VIDEO: Accessing Self-Compassion in a Pandemic

What Polyvagal Theory Can Teach Us about Navigating Tough Times

Deb Dana

At its most basic level, human communication is one nervous system responding to another, searching for signals that it’s safe to connect and flooding us with distress responses when it’s not.

Right now, with many families and partners needing to quarantine together, good communication, self-regulation, and self-compassion are a lot trickier to harness. When you're quarreling with a cohabitating partner, parent, or sibling, what can you do to help yourself calm down, then begin the repair process?

According to therapist Deb Dana, Polyvagal Theory teaches us that the solution lies in good planning. Here, she breaks down what the science says about managing clashes with our loved ones and reclaiming self-compassion, and discusses the importance of creating a guide to help us see these tough times through.

Deb Dana, LCSW, is coordinator of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute and developer of the Rhythm of Regulation training series. She’s the coeditor, with Stephen Porges, of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory and author of The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy.

The polyvagal perspective, Dana writes in her Networker article, can inform and deepen any clinical approach. "I think of it as a kind of moment-to-moment awareness of the ongoing biological reactions of self and others that deeply influence the quality of the therapist–client relationship—and ultimately, a client’s fundamental sense of safety in the world," she explains. "It’s an element of mindfulness; ideally, it’s a tool for healing."


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Topic: Anxiety/Depression | Mindfulness

Tags: 2020 | compassion | couples conflict | emotion | emotional health | emotional intimacy | families | Families & family life | families and family therapy | fight or flight | fighting | Illness | love | love and relationships | polyvagal theory | self-compassion

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