resonance, also called “mood contagion”, refers to the area of the brain responsible for emotions and alerts to danger. Through this part of the brain, we easily adapt the mood of those close to us. As each other’s co-regulators, the emotions of one impact the emotions of the other. It’s simply the way the brain works.
We see this in crowd hysteria and rage, in singing songs like Amazing Grace, as well as in parent-child and partner relationships. If we are anxious or calm, it’s easy for our children to get anxious or calm, and vice versa.
In order to use this bit of limbic resonance physiologic trivia, it’s important to first note mindful observations of what feelings and sensations are present within us and what we intuit around us.
Take a moment to notice your present mood and sensations. Get curious about the moods of others near you.
When we make our own awareness and resonance a priority, we have more choices to impact the resonance around us.
The practices that support this, even if just a couple slow breaths here and there, naming feelings, or a walk, done with awareness, build the “muscles” of awareness and choice.
Examples of limbic resonance, our mutual mirroring process, include:
- Intentionally calming and connecting with a child. We all are familiar with the times when we have had to become centered, calm, and use eye contact to approach a fussy baby or child. Our anchor to calmness, our metaphorical roots dug deep into the earth, can provide an anchor for the little one through limbic resonance. We are anchors for our children.
- Using awareness of one’s own uncomfortable feelings. Co-regulation works the other way. If my child is feeling a little anxious or on edge, chances are I am too. If I am feeling overwhelmed and mad, most likely my child is too. Even if I am calm and grounded, I can feel tension, frustration, sadness or anger inside, if the child has those feelings.
There is immense value in naming how one feels. The naming automatically starts regulating both of our nervous systems. If I am calm and I feel frustration inside, it’s important to name the frustration. I state the feelings in a way that claims my accountability, rather than putting it back on the child (“I feel…”, rather than “You made me…”).
For example, if I am with a fussy child, stating how I feel begins to calm us both and teaches the child the value of being authentic. If true, you might say, “I’m feeling anxious and frustrated and overwhelmed. I’m struggling with how to calm myself now because I am so tired.”
If my child is restless and active and having a hard time sleeping, and I check in with myself, I might say, “I have so much energy I don’t know what to do. There are so many things from the day running up and down inside.” This bit of authenticity begins the process of co-regulation. We both are comforted by permission to be exactly where we are.
I can’t say enough about the role of co-regulation with our children. Each of us regulates the moods and behavior of the other.
As children see and hear us stop, slow down, check in with ourselves, and share what’s going on, they will too.
Children are confronted daily with situations where they are impacted by the limbic resonance of others. These situations include classroom and playground disruptions of all kinds and peer mood contagion. This is normal.
As they observe us naming how we feel, they learn to do it themselves. With this awareness they begin to give themselves the gift of regulation, and choice.
In this season of generosity, what better gift can we give ourselves and our children?