Harkening back to their 80's roots, Jess and Jeanne use the world of Cobra Kai, the hit Netflix show, to bring you original content explaining the Polyvagal Theory; the simple-yet-complex survival system all humans automatically use to bring balance to their lives. With passion and heart, J & J explore the childhood trauma of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso. Looking with great detail at how Johnny and Daniel's survival responses influence not only their lives but 34 years later, the lives of their children and the students they mentor.
-The Polyvagal Theory
The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation. Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D.
Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation. Deborah A. Dana, LCSW
Befriending Your Nervous System: Looking Through the Lens of the Polyvagal Theory. Deborah A. Dana, LCSW
Stephen Porges, PhD. www.stephenporges.com
Deb Dana, LCSW https://www.rhythmofregulation.com/
-The Karate Kid
Creators: Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Intro song credits: Cobra Kai - Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson
Arranged & Orchestrated by Carameii (fan-made arrangement https://youtu.be/UZVep20w5fw)
End song credits: Strike First - Leo Birenberg & Zach Robinson
Produced by Jessica Warpula Schultz , Jeanne Kolker, and Jason A. Schultz
Edited by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Cobra Kai Audio Clip Editing and Mixing provided by Jason A. Schultz
Cobra Kai Goes to Therapy
[00:00:00] welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-based mental health podcast. We're your hosts, Jessica Warpula Schultz and Jeanne Kolker. Whether you've tried everything to feel better and something is still missing or you've already discovered the wisdom of the body. This podcast will encourage and support you in healing old wounds, strengthening relationships, and developing your inner potential- all by accessing the mind body connection.
Please know, while we're excited to share and grow together. This podcast is not intended to be a substitute for mental health treatment. It doesn't replace the one-on-one relationship you have with a qualified healthcare professional and is not considered psychotherapy.
Thanks Jess. And thank you for listening. Now, let's begin a conversation about what happens when we take an integrative [00:01:00] approach to improving our wellbeing. Welcome to insight. Mind, body talk. I am one of your hosts, Jeanne Kolker. And I'm Jessica Warpula Schultz. Today. We're excited to talk with you about the Polyvagal Theory. You've if you've been listening, we hope you have. We mentioned it in almost every episode. It's probably our favorite thing. It's been a real game changer for those of us doing body centered psychotherapy.
And just those of us walk in the world as human beings, it's really changed my perception of other people's behavior and my own as well. I don't know about you, Jess. Oh, completely. For me, the polyvagal really brought. Everything together for me now, I can't not see people's nervous systems and I can't help, but look at my cat and know she's in flee. I can't help, but notice what's happening for me, and even for my partner. It's interesting how the world changes when you have an understanding of [00:02:00] how our bodies respond to threat and create these survival responses.
Exactly. It's all about survival for me. It's the foundation of the trauma work that I do really bringing that awareness, not just looking at things emotionally or looking at our thoughts, but the work you do, isn't as effective, I believe unless you bring in the nervous system and the body and the brain and noticing when our systems dysregulated versus what happens when we're feeling safe and calm.
The theory itself just opens a lot of doors. I believe. Great. Let's get it quick overview. We're excited. We haven't quite mentioned it yet. We're excited that this is a very special episode. So hearkening back to our eighties roots here, our childhood. Now, are we talking about the polyvagal theory?
We are framing this through the lens, of the Karate Kid and Cobra Kai. [00:03:00] Oh, I'm so excited. So excited. Our listeners might have gotten a hint of this when the intro music was not our normal, like happy go. Lucky. We're talking about trauma, but we're therapists.
You probably hear that. Some Cobra Kai theme music. And we're wondering if you clicked the right one correct podcast. So we're going to do is give you a brief explanation of the Polyvagal Theory, and then we're just going to fan girl all over the series, Cobra Kai, and really explore how these relationships the perspectives and wisdom that this show can offer.
We're going to explore it all through the lens of the Polyvagal Theory. The threat response system, our bodies, our brains, our relationships, connection, disconnection, all of it. And we're probably going to touch on a little bit of childhood trauma as well, because there's really no way to look at the Karate Kid and Cobra [00:04:00] Kai, without considering intergenerational trauma and adverse childhood experiences.
