In our treatment of children and adults that have experienced trauma we have come to see the importance of the polyvagal theory in understanding triggers and responses that occur in daily life. These triggers are autonomic responses based on earlier experiences. A young child may find the touch of a parent frightening because he/she was raised in an abusive home where most all touch was hurtful. When placed in a loving adoptive home he/she is still frightened by touch, This is not something thought about but the body just automatically responds in fear. We all have things that are automatic responses. In her book Dr. Deb Dana helps us to understand these triggers and guides us in recognizing what is occurring in our own nervous system. She then teaches us techniques to help us move from states of alarm to peace. Here are some highlights from her book “Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection”.
This book is a guide to the polyvagal theory, a concept that explores how the autonomic nervous system influences our emotional and social responses. Dr. Dana introduces readers to the three states of the autonomic nervous system: a) ventral vagal, b) sympathetic, and c) dorsal vagal. The ventral vagal state is associated with feelings of safety, social engagement, and connection, while the sympathetic and dorsal vagal states are connected to stress responses and disconnection.
Central Core of book
The central point of the book is about engaging and strengthening the ventral vagal system, because this is the system that is associated with safety and connection. Dr. Dana provides a range of exercises that readers can work into their daily lives. These exercises are designed to help regulate the nervous system, reduce stress, and nurture a sense of safety and connection.
Throughout the book, Dr. Dana guides readers in understanding their own nervous system responses and recognizing when they may be in a state of sympathetic or dorsal vagal activation. By increasing awareness of these states, individuals can regularly implement the exercises to work toward a more regulated and connected state.
The exercises are varied, addressing aspects of daily life, from simple grounding techniques to more complex social engagement practices. Whether it is mindful breathing, self-soothing gestures, or techniques to promote eye contact and vocal tone, the book offers a toolbox of strategies for readers to choose from based on their individual needs.
An underlying theme is the importance of self-compassion and understanding. Dr. Dana encourages readers to approach the exercises with curiosity and gentleness, recognizing that everyone’s journey toward safety and connection is unique. By working these into their lives, individuals can cultivate resilience, improve emotional well-being, and create a foundation for meaningful social connections.
In conclusion, “Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection” is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to understand and positively influence their nervous system responses. Dr. Dana’s writing style combines practical exercises based on the polyvagal theory, making this book a guide for fostering safety, connection, and overall well-being. To read more about Dr. Dana click on this link.