POLYVAGAL THEORY: The Science of Seeking Safety

Polyvagal Theory Put Me Back Into My Body

One month ago I wrote a post about polyvagal theory. The subject matter is good but it was difficult to decipher using a digital copy. So I returned my e-copy and purchased my own hard copy of ANCHORED: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory by Deb Dana. My goal is to master the material in this book. Therefore this blog in essence will be a summary of the Anchored rather than an original discussion at this point.

ANCHORED: How to Befriend Your Nervous 
System Using Polyvagal Theory by Deb Dana.

SUMMARY OF FORWARD by Stephen W. Porges, PhD

Deb leads readers through structured neural exercises that effectively enable their nervous systems to more efficiently support homeostatic functions, leading to health, growth, and restoration.”

Downregulate Threats

She outlines brain exercises that will provide resources to downregulate threats and enable spontaneous social engagement. The product of this strategy is a more resilient nervous system that supports emotional, physical and spiritual health.

Downregulate Defensive Reactions

A well resourced nervous system spontaneously downregulates defensive reactions, while a nervous system in chronic states of threat downregulates opportunities to socially engage. Fortunately, through our evolutionary history, we social mammals have developed a portal to downregulate our threat reactions through the neuroception of safety. However, access to this portal is greatly influenced by the neural state of the individual. If the autonomic nervous system is well resourced, we are resilient and there is a low threshold to trigger states of safety that would lead to spontaneous social engagement and co-regulation. Alternately, if we are locked into a defensive state, feelings of safety may not be easily accessible.

We Began as Asocial Reptiles

Polyvagal Theory is a scientific extrapolation of the phylogenetic journey toward sociality functionally expressed in social mammals, which evolved from asocial reptiles.

Regain Accessibility to Our Mammalian Heritage

Polyvagal Informed Therapies shift the focus of therapy from the traumatic event to the bodily feeling. The theory emphasizes that it is the re-tuning of the neural regulation of the autonomic nervous system to support threat reactions that is the primary determinant of outcome. This strategy redefines the trauma and moves it from being within the individual to an external event. A profound re-tuning of the autonomic nervous system following the traumatic event is an adaptive consequence of surviving trauma.

The core message of Polyvagal Theory is that we are a social species without the accessibility of our mammalian heritage, we lack the neural resources to be safe and to co-regulate with others. Different disciplines have different names for the neurological blocks we create. One of my goals is to someday create a reconciliation of different theories of removing subconscious blocks:

ScientologyClearing Engrams
Christ ConsciousnessI and the Father are One
Meditating/Praying Oneness
with God IS The Treatment

Good and Evil Do Not Exist
Buddha MindNon-Dual Consciousness
Existence is formless and timeless
Liberate Your Conditioned Mind
Traditional Western
Pharmaceutical Therapy
Emergency open heart bypass surgery
Embedded Associations

Anchored focuses on the bold therapeutic problem of how to return to the safety of our body. Anchored is about getting reacquainted with bodily feelings without the familiar embedded associations of these feelings with dangerous events. By establishing a secure anchor within the body, we can safely explore feelings that would previously be destabilizing. Having an anchor provides the stability to explore and safely feel the wounds still held by the body. This process supports the journey of healing in which the nervous system will become sufficiently resilient to engage others and find humor and excitement, not threat, while navigating a complex and often unpredictable world. In Anchored, Deb has created a terminology that allows all of us to experience overt actions and covert visualizations as efficient neural exercises to metaphorically follow the cable leading to internal feelings of safety that are now anchored within the nervous system.

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.