And it all ties together. It does, it really does when I was reviewing the plot so that I can explain it to our listeners who don't know what we're talking about. I had all these big teas and little teas all over the shades. So you're right. There is this element of trauma. And I think it will be really interesting to explore that.
All right, let's go. So Jeanne, how do you start off? How do you explain, because you talk about the polyvagal theory a lot in your work, how would you explain the theory of the vagus nerve, the brain? Where should we begin? You know, I usually start with this concept of survival that, we are wired for survival and we are a complex network of systems and those systems need to be in balance.
I typically kind of start with like a [00:05:00] homeostasis. What does homeostasis mean? It just means having all of our systems working in balance and the sense of safety survival is, is very crucial to that balance. We used to think about just this balance between our parasympathetic nervous system and our sympathetic nervous system.
If we're looking at the big umbrella, we're looking at our brainstem and spinal cord, central nervous system, autonomic nervous system as a part of that. It's that Really automatic part of us that keeps us alive, that keeps, that helps us survive.
And we used to think about these, just two different pathways of, sympathetic activation, where we're going out to get food and we're, running and fighting and all that stuff that mobilizing yeah. That we need to do as mammals, that we need to have that balance, but then we also need to be able to chill out, to rest, to be immobile, to sleep, [00:06:00] to procreate to digest her food.
You know what I mean? We have. Typically thought about these two systems working in balance. And of course that's crucial to survival. So I tend to think about it in that umbrella, and when those two systems are able to click on and off with some fluidity and then we can find homeostasis once in a while we get out of balance, but then we can come back into balance.
That's our traditional view of our nervous system, but there's more. Yay. Yay. Yeah. So it's pretty exciting eating stuff and it's fairly new. So in the eighties and nineties, Stephen Porges, discovered these, really like a different kind of framework to look at all of this and it has to do with our vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve. So thinking about, cranium, so the kind of the base of the skull there, and it is a big. Nerve it's more than just a [00:07:00] nerve it's nerve bundles. It's the network. It's the highway. Yeah. Like just like an into a highway from the brain to the body.
Yeah. Perfect. Yep. Yeah. There's different pathways. So there's lots of different exits if it's a highway. Yeah. Yeah. Did you want to attack a little bit more about that? Sure. When I think about the vagus nerve and the brain and the autonomic nervous system, I imagine the brain, and then almost you've referenced this before a tree with roots.
So all of these different pathways go to all the different organs in our body communicating to our muscles to move, to mobilize blood flow, our breath, our heart rate, our digestive system. all of these things that keep us going are connected to this autonomic nervous system.
What I find interesting is that we now know there are four pathways from the body communicating to the brain. So there are four pathways [00:08:00] that go up through this system and tell the brain what's happening. And there's only one that goes down from the brain to the body. So again, when we talk about bringing the body into healing and listening to the wisdom of the body, there are four times as many routes communicating, going up the body has that much more to say about what we experience and what's happening versus the brain .
So when we bring the body into our health and healing, we can get to the root cause a lot quicker and bring strategies, solutions a little faster. Cause there was four pathways. It's incomplete. If we're just trying to use the brain to solve problems, the body has that much more wisdom than the brain really.
So it's it was a real game changer when we started talking about the polyvagal theory. And there are these different responses associated with this vagus nerve too. So you have all these [00:09:00] pathways, the vagus nerve, just like Jess said brain and root system. It's all these roots that go all the way down throughout our torso and the oldest of these pathways.
Is below the diaphragm. diaphragmatic. And when you think about diaphragm that's our big muscle of breath. It's right there between where our lungs kinda end on the torso and where our stomach begins. It's that bridge between those areas and that the oldest pathway of the vagus nerve is exists below there. And this is really where our immobilization response lives, our freeze response.
So it's more than just fight or flight rest and digest. Now we're looking at a freeze submit response when we are threatened and that's that part of the vagus nerve that's our oldest response. That's what we share with jellyfish. What we share with our, ancestors from [00:10:00] millions and millions of years ago.
Okay. And that's the response when we talk about trauma, but that's where we go as our last resort. That's where we go when we shut down. Okay. So that is, below the diaphragm, above the diaphragm, then we have all these sympathetic fibers. So then we have this newer response.
