Earlier this week I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Dana, an expert on Polyvagal Theory (PVT). The program was sponsored by Purposeful Planning Institute, an organization about which I have blogged here several times in the past (to see the posts, search to the right on "purposeful planning"). Below is more information about the interview and about Deborah, and a link to a recording of the interview so you can listen to this valuable hour.
Grace Under Pressure: A Polyvagal Guide to Reducing Stress and Creating Compassionate Connections
Audio File: Download/Play Recording
Date: January 31, 2017
Guest Speaker: Deb Dana, LCSW, Developer of Rhythm of Regulation Clinical Training
Host: Stephanie West Allen, JD, PPI Dean of Neuroscience and Contemplative Practices
Polyvagal Theory, developed by renowned neuroscience researcher Stephen Porges, describes the role of the autonomic nervous system in regulating our experiences of stress and shaping the ways we connect with others. The autonomic nervous system responds to sensations in our body and signals from the environment activating a trio of response possibilities: shut down and disconnected, stressed and mobilized, safe and socially engaged. Using Polyvagal Theory as a guide, we map individual autonomic states, identify common triggers to dysregulation, and discuss ways to actively engage our autonomic pathways to alleviate stress and foster compassionate connection.
Important Points [prepared by Purposeful Planning Institute staff, reviewed and edited by Deb Dana]:
- The branches of the vagal nerve serve different evolutionary stress responses. The dorsal vagal primitive branch elicits immobilization behaviors as a survival response whereas the more evolved ventral vagal branch is linked to social behaviors.
- When someone is operating from the ventral vagal complex they are safe, socially engaged, and have full access to all of their social and problem solving skills. However, when someone feels threatened they can quickly regress to the one of the more primitive freeze, fight, or flight responses (dorsal vagal or sympathetic state).
- Response awareness is critical. When you begin to notice that someone you are working with is moving into a state of unease, learn to become aware of that and identify what happened that caused them to feel threatened and begin to retreat out of the ventral vagal state. Dana offers a number of suggestions for avoiding common triggers that can unintentionally make people feel threatened and she shares tools that can be employed to help one quickly return to a ventral vagal state.
- Safety supports healing and change, which can only occur in a ventral vagal state. Healing and change won’t occur in a dorsal vagal or sympathetic state.
For more information or to continue the conversation on Polyvagal Theory, please feel free to contact Deb Dana at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reading Recommendations: A Beginner’s Guide to Polyvagal Theory (available online HERE) and The Polyvagal Clinical Practice by Deb Dana, LCSW (to be released, Norton Series)
Purposeful Quote: "Our major role in life is making other people feel safe and calm. And when we feel safe and calm, then the emergent properties indeed start coming out. That's when we see the benevolence, the beauty, the creativity, and the boldness.” - Stephen Porges