Regulating Those Around Us

When surrounded by people experiencing activation and stress, it is important to look internally and ground ourselves first. Lisa discusses how we can impact others through our own self-regulation.


Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

Lisa Dion is an international teacher, creator of Synergetic Play Therapy, founder and President of the Synergetic Play Therapy Institute, and host of the Lessons from the Playroom podcast. She is the 2015 recipient of the Association for Play Therapy’s Professional Education and Training Award of Excellence and the author of Aggression in Play Therapy: A Neurobiological Approach for Integrating Intensity. Lisa is also a Master Certified Demartini Method Facilitator providing education and support to individuals and organizations worldwide.

Ludmila Golovine

Ludmila Golovine is President/CEO of MasterWord Services, Inc., a global language solutions company. As a language professional, Golovine knows first-hand how interpreting, especially in the healthcare, social services, education, and legal arenas, may present challenges such as stress, anxiety, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma. For the past 10 years, she has applied her skills as a Certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner and a Trained Demartini Method Facilitator to tirelessly help promote health and wellness to those in the language services industry.


Ludmila Golovine:
thank you for connecting. Lisa, the question that we want to ask today is about the role that the interpreters play, when they are in the encounter. What I understand in what I’ve heard many times is that interpreters are not only interpreting the information, they’re actually setting the tone for communication. We’re supposed to interpret in the first person being absolutely true to the information that’s being conveyed to the intent of the message at the same time conveying the emotional intensity of the message. Yet at the same time, often we have people around us who get very distressed and who get nervous, who express intense emotions today, more than ever, we’re faced with this particular type of challenge during our work. How do interpreters actually regulate others in the encounter? What happens? Can you please help us find out more about this question?

Lisa Dion:
So how do we actually regulate other people? Many of you are in a position where not only are you interpreting, but you’re also basically handed the task of regulating everyone that you’re trying to support as well. So maybe there is am intense discussion going on, or people’s anxieties are higher or yelling starts or, or something. And in the midst of you trying to be of help and interpreting, all of a sudden you have all this activation in front of you that you’re now having to manage in some way. So I want to offer you some support if you are in this position, and this happens so that you can maybe offer some regulation to the people that you are trying to be of service to.

So the first rule in regulating other people is that in order to regulate someone else, we have to regulate ourselves first. So likely we’ve been, all been on an airplane, and we have heard the announcement that sounds something like in case of an emergency, the oxygen mask is going to fall, and you need to put the mask on yourself first before you put the mask on child or someone else that maybe needs your support. And those words could not be truer when we are in a situation like I’m describing and we need to regulate someone else. You have to put your own oxygen on first, which means that you have to connect with yourself. Ground yourself, get present in the midst of activation. It doesn’t mean try to make all the activation in your own body go away. It doesn’t mean don’t be anxious. It doesn’t mean any of that. It simply means can you begin to connect with yourself so that you can actually regulate through the intensity that you’re going to be feeling as things start to escalate and build in front of you? And let me also just acknowledge that for some of you right now, you’re having to navigate this process not only just in person, but sometimes even through a computer, which is absolutely no easy task. So thank you for doing what you’re doing right now. And your own self care in the moment is really, really critical. So first step, regulate yourself. First connect with yourself. Ground yourself. Get present, begin to regulate your breathing. Um, maybe even squeeze your hands. Feel your feet on the on the floor. You can even imagine if you’re standing that your legs are like, you know, trunks of a tree and you’re getting rooted and grounded. So ground yourself. Now the thing else wants you to understand with this is that part of why this is so intense in your own nervous system is because, in a sense, we actually feel each other’s nervous systems. And we, in a sense, almost set each other up to feel the disregulation. So your nervous system is basically saying hello to all the other nervous systems that you are interacting with so there’s no way that you’re not going to feel the activation when someone starts to get panicky or maybe even just starts to shut down in front of you, you’re going to feel it. So again, step one, regulate yourself.

And then you might think that the next step is doing something to the person, and it’s actually totally the opposite. It’s exactly what I’m teaching you to do right now, when we are able to regulate our own nervous system. Remember I said that the nervous systems around us start to say hello. The people around you will actually begin to borrow your own regulation. They’ll borrow your nervous system. You might think of it as the most regulated nervous system in the group wins. So if you are beginning to breathe and you’re beginning to ground, everyone else is going to feel it. From there, as you are grounding and regulating, it’s actually gonna give you access up into your own prefrontal cortex, which is where you can then draw from the different skills and ideas that you may have to be able to actually facilitate the situation. But if you become overwhelmed and afraid, you’re not gonna be able to to call upon what you actually, I know how to do, and you won’t be able to trust your intuition very well in the moment because you’ll be in your own protective pattern. So it may sound really simple, but the answer really is how do you regulate someone else? It’s by regulating yourself, putting yourself in the position where the people around you can actually borrow the regulation in your own nervous system. So take deeper breaths. When the intensity arises, get more present, get more grounded. And then from there, if you need to ask everyone to pause, if you need everyone to…to do something. Um, if you need intervene in a particular way in what you’ve been trained to intervene, then you can do it. But do it while you’re regulating yourself. And that is the best way to regulate others right now who are in high levels of activation and stress.

About MasterWord

MasterWord Services, Inc., a woman-owned business established in 1993, is ranked in the Top 20 largest language service providers in North America by the market research firm, Common Sense Advisory. A top-quality provider of industry-specific language solutions, the company works with more than 300 clients in Fortune 500 companies. These include energy and engineering, healthcare, life sciences, government, technology, insurance, finance, education, and non-profit organizations with requirements in more than 250 languages and across four continents. MasterWord’s strength lies in understanding its clients’ unique challenges and tailoring custom solutions for success. The company delivers a broad spectrum of solutions for clients operating in a highly regulated, fast-paced, deadline-driven environment, always striving to exceed our clients’ expectations.