When we think about sympathetic those parts of the vagus nerve, Intervate our limbs and mobilize us for action. So it's really this mobilization response fight. We use our arms flea leaves our legs. But then there's even a newer response. And this is where Stephen Porges blew the lid off this whole balance theory. Because now we start to look at the vagus nerve as having this newer pathway. That's actually myelinated. So most of this, the nerve that is associated with he calls it the ventral vagal.
Is [00:11:00] that response of connection. So it's a more sophisticated nerve that. That enervates and connects our face or throat in our heart. So this is our kind of tendon befriend response, so we had that shutdown, that immobilization, we had the mobilization or the sympathetic fight or flight.
And now we're looking at this newer response of connection safety. So you have these three responses essentially, and we go through these responses every day. Yes. We talked to both times a day sometimes. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So what you're talking about that movement is the autonomic hierarchy.
when someone is in that safe place you feel safe, connected. It's not perfect, but you feel like you can move through things with ease. Good enough.
You have a threat feels dangerous, you [00:12:00] mobilize. So you flee the first thing a mammal will do is flee. Then it will try to fight. Somewhere in there. It could try to fawn or have an attachment, cry response, all strategies of mobilization.
And then if those strategies don't work, which is decided in milliseconds, we travel even further down to that most ancient response where we freeze and then we shut down. And we move up and down this autonomic hierarchy depending on the threat. Like sometimes it's a small threat Like you hear something fall on the floor behind you and you jump startle, response flee.
Okay. Nope. I'm safe. Sometimes due to life experiences or trauma, we feel stuck in that sympathetic. Perhaps we feel stuck in fight. We'll talk about this later. Johnny poor guy is really stuck in fight . we get stuck responses. We can be stuck in certain responses, but the idea that there's a hierarchy that we move up and down it's predictable. And the [00:13:00] way that our nervous system decides what to do is a concept called neuroception.
Neuroception means our nervous system and brain are continually gathering information internally from our inside experience, heart rate.
Breath digestion, muscle tension. Then it's gathering information from external sources, our environment, things happening around us. And the last place, our nervous system gathers information is from other nervous systems around us. So what can happen is you walk up to someone and they're feeling panicky, you may start to feel that panic as well, or they're feeling shut down. You may even notice your body starts to feel shut down as well.
They're constantly reading each other through neuroception. And the last concept, co-regulation co-regulation is when we can actually move into that ventral vagal n , that social engagement system, that sense of [00:14:00] safety through each other through connection. if we're feeling overwhelmed, We can find someone who is regulated and naturally our nervous system begins to feel safe
and that's just so powerful and it starts in utero really? That co-regulation starts when we're in our mother's wombs, reading their nervous systems. Through attachment. What kind of experience did we have as , babies, children. And throughout our life, we co-regulate with other people as well, even in therapy, right?
Your clients are co-regulating happy new year, especially in therapy. And that's, and that's something that I often teach when I teach trauma informed yoga to yoga teachers is that this is some really dense stuff we're covering, a lot of scientific neurobiology. The bottom line is that if you are a loving, safe presence for people, you're creating a healing space [00:15:00] and that's necessary in therapy too.
If somebody comes to you looking, no matter what they're looking for. If you meet them, In their anxiety or in their sense of shutdown, you're not going to be able to go anywhere. You have to be completely grounded. And that means being able to regulate yourself and conveying to them with those really subtle signals that you are a safe person to attach to.
Agreed. Yeah. When I frame polyvagal theory with clients, it's not or anyone because I'm a nerd about this, so I will talk about it with everybody.
at parties. Huh?
I often frame it though, when we talk about the nervous system and we start to observe it, it's not that we're supposed to avoid feeling that sympathetic energy or that flee or fight, or avoid, shut down or avoid freeze, that's not the point.
It really [00:16:00] is to spend more time in ventral vagal. And also this idea of autonomic resiliency to practice the skill and. Maintaining the skill of when we do feel a threat response we're more easily able to get ourselves back to ventral vagal.. Definitely. And it takes work. It takes awareness, and we don't always know how the system retunes itself. Sometimes it just happens over time and with, care and attention, but there's no magic prescription for this either. No, and no, that's a really good point
that takes us into Cobra Kai. I'm so excited. Our Cobra Kai portion. Yeah. This episode I love it. Let's give a brief summary on what we're talking about so that anyone who hasn't seen the Karate Kid, I don't know who you are, but maybe you haven't, or [00:17:00] hasn't watched Cobra Kai has an understanding of where we're coming from. Sound good, Jeanne? Sounds great. I'm so excited about that. Okay, great. so The Karate Kid starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita hit theaters in June of 1984. I was four years old. Oh geez. You were a baby. It was so popular. This is the one movie I remember seeing in a theater where I couldn't sit with my family because it was so crowded.
