Anchor in Autonomic Safety

This post explaining how to anchor in autonomic safety is a verbatim summary of the Introduction to Anchored by Deb Dana. Yesterday I summarized the Forward by Stephen Porges. Since I am republishing all of this without the authors permission, please click through and purchase the book on Amazon so that Ms. Dana may be properly compensated for my unauthorized use of her intellectual property.

We teach what we most need to know

My goal is to master this material by summarizing the entire book so that if I can demonstrate it, maybe I can teach it someday. The world needs healing from trauma and this book explains how to do it.

16th Century Woodcut of the Vagus Nerve, from Anchored by Deb Dana

Humanity means connection

We are wired for connection. Our nervous systems are social structures that find balance and stability in relationships with others. Think about that for a moment. Our biology shapes the way we navigate living, loving, and working.

Polyvagal Theory explains the science of connection, offering a map of the nervous system and practice the ability to anchor ourselves and each other in safety and regulation in the midst of challenges to our sense of equilibrium.

Befriend the Nervous System

When we learn to befriend the nervous system, track states, and anchor in autonomic safety, the inevitable challenges that we all face as we go through our days aren’t quite so formidable. If we put a problem aside and turn our attention toward learning how to shape our systems in the direction of safety and connection, we can return to the problem and see it in a new way. Anchored in a regulated system, options appear and possibilities emerge.

Beyond thoughts and words

Before the brain can assemble thoughts and words, the nervous system initiates a response that moves us toward an experience and into connection, takes us into the mobilizing process of fight and flight, rest and distress, or rescues us through shutdown and disconnection.


Mindfully meeting the autonomic nervous system involves creating skill in following the moment-to-moment flow between action, withdrawal and connection. With that awareness we can bring in practices to gently shape the system in new ways and enjoy the sense of ease that comes from living with a nervous system that responds with flexibility and resilience to ordinary and sometimes extraordinary challenges that we meet every day.

By Dean McAdams

Born a poor peckerwood in a Tujunga holler, Dean practiced secrets of the ancient & modern masters to end up liberated in the coastal paradise of West L.A.