Deb Dana - Book 2 & COVID-19

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She came back! This is my second interview with Deb Dana, the Polyvagal Wonder Woman. After this, give the first a listen.


:43 - What's it like to be admired across the world?

"It's ventral vagal energy that's the active ingredient here."

1:45 - Therapists don't express that they're "good."

There was a study that says warmth is the first quality that clients look for but confidence is the next. Not arrogance, but confidence.
I'm gonna lead you on a journey to a place that you have not wanted to go and don't know how to go safely. So I better be a really good guide that you can trust.

3:12 - 2nd book on April 21

  • exercises for people to do between sessions

  • good for feeling some management over life

  • way to feel like you're actively controlling something

You really can't reshape a nervous system efficiently one hour a week.
BASIC: Befriend, Attend, Shape, Integrate, Connect

4:58 - Is the homework individualized per client?

  • written to go in order

  • exercises build on each other

  • but can be customized out of order

  • clients will stick to the ones that resonate the most to them and create a set of practices



5:49 - How much homework between sessions?

  • a discussion with the client

  • nervous system and brain may disagree

What feels like it would be reasonable and doable for your nervous system?
You brain just answered that question and now let's ask your nervous system.

8:32 - What's the line between success and challenge?

We want to stretch the nervous system and then savor what we've stretched so that it becomes more patterned.
As soon as you cross midline, you're going to go to stress and survive. So we have to stay on the left-hand side of that line in stress and savor and not challenge the nervous system so much that it goes into a stress response and a survival response.
Because once you go into survival - into sympathetic or dorsal - any possibility of change shuts down.

9:15 - What is too much? Is this safe outside of therapy?

  • anything in the nervous system is based on the therapist having already mapped their nervous system

  • client understands how their 3 states work and can notice and track


10:23 - the importance of the map from book 1

  • she does the map with every client

If you don't know your nervous system in a basic way, you're going to feel lost.
  • brain will create a story about autonomic shifts

If we can have a basic understanding of our nervous system, then we don't just get that brain cognitive narrative. We get the biology of what's going on. And then we can do something to shift our biology rather than getting stuck on the story.
  • the importance of organized movement


12:00 - the menu of pathways to regulation

  • discern between what is helpful, not helpful and maybe helpful

  • listen to the nervous system in deciding

  • the menu of pathways

I really am encouraging people to create an actual menu. This is my menu of pathways to regulation.
As soon as we take somebody else's suggestion and make it a protocol for ourselves , we're no longer listening to our nervous system.

13:32 - the importance of the present moment and movement

The question is "In this moment, in this place, what I'm feeling right now, what will help me move towards ventral or what would help me really stay in ventral?"
  • differs day to day

  • ongoing conversation with the nervous system

  • not a set of techniques

  • choose from a few choices

As soon as we get into sympathetic or dorsal, we're no longer in the moment. We're in a fear and anxiety or we're in a disappearing.
What we need to do is to preplan for this, to be proactive.
  • put the menu somewhere visible in preparation and already done

When you dysregulate, your prefrontal cortex does not go along for the ride with you.

16:15 - Context, Choice & Connection

There are these three elements the nervous system really looks for to safely navigate the world: context, choice and connection.
  • each of these being challenged during COVID-19

Connection is about connection to myself, and to others, and to nature and to spirit.
  • harder to find an anchor in ventral as these are all challenged


18:00 - If you don't have these... what are you left with?

  • You have to get creative with what you have

  • digital connection has its place and may be the best option for some


20:10 - opportunity for global change currently

  • becoming more appreciative as restrictions increase





20:57 - social engagement scale

  • continuum between solitude and being with others

  • exercise from the new book


22:26 - how might we hang onto what we are learning during COVID-19?


24:05 - introversion, ambiversion & extroversion and the polyvagal theory

  • the social engagement scale

  • understand your own system and how you move along that all the time

  • labels can be given after identifying where one is on the social engagement scale

  • may relate to the vagal brake


27 :25 - categories vs the polyvagal continuum

  • DSM, introversion and extroversion, ACEs

  • autonomic stuff happening under the categories

If you look at the DSM through the lens of the nervous system, every diagnosis (pretty much) is an outcome of a dysregulated nervous system.
I'd be in favor of let's not use DSM diagnosis, let's just look at in what particular ways is your nervous system dysregulating and when does it dysregulate in these ways?
A DSM diagnosis does not help me work with your nervous system.
What I think the nervous system shows us (and from a polyvagal lens) is everything is on a continuum.
  • an individual's nervous system is on a continuum, categories like "introvert" do not help

Part of it is what happened to you, but the more important part is how did your nervous system respond to what happened to you?
The number of ACEs and what they were doesn't give us that next step. It's a beginning, we just need a part 2.

31:00 - client independence

The reason to bring a polyvagal-informed approach to your work is that you want to help your clients become active operators of their own nervous systems.
  • understanding an ability to navigate their states

When a client comes to you, they bring a presenting problem. But that presenting problem is really not what I want to work with. I want to work with the nervous system. And then once we get some regulation, we can look at that presenting problem and... it's going to have changed.

32:30 - what are you hoping people get from book 2?

  • everyday experience vs once a week for an hour

  • using pvt to navigate the day


32:57 - her investment in client independence

What I really want is my client's to understand their nervous system and have skills to come back from sympathetic or dorsal dysregulation... to ventral.
We all leave our home in ventral many times a day.
  • therapy is an important addition to the ability to navigate and operate a nervous system

  • to know when support is needed as an addition

When we have enough co-regulation it builds the platform for us to be able to use self-regulation...
I want my clients to co-regulate with me and have enough experiences with that so that they can then take that on the outside and self-regulate and come back when they need either a tune-up [or]... because there's some crisis in life they need some support with that.

35:55 - doses of co-regulation

We need enough experiences of safe co-regulation first and for many clients they've missed that. People have been dangerous and the therapist is taking on that role of being the first safe co-regulator in their life.
  • self-regulation can eventually become a choice and nourishing

  • co-regulation experiences for some clients may need to be more numerous, more often and take longer


37:02 - when are you coming onto social media? and next steps

  • it's not going to happen

  • online offerings


39:10 - listen to the nervous system

It's either a drainer or a filler. It's either going to nourish me or it's not going to nourish me. Then the question is "What's going to nourish me today? Or in this moment?"

39:33 - more of Deb's next steps

  • book study group for book 1!

  • long term training - Foundations Part 1

  • Teaching is nourishing for her


49:19 - the experience of awe

Awe is a solitary experience.
[Awe] is something that happens to ourselves and by ourselves.
[Awe] often invites us to want to share that with somebody else.
Moments of awe are all around us: nature, art and music.
  • find awe out your window or online

Awe is the sense of being small but connected to something much larger... We need to remember, we are connected as a human race and we are connected to something much bigger.


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