We were spread all over the theater because it was, just, and it was one of those movies where everybody was just like on the edge of their seat and yelling at the screen and just like the sense of connection. Oh my gosh. It was one of the most immersive experiences. And I saw every movie in the eighties because I had a wonderful aunt who took me and my two siblings to movies like crazy.
And it was just one of those experiences that was really [00:18:00] memorable for me, everybody. He was into it, and it was very much like good versus evil in just a really simplistic way. This person's good. This person's evil. And that's what really stuck with me. Until Until recently? No, I totally agree.
I was too little to see them movie theater, obviously four years old yet. I remember the energy cause there's sequels, there's Karate Kid, number two, Karate Kid number three, which we have all recently rewatched in my home. So I was telling Jeanne before this started, she's like, , how much do you like Cobra Kai?
And I was like to get ready for season three, we rewatched season one and two. And we also watched Karate Kid number one, Karate Kid number 2 and Karate Kid number 3. Oh, Jessica. I know this is Jason. My husband Jason's endeavor, but I enjoyed it. I will not lie. I was sad when it was all over.
[00:19:00] missed all of them. Yeah. Oh, you get so attached to those characters. I know. So I'd remember the energy around Karate Kid because my brother, Joe really liked those movies and I remember going to karate class. I remember, the Ralph Macchio headbands that everyone had.
It was a really big deal. You're right. So The Karate Kid hits 1984. Daniel LaRusso and his mom moved to a new town across the country. He's from Jersey. He moves to California and he's trouble fitting in to the culture and his new school. He's picked on he's bullied basically for just being new and being different. And Mr. Miyagi Is the apartment maintenance manager, of Daniel's apartment building.
And then unbeknownst to Daniel , he flirts with Johnny Lawrence's ex girlfriend, Ali. And Johnny's the leader of this unforgiving brutal Cobra Kai karate dojo led by [00:20:00] John Kreese. So Daniel gets in some fights. Doesn't do very well at one point, Mr. Miyagi shows up on the scene
And he steps in and he basically, whoops, everybody's butt to protect Daniel because Daniel can't do anything. Daniel becomes super interested in Mr. Miyagi they bond, they become very close. There's lots of montages of them training, which is very cool. And then They, get pressured to join the all Valley tournament. Daniel gets show off all of his new skills.
It's very intense. Daniel wins. I'll tell you it's a good moment. Spoiler alert Valley tournament. And then subsequent couple more movies around the same kind of plot line, lots of Mr. Miyagi wisdom, lots of martial arts. Moving forward, Cobra Kai. Let's get to that.
it's like 34 years after the all Valley tournament. So Daniel beats Johnny in the [00:21:00] final he beats Johnny and it was humiliating.
And Mr. Miyagi's, Mindful self-defense overcomes Sensei, Kreese's, strike first, strike hard, no mercy philosophy. So it's very much, here's the, here's good. Here's Mr. Miyagi and Daniel, they defeat this force of evil, this irredeemable character of John ny and Sensei Kreese - and, do you remember , Johnny actually comes up to Daniel afterwards and tells them you're all right, LaRusso
So, or something has this change where he gets it. He has a sense of connection with Daniel. He feels safe enough to congratulate him to, Hey, you're all right, let's connect. We can belong together.
And then he goes outside and Kreese yells at him harms him. And I'm sure that sense of safety completely dissipates and shifts and back into a protection mode of fight.
So Here we are [00:22:00] 34 years later, and Cobra Kai of picks up with the story from Johnny's perspective.
all the way back to the all Valley. When Johnny got kicked in the face by Daniel Russo and now we go, fast forward and Johnny is, fired from his job, strange from his son. He's just, crushing Coors banquets constantly. So dude has some wicked addiction issues happening here.
And just juxtapose that out with Daniel LaRusso
And he is a successful. Car salesman on such a car dealerships. He's got the children married with kids, really, very financially well off. He's got these billboards around town that say, kick the competition. So he's still playing too.
