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What to do after learning the Polyvagal Theory

I'm assuming you already have a decent understanding of the Polyvagal Theory and are ready for what to do next. So I won't be spending any time on the PVT basics, but check out my Polyvagal Intro page if you need to.

In this blog, I want to make sure you have a top-down understanding of what to do with the Polyvagal information you've collected in your research already.

The Polyvagal Theory is not a modality. It's not a set of techniques. It's not a therapy style. It's science. It's nerdy. It's academic. It's dense. It can be overwhelming.

It could leave you wondering what to do with all that information.

You've learned the Polyvagal Theory. Now what?

Of course, you could always continually go back and relearn aspects of the Polyvagal Theory. I think this is a great idea. You may even want to go back and relearn from the primary sources. I have a nifty gifty called the "Polyvagal Primary Books" checklist you can have from the free Members Center of the website.

Besides that, the next step, in my opinion, is to build the strength of your safety state. I think this is always a good idea, whether you live in a stuck defensive state or not. There's a bunch of potential benefits. I'll briefly go over 3.

Benefit #1 - Getting unstuck from a traumatized state

This might be the most obvious benefit. With a stronger vagal brake, there comes a higher level of distress tolerance. With higher distress tolerance, there is more interest, motivation and capacity to feel your stuck defensive state and allow Polyvagal ladder climbing to happen.

Without the safety state being strong enough, working on your stuck state might end up being retraumatizing. It's a potentially disastrous idea to delve into the inner pain without being prepared. It surfaces the emotions, memories, sensations and impulses without the ability to actively experience them. This ends up causing dysregulation and reinforcing the stuck state.

There's even a good chance that you will turn to maladaptive coping mechanisms. "Behavioral adaptations," in Polyvagal language.

This is exactly why I have phase 2 of my Polyvagal Trauma Relief System focus entirely on building the strength of your vagal brake. This middle phase is essential. It's absolutely necessary before going directly into the stuck state. It's how I work as a therapist as well. The ability to stay present and anchored in safety needs to come before the more direct trauma work.

My course is called Building Safety Anchors and you can learn more about it through this link -

Benefit #2 - Greater distress tolerance for the basics in life

Developing your safety pathways will also directly benefit your day to day living. The things that are irritations will be less irritating. The things that are triggering will be less triggering.

You will have more capacity to connect with others. You'll be more empathetic and attuned to other peoples' state and feelings.

You'll also have more capacity to connect with yourself. You'll be more understanding of your own feelings. You'll be more compassionate.

All of this builds a person with more patience. More ability to connect. Someone who can actually relax, but also feel motivated. Someone who is able to use their mixed states of play and stillness.

Benefit #3 - Greater distress tolerance for new challenges in life

When you develop your vagal brake, you also become more prepared for new challenges in life.

You will have more motivation to make change. And with making change comes confronting difficulties or areas where you need growth. Like maybe going back to school. Maybe ending a toxic relationship that you've been putting off. Maybe setting firmer boundaries. It could be applying to a new job or starting a YouTube channel (which is something I have been working on).

Whatever it is, these changes will bring obstacles and challenges. Both in a practical way, like deciding what type of camera or microphone to get for your new YouTube channel, but also in a more emotionally challenging way. Like facing the fear of telling your parents that you need more space. Or being able to say "no" at work.

Those situations are going to challenge your distress tolerance.

This is something that I am currently working on for myself. As I face new challenges in my little business, I am constantly confronted with challenges. Confronting some ingrained money issues from my family is one of them. Confronting fear of success is one of them. Also fear of rejection from those I want to serve.

All of these come from or trigger a defensive state within me. As I develop my vagal brake strength, my ability to sit with that distress also builds.


No matter what your next steps are in your Polyvagal learning journey, make sure you have a strong foundation in your understandings. I have loads of free information, much of which has been collected into the Learning Hubs in the free Members Center.

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