Home Book Reviews Polyvagal Prompts: Finding Connection and Joy Through Guided Explorations

Polyvagal Prompts: Finding Connection and Joy Through Guided Explorations

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Written by Deb Dana, LCSW and Courtney Rolfe, LCPC
Reviewed by Nancy Eichhorn, PhD

“The autonomic nervous system is at the heart of our lived experience.”
(Dana & Rolfe, 2024, pg. 54)

Imagine a moment of nothingness. See yourself setting your phone to ‘do not disturb’, putting your computer in sleep mode, and popping out the ear pods.

Heck, why not just move away from your workstation and head outside? Perhaps sit in the sunshine. Or find a comfortable spot in the shade.
Disconnect from external distractions and quiet your internal chatter. Let silence float through you.

Within this pause, breathe, turn your focus inward, and listen. When words ramble through, focus on the space between the thoughts.

Listen.

Your body will speak to you. Its language pulsates through your being, an energetic movement that guides you deeper inward. Tuning into times of connection with ourselves supports a sense of safety in the present moment; we are peaceful and calm; we can reach out and connect without fear. We resonate within so we can expand outward and be part of whatever else may be. Life is well lived.

Now, looking at this pause from a polyvagal perspective (academic vocabulary alert), with enough safety, our ventral vagal energies ebb and flow, changing how we experience the world and guiding us toward connection and ease. If danger triggers our dorsal vagal energy, we may become immobilized and collapse. If our sympathetic nervous system’s flight or fight response is triggered, our energy will mobilize us for self-defense.

Going back to our pause for a moment of reflection. Can you feel the energy guiding your experience? Can you tune into what state (ventral, dorsal, sympathetic) is directing your thoughts? Behaviors? Sensations? What is happening at the present moment in your autonomic nervous system?

Beneath our “level of conscious awareness, our nervous system directs our movement toward and away from people, places, and experiences” (Dana & Rolfe, 2024, pg. 56). And this guidance is critical to our health and well-being. But we aren’t born knowing how to do it.

Deb Dana, LCSW, and Courtney Rolfe, LCPC joined forces to write “Polyvagal Prompts: Finding Connection and Joy Through Guided Explorations.” They know we don’t innately know how to self-regulate our physiological and psychological states—we learn by co-regulating with attuned caregivers. But that doesn’t always happen. So, as adults, we can learn by reading books, attending workshops, and paying for psychotherapy.

A look back before going forward: polyvagal theory and psychotherapy

To read the full review, please click here

To watch an in-depth conversation between Kevin Olsen (Norton Publishers) and Deb Dana and Courtney Rolfe, please click here