I know he's still just riding the wave of kicking Johnny's face in 34 years ago. So it, [00:23:00] it shows us the story of, what that feels like for Johnny. He's a very angry guy. He's very much stuck in that fight response and some immobilization mobilization. Too, because he has a lot of pain that he's turning away from him.
He's turning towards alcohol. He's turning away from connection. And through the three seasons, we really see a lot of where that pain comes from for Johnny. We see his childhood where as much as he wanted and tried, he was making bids for love and connection to a step-father. He was repeatedly turned away.
Mocked made fun of his only source of regulation and safety is his mom and his mother passes away right before his son is born. So here's Johnny using the coping strategies that he knows, which is addiction and withdrawal protection. And it's supposed to be this really amazing moment [00:24:00] in his life.
His son is being born and he can't even get himself to go across the street and see his son because he's in such a place of shutdown due to his mother's death. And even from that moment, his story of shame around not being there for his son, influences the whole trajectory with Robby and how he relates to Robby and really how Robby feels right.
That, like you said, that intergenerational pattern. And I think Robby is a great character where, Robby's story of. Protection, not feeling safe to feeling safe and regulated with Daniel . And then again, later in the series, due to events, no fault of anyone's Robby, again, feels that he cannot connect.
He's not safe, he doesn't belong. And he goes back to protecting himself. And this is a story of shifting allegiances constantly. That's the one, that's the one [00:25:00] thing my husband really enjoys the show too. And he's always like everybody just changes teams constantly, so Robby can't trust his dad wants nothing to do with them.
So then he starts training with Daniel, even though he has no idea that there's this like rivalry really, he doesn't understand the scope of it. And then throughout the three seasons, it's just everybody changes their allegiances. And when you think about, Oh, that actually makes a lot of sense.
I go where I find safety. Yeah. Yeah. And it might not be a good connection, but that's the thing when we have childhood trauma, any attachment feels safe, even if it's not a healthy attachment. So let's think about Johnny's childhood. . So he had this overbearing stepdad, it looked on the outside. Like he was like, he was the privileged one.
Daniel keeps calling him like the rich kid because he lived in the Hills. He was abused. He wasn't seen, and he found connection with [00:26:00] other kids who also had the same experience. And of course, then they find an attachment figure, Sensei Kreese, who was ruthless. He was just normal. his way of, Kreese.
I think a great way to summarize him is he really believes strength was anger. That's it? Protection and anger meant strength. And when you think about that, we're going back to polyvagal theory, our first metabolically smart response to threat. To run runaway. Yeah. We're wired to just flee most of us, we're not wired to just throw punch. We're wired to flee. So these kids, and since Sensei Kreese, they're already wired for this because of the adversity because of the trauma Daniel and Mr. Miyagi, they are more [00:27:00] about connecting, being aware of their own experience and then responding rather than reacting.
Yeah, that's just it. So I'm really excited. I prepared a polyvagal experience for Jeanne and for our listeners sort of help us get a felt sense of what it feels like to train with Daniel in the Miyagi Do karate dojo, and then a felt sense of what it feels like to train with Johnny, as we were talking about before neuroception or nervous system, and our sense of safety can be shifted by our senses, just as much as anything else. This is going to be a sound activity. I want everyone to first take a moment and just create a blank slate, maybe close your eyes, or just, soften your gaze and check in with how your system feels right now.
And now I'm going to play a clip as to what it feels like to train with [00:28:00] Johnny. And I want you to pay close attention to how your nervous system feels, how your muscles respond, how your breath your heart rate responds, and almost imagine yourself a part of the Cobra Kai dojo.
Here we go.
So what's your response to that Jeanne ? I jumped I felt just like full body alert. I'm mobilized. Yeah. It didn't feel very safe.
Did it? No, that was several different moments of Johnny leadership. quiet, quiet, quiet. Total fear response. I mean, when I do that, Even, when he does it randomly throughout the show, I freeze almost like I have all this muscle tension. My heart feels like it jumps. I stopped [00:29:00] breathing and I go into freeze mode, I definitely mobilized, like I was ready to defend, I was ready to like black, my, my face. Yeah. So I was mobilizing and you were almost going into a life threat. So you were like thinking about shutting down. You're not thinking about shutting down, that's the thing.
