Polyvagal Theory (aka you're wired for it).

A few weeks ago,

I attended a trauma conference in NYC. I got the bug in grad school for helping people heal from trauma. Even though I call it Gate Passages these days, I’ve been madely in love with it ever since. 

One of the reasons I signed up for this conference was to learn more about Polyvagal Theory from the person who created it — Stephen Porges, PhD., a neuroscientist in the department of psychiatry at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Polyvagal Theory is a fascinating body of work about the vagus nerve and its role in how the body responds during a traumatic experience (fight, flight, freeze), as well as how we safe and social we feel with each other and in the world. It’s been called the science of safety, and it has very interesting implications for the trauma and attachment work that I do. If you want to learn more about it, click here (note: the audio isn't 100% sparkling clear).

I may write more about Polyvagal Theory in the future. For now, there are a few things want to share about Steve’s talk.

He started out by saying this: 

“Our nervous system evolved to co-regulate with another creature. We did not evolve to be by ourselves. Don’t believe the news. We need to love, nurture and care for each other.” 

I could hardly believe my ears. This coming from a neuroscientist!  Then he started talking about connectedness. Be still my heart. Connectedness is one of my most cherished values. 

He defined it as “the ability to mutually, synchronously and reciprocally regulate physiological and behavioral states.”

Let's zero in on one of the terms: synchronous. I define it is occurring at the same time. Right now, the connectedness we're  having as you read my words is not synchronous. Texting is (mostly) not synchronous. Facebook and Instagram? Not synchronous. These activities are not opportunities to co-regulate. They do something else, which is sometimes enjoyable and sometimes not. 

I love what technology can do in terms of being able to get to know each other and the worlds beyond the reach of our geographic locations, to organize us around common causes, and to find information lickety-split.

With that said, we are wired for the kind of synchronous connectedness that Dr. Porges describes. Face-to-face and voice-to-voice.

Experiencing trauma can disrupt this wiring. Pull up a chair, love, because I could talk for days and days about this. For now, however, I’m glad that science may be catching up to what many of us have already noticed for some time. 

Communicating with Power

I've been talking about power this  year. Your personal power. 

With today's partial lunar eclipse blowing through with some big-ass changes, there's no better time to up your personal power skills. In this post, I'm sharing one of the things I love -- communicating with power.

Take Kristen, my youngest stepdaughter. She’s an amazing young woman in her 20s living on her own.

Recently, we were talking about the roommate she took on for the summer. I asked her how it was going. 

She said, “It’s OK, but he’s so messy. He leaves his stuff everywhere, and it’s driving me crazy.” 

“Wow,” I said. “That would drive me crazy, too. Have you talked to him about it?” 

“No. I keep dropping hints. I thought his mom would tell him to be neater, especially after she came for a visit," she said. "Apparently she didn’t.” 

“Sounds like it’s time to tell him how you feel,” I said.  “Shoot from the hip and tell him exactly what you want.” 

Kristen looked at me with fear in her eyes. “I can’t do that. I can’t tell him that. I’m scared of telling people that kind of stuff.” 

Let's talk about the 2 ways of communicating. 


This way is about communicating without communicating. Like Kristen mentioned, this way relies on things like: 

  • Dropping hints.
  • Beating around the bush.
  • Using sarcasm to veil your true feelings.
  • Asking other people to do it for you. 


Direct communication is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. No hints, bush-beating, or pawning it off on someone else.

Here's the thing about indirect vs. direct communication: 

Indirect is something that most of us try many times. I certainly did in the first half of my life. It seems easier somehow. 

Most of the time, however, indirect communicate fails miserably, because it requires that the other person read your mind. Dropping hints is like expecting the other person to be the Amazing Kreskin. This pretty much guarantees that you’re going to be frustrated. What's more, indirect communication is also a way of denying your personal power. 

Direct communication connects your personal power (3rd chakra) to your voice (5th chakra) and has them singing together in harmony. It also puts you and the other human on track for harmony, because you've told them exactly how you feel and what you want. 

What do say when ... ?

You cut your hair off. Then you run into someone you haven't seen in a while.

She says "Oh, my. You've cut your hair." She stares at your hair with her mouth hanging open.

You wait for her to say something nice.

Then you wait for her to say anything. Finally you hear crickets.

What do you do and say?

Do you shoot her a look of withering disdain ... like the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey?

Do you practice your new crippling ninja move on her?

Do you say "Bitch ... you better be catching flies with your mouth hanging open like that."

Do you pretend it didn't happen, turn on your heels and walk away?

Here's what I recommend:

Step 1

Take a deep breath. Inhale deeply, filling your entire belly with air like a big ballon. Exhale, and let your shoulders drop 6-inches.

Step 2

Focus on your intention. Intention is about how you want to use your energy in the world and the other people in it. When it comes to communication, intention helps you focus on your side of things (which is all you are in control of).

HINT: Not sure about intention? Start with how you want to feel after.

Step 3

Let it rip.

Still stuck? Check these out:  

Nice Girl: "I know. I wasn't sure about it either. I'm trying to get used to it." 

Lob it Back to Her:  "So what do you think of my haircut? 

Sarcastic: "I get the feeling you are you trying to tell me something?" 

Cat Fight: "I can see that you're having a bad hair day, too." 

Confessional: "It's a big change for me. I just felt like I needed something new in my life right now."

Tactful: "So what's been doing with you?" 

Experiment and check in with your body. It'll always tell you what works for you.

Lots of love, Maureen