Dr. Bonnie Badenoch’s “The Myth of Self-Regulation”

Jan 19, 2017 by Dr. Bob Weathers

Bonnie-BadenochCalSouthern faculty mentor, Dr. Gia Hamilton, and academic effectiveness coordinator, Dr. Bob Weathers, had the welcome opportunity earlier today (1/17/2017) to hear nationally known and respected teacher and psychotherapist, Dr. Bonnie Badenoch, present a well-attended online streaming event, sponsored by Sounds True, entitled: “The Myth of Self-Regulation.”

Bonnie, who served as Bob’s own instructor and supervisor for several years earlier in this decade, acknowledged from the beginning that her presentation might not be uncontroversial. In a culture like that of the United States, circa 2017, self-reliance surely is a, if not the, dominant value. Psychology, as part of that culture itself, proclaims far and wide the central message of “learn to self-regulate,” i.e., develop your own capacities for managing your thoughts, your emotions, any stress, and your body’s response to all of that…on your own.

Bonnie promptly asserted that she might well have entitled her presentation differently: “Built for Co-Regulation.” What does that mean?

Years ago, while in supervision with Bonnie, I asked her: “Bonnie, what do I do about my meditation practice?” (I had been practicing mindfulness for over 25 years at that point.) I went on: “I often feel so darned lonely when I sit in silence…” Bonnie’s response to me that day changed my entire approach to spiritual practice. She told me: “Bob, you need to bring people you love, whether now or in the past, living or dead, right into the middle of your meditations.” It had never occurred to me!

And that’s Bonnie’s whole point here. We are so wired culturally to value left-brain analysis --- and even with all its undeniable strengths, it still leaves us disconnected from any sense of “we” --- that we ignore the complementary right-brain resources available to us. That right brain is associated with “we-ness,” with personal meaning, and supports us in all our creativity and ambition.

Maybe what I appreciated most about Bonnie today (and every day!) is her insistence on our carrying healthy respect for both left and right brains. No binary division into opposites; rather a call to integration of both/and.

Bonnie’s message today brings to mind another enormously impactful supervisor, Dr. Nancy Hay at USC, who taught me a crucial lesson as a clinical psychology intern. Early on in our supervision, as I began playing an audiotape of a therapy session (from clients I saw in the on-campus student counseling center), Nancy asked me to stop the tape. She queried: “What were you thinking right there, Bob?” I answered truthfully (if naively): “Well, I wasn’t thinking anything in particular. Rather, I was just trying to track the client’s emotions.” Nancy retorted with that sound of a buzzer indicating “wrong answer!” She taught me that day: “Bob, you do indeed need always to track for client emotions (the right brain), but never, ever forget also to be thinking about where you’re going, what you think is going on in a given moment, what the big picture is (the left brain).” She said, “There will come a day when you can do both at the same time, but give it some practice.” (I did, and it came.)

Bonnie Badenoch is a living embodiment of what Nancy Hay was wanting to alert me to that day in internship. Know your theory, which is necessary but not nearly sufficient. Connect to the client, to one another, for that is the only place where healing can truly happen. In a culture, such as that of contemporary North America, where the left brain is given top priority, of course the focus will be on self-regulation. (Think of Bob meditating away in loneliness.) But Bonnie teaches us: don’t forget the power of connectedness --- that is the gift of right-brain to right-brain communication --- and may the fact that we are all fundamentally, biologically, wired for co-regulation become uppermost in our minds and our lives, as therapist and coaches, as family members and loved ones, as “true human beings” (from the medieval Persian poet, Rumi).

On the heels of Gia’s and my viewing today’s Sounds True-sponsored online presentation, we cannot recommend too strongly your viewing Bonnie’s earlier Master Lecture, presented right here at CalSouthern, and in the very same spirit as today’s gift:

About the author:
A highly regarded educator and university administrator, as well as recovery coach, author, and public speaker, Dr. Bob Weathers holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, with an M.A. in religious studies. Over the course of his professional career, “Dr. Bob” has provided tens of thousands of hours of therapeutic counseling and recovery coaching to satisfied clients. He has also committed the past 35 years to teaching, training, and inspiring graduate-level mental health providers at several southern California universities, most recently here at California Southern University.

Dr. Bob is currently academic effectiveness coordinator at CalSouthern, engaged full-time in ongoing initiatives for improving the educational experience of our learners, including his chairing the brand-new Student Advisory Council (more about this soon to be announced in a future newsletter). Additionally, Dr. Bob has published numerous articles in a broad cross-section of respected professional reference books, journals, and edited volumes.

Dr. Bob’s current writing and in-demand public speaking focus on applying the principles of Integral Recovery (a body/mind/spirit approach) to healing from the shame and stigma of active addiction on the way to sustained, successful recovery. For fun, he loves to perform locally, as an avid, lifelong drummer, in his own widely praised jazz ensemble.



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