We're not thinking it's just happens automatically. Like you mobilize and I freeze.
Yeah. And don't think that I'm going to fight. I would run away. That would be my response. I am a flee-er. I will run. I won't run fast, but I'll serpentine. I will get out of there. So just imagine being in that dojo and that's the experience and that's what Johnny, when we talk about his experience with Kreese, that's what his system was learning when he was a teenager accountable.
Yes. His brain is not developed yet, so he's just all respond [00:30:00] all reaction. So then let's move to the next part of our exercise. Everyone. Please, if you can close your eyes, soften your gaze, maybe take some deep breaths, shake off. I'm shaking off what it was like to listen to Johnny and let's get a little bit of what it's like to train with Daniel
What's your response to that? Jeanne. Oh, I'm [00:31:00] so sootd. So soon he's using the prosody of voice that really appeals to our ventral vagus.
He is connecting. He's creating a sense of safety. I don't feel like fighting. No. And when I listened to it, because of that sense of safety, I feel as though I'm more connected to my body, I'm more aware of my thoughts. , I'm able to. Hear what he's saying and integrated .
Those are two very different styles and two very different responses. If we're looking at polyvagal, how we would perhaps shift into a different state or further regulate and create a sense of safety. I just think it's so interesting to explore the response well, and thinking about this is you can't help, but always go back to that.
This is a show about kids. This is a show about [00:32:00] teenagers showing up to the All Valley tournament, where we're attempting to train. Them in self-defense, which is a wonderful thing. Martial arts is a discipline. It is very much about tolerating distress about mobilizing when necessary about being able to discern right from wrong, good from evil.
And when we look at all of the nervous systems that are going into this well, that's what makes it such a great show too. I mean, It is just a blast, isn't it like with montages and like the metal music and Johnny and his Trans-Am like, it's just, it is so nostalgic, but what does that mean? That nostalgia that means with pain, right?
So it's almost like painful reliving those experiences because I think we can all relate. We can all relate to being an impressionable teen and thinking about, are those influences for us? Was it more of a Sensei Kreese [00:33:00] or was it a Mr. Miyagi?
Cobra Kai frequently echoes the words of Mr. Miyagi.
That the key thing . Whole life ,has balance. Everything will be better. Then Daniel translates that to be the bonsai tree. You are the tree Robby, you've got strong roots, you know who you are.
So now all you have to do is visualize what you want your future to look like and make that happen. And the idea of balance and homeostasis, I think is a key theme throughout this show and how we find that through connection, or when we don't often these characters are protecting themselves. because of what they've been through because of childhood trauma.
And I do not want to do any spoilers because you guys, if you haven't watched this show, [00:34:00] it is just such a treat. It truly is. I can't wait for the next season. But once we start to see Sensei Kreese's backstory, it all starts to make sense. We have to look at the generations that came before and what injuries were inflicted to create the people that we see today, and yet so interesting because when we experienced Kreese in the now you just wonder, like, how can this person be so cruel?
How can there be such little empathy and then you're right. No spoilers. And yet you see who he was how kind and caring he was when he was younger. And through, flashbacks. We see how the loss he experienced and the trauma from war he experienced, shaped his nervous system and created a sense of
fight, a sense of attack. And then that's the way that he [00:35:00] figures out how to navigate the world so that he can stay safe so he can survive. He learned to strike first to strike hard and to show no mercy because it was about survival.
You and I have talked already in this episode, the good versus the bad.
And what I love about Cobra Kai, is that it shows us there really is no good or bad. We're all human. And it highlights in a way some of Daniel's survival strategies. So Daniel. Growing up without a father figure without financial resources, while he does have Mr. Miyagi, which is part of, the grief and loss we see in Cobra, Kai is how he figures out how to be in the world without one of his attachment figures.
And yet Daniel's responses. As an adult. He's in a way I would say, in a mobilization state, a lot of the time [00:36:00] he is trying to provide he's very focused on results. He easily shifts and to fight as well. His temper, like it could just breathe.
Mr. Miyagi said it so many times. JUst. Breathe. And yet here's, Daniel's not breathing, jumping to conclusions very quickly. Name-calling or shaming Johnny as well. He's almost in a way I'm so focused on his work at the start of the series that he doesn't really have the relationships he assumes.
