By: Letters | How to think clearly in beleaguered times | Letters | Neuroscience | The Guardian
George Monbiot makes a telling link between individuals’ affective state and the unwitting support we lend to demagogues (Journal, 3 October). In their fascinating book The Boy who was Raised as a Dog, Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz develop this notion of state-dependent functioning and apply it to organisations. In what feels like an increasingly apt commentary on events unfolding in the institutions of democracy both at home and abroad, Perry and Szalavitz write that “the more out of control the external situation is, the more controlling, reactive and oppressive the internally focused actions of [the] group will become”.
Seeking to offer a path forward that will break this spiral, Monbiot rightly calls for us to restore the mental state that allows us to think. For each of us as individuals, what might this involve? In the language of Stephen Porges’s polyvagal theory, such a restoration entails moving from a state of dysregulation to one of regulation. This means making time in the day for activities of self-care that provide regulating sensory input. For some, this will include listening to their favourite music, doing half an hour’s yoga or going for a run, while for others it will be a cup of coffee and a piece of crunchy toast for breakfast, time spent outside, or a hot bath when the children have gone to bed.