Polyvagal Theory offers a neurophysiological framework to consider the reasons why people act in the ways they do.
Through a polyvagal lens, we understand that actions are automatic and adaptive, generated by the autonomic nervous system well below the level of conscious awareness. This is not the brain making a cognitive choice; These are autonomic energies moving in patterns of protection. And with this new awareness, the door opens to compassion.
We come into the world wired to connect. With our first breath, we embark on a quest to feel safe in our bodies, in our environments, and in our relationships with others. The autonomic nervous system is our personal surveillance system, always on guard, asking the question “Is this safe?” Its goal is to protect us by sensing safety and risk, listening moment by moment to what is happening in and around our bodies and in the connections we have to others. This listening happens far below awareness and far away from our conscious control. Dr. Porges, understanding that this is not awareness that comes with perception, coined the term neuroception to describe the way our autonomic nervous system scans for cues of safety, danger, and life threat without involving the thinking parts of our brain. Because we humans are meaning-making beings, what begins as the wordless experiencing of neuroception drives the creation of a story that shapes our daily living. (A Beginner’s Guide To Polyvagal Theory)
Out of Stephen Porges's brilliant work developing Polyvagal Theory, a world-wide community of Polyvagal-informed people and systems is developing as we better understand the power of the autonomic nervous system to guide our movements and shape our stories.
Deb Dana, LCSW’s work as a clinician, consultant, lecturer, and Coordinator of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute is focused on using the lens of Polyvagal Theory to understand and resolve the impact of trauma and create ways of working that honor the role of the autonomic nervous system as we move through states of protection and connection in an ongoing quest for safety (Rhythm of Regulation, n.d.).
Deb Dana, LCSW Interview
Deb Dana is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a leading expert in the field of using polyvagal theory in therapy. Deb Dana is a consultant for the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute which is focused on using the lens of Polyvagal Theory to understand and resolve the impact of trauma. She is the author of the book The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy, Clinical Applications of The Polyvagal Theory and more recently her new book Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection which will be released in April 2020.
Click on the links below to find out more about Polyvagal Theory in Therapy.