He's having with his children. There is a form of disconnection there, and I see him strategizing to make sure he is safe. And I think the transformation we watch and Cobra Kai with Daniel LaRusso is he returns to karate. We returned to the martial arts returns to his breath, to [00:37:00] his body.
And he finds his own form of ventral vagal that he was not in before, even from the outside, he looked successful. Like you said, he was successful, looked like he had it all. And yet was he really in a place that he was feeling safe? I don't think he was. And we watched his evolution.
And he needs Johnny for that. He does, and I think that's a really hard thing for him to come to grips with, but he wouldn't have grown so much if it weren't for the influence of Johnny Lawrence, who he thinks it's just a thorn in his side, he just kicked his butt in high school. This guy's a loser, but boy, Johnny pushes them and they help each other grow.
And this is that almost post-traumatic growth. That's happening with those two. Yeah. It's so heartwarming. It really dinner together. That one day I was so happy for them. I'm sitting on my couch, just thinking about all the healing that's going on and you're right. That post-traumatic growth.
Oh. So restorative to [00:38:00] their systems. Yeah, it is. I can't wait for the next season. Honestly. I just, I look forward to it too. Me too. I really do. And then we'll see it. So in their kiddos, right? Like I mentioned, Robby he has his own story protection, connection protection, shifting up and down that autonomic hierarchy .
If you will, from safety to flight to fight, to shut down, to fight again, Daniel's daughter, Sam, the, even the altercation she has with the other dojo creates, some post-traumatic stress responses and, Oh, she is in a free state often. I think they did a great job showing what can happen in real time for someone, especially when their brain's not fully formed
and I think it's very honest in a lot of ways that she didn't even know how to articulate it or share it with people because you really don't sometimes when your system is offline like that and [00:39:00] you're in flee or freeze. let's talk about Miguel . One of the leads of the show in some ways for Miguel, he's in ventral vagal. When we meet him, he's in a place where he feels connected to his mom, he is suffering, he's getting beat up, he's getting bullied, but he has a friend group.
He has a safe home with his mom and grandma, and then he initiated the relationship with Johnny. So he's Hey, let's connect. Let's, let's co-regulate together. Like you seem like a cool dude, show me how to do that. And through his journey with Johnny, yes, they heal, which is one of the best relationships of the show.
Right? Johnny and Miguel. And yet Miguel has a transformation in that the neuroception. Goes the other way for him, he shifts from ventral vagal to a place of fight because Johnny is so important to him. Like you said earlier, sometimes we find that sense of [00:40:00] safety in a place that isn't, the best for us? it's an attachment, Miguel doesn't have that father figure in his life. So he looks to Johnny for that and Johnny is inconsistent. Yeah. Oh yeah. Oftentimes in that relationship. Oh, absolutely. Johnny when he's drunk and, getting them out of these grapes and Miguel truly is, wise, beyond his years type care . I think that. The Miguel sought out Johnny because he needed that connection.
He needed somebody who could teach him about how to keep himself safe because he was getting beat up. I didn't have very much, very much hearkens back to the original movie. So it's like this parallel process of Miguel seeking Johnny, just Daniels sought out Mr. Miyagi. And it's a very weird place for Johnny to be because [00:41:00] he's, you know, he has like the lowest self-esteem of anybody ever, you know, he thinks he's a loser.
And he doesn't want to have to deal with this kid because he's no good. I can't even parents his own son. So it's. It is a wonderful relationship to watch develop, and we don't want to give too much away. But they have a bond that is that, that really does transcend a lot of Johnny's trauma.
And I think it really helps him heal as well. I agree. Yeah. And I think there's a lot of rich things happening too, with the other kids in the show.
We see a lot of bully victim [00:42:00] dynamics that are pretty fascinating. Of course from a neurophysiological lens, that these, these kids who've been marginalized now find a voice and it's not necessarily, they don't always act on it in a way that is restorative, but of course they're kids. they find co-regulation through belonging. Belonging is survival. Hm. Yeah, we are definitely wired to be part of a group. If our ancestors were shunned from the group, it was certain death.
we still have that nervous system that still wants us to be a part of a group, no matter what sometimes.
Yeah. you know, You see it's gosh, it's so classic eighties too. There's, the nerds versus the cool kids Oh my gosh. you know, Of course there's some characatures, but it does help us to, I think we can all relate to that.
Whether we were the nerds in high school or I don't know, winning pageants, things like that. Yeah. [00:43:00] Sometimes nerds, wind patch stay tuned for our next episode.
Sorry. I had to throw that in there. No, that's okay. It's No, you're right though. It's . I think it's absolutely true. Lots of good conversations that can happen through,
the plot lines. They did a great job. I agree. I agree. I just think it is one of those things. That's like almost a guilty pleasure, but when I watch it, I also, my wheels are turning, I'm thinking about polyvagal theory and trauma and childhood experiences and how we're shaped and attachment theory.
And yeah, maybe I'm not that fun to watch TV with. I don't know. You'd have to ask. Jason that's who we are just, I feel so passionate about this imaginary person and their sense of safety, there's so much, there's so much. I almost feel like we need like a flow chart, for like connection and who's the shifting allegiances.
[00:44:00] If I had all the time in the world, what I would do is I would create a Genogram. It's a marriage and family therapy technique where we chart intergenerational. Patterns through families, but really Cobra Kai needs a Genogram because you can chart, family systems connection, protection, fight responses, , trauma responses, intergenerational patterns.
Yeah. Maybe someday, or if there's anyone listening
and he wasn't, this is a perfect thing. If you're in your master's program and you need to do a paper and draw genogram of a fictional family Cobra Kai, and then just fire it off to us and we'll put it on the website. Yeah. I would love to share that. Oh my gosh.That would be, I know where was Cobra, Kai.
Back when I was getting my masters, no kidding.
I know. There's so much, art imitates life, we need [00:45:00] artists. This, I think also underscores the importance of, really deep thinkers. People who can convey these really complicated messages in an entertaining way. What a gift? Thank you to the writers of Cobra, Kai. such a great example of television, so kudos to you, writers. And it's this is, these are classic archetypes, right? We're just using this one show because it's really tap your best at the moment. I mean, The pandemic, when I discovered it, I watched it all once because I had not seen any of this before.
And I was actually kind of like, I'm not going to watch that the karate kid that's cheesy. That's okay. You know, That's beautiful. So cheesy and I get so caught up in it. You're just like, Oh, I could. This was one of those was that I would go to bed afterwards and really just process and think about it.
Because it you're right. This has so much to do with the work that we do as mental health professionals. It helps us to really look at somebody's story and what influences they've [00:46:00] experienced and how their nervous system is. Tuned. If it's tuned for connection, what you mean? We're all wired for connection.
What kind of connections have they had? Do they have any awareness of what's happening in their body? It's, it really, isn't a nice lens to, to help explain some of these bigger concepts of polyvagal theory. And body-centered psychotherapy that we talk about. I agree . I agree,
Thank you. Yep. Thanks for inspiring us. All right. Polyvagal theory. Through the lens of Cobra Kai. I didn't know. I didn't think we could do it, Jess. We did it. I feel like we could even go longer. We definitely could go longer, and we're going to keep talking about it in all of our episodes too.
All right. Awesome. This episode was a nice lead in to next week, somatic resources for the inner child. .
so Our next episode is going to focus on healing, our inner child using the body. Looking [00:47:00] at different approaches to bringing some healing to that wounded part of us that still might be in charge once in a while.
Thanks. Thanks Jess, for entertaining of me and our listeners with this concept. Thank you for originally thinking of it. If our listeners don't know this, Jeannie said, Oh, polyvagal theory and Cobra Kai, I could talk about that forever.
we shouldn't take me up on it. I was thinking, Oh, we should mention it in our polyvagal. And then my husband gets the idea. The whole episode should be about Cobra Kai and the polyvagal theory and a moment was born. Here we are. My favorite episode yet.
Oh, this was great. All right. Thank you everyone for listening. If you have any questions about polyvagal theory and Cobra Kai, shoot us an email, or if we missed anything we'd love to hear from you otherwise we'll see you [00:48:00] next week. Yep. Take care. . All right. Good. There we go. That was fun.
Thank you again for joining us on Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-centered mental health podcast. We hope today's episode was empowering and supported you in strengthening your mind-body connection We're your hosts Jeanne and Jess. Please join us again next week as we continue to explore integrative approaches to wellbeing. Until then, take care.