- Our autonomic nervous system is the common denominator in our human experience.
- A "glimmer" is a glance that brings a spark of love and hope, a spirit of safety and connection.
- When we feel safe, we are capable of generosity, empathy, altruism, growth, and compassion.
I recently attended Legacy Talks Live: Bringing Polyvagel Theory to Life with Stephen Porges, Ph.D., and Deb Dana, LCSW. This event was a gathering of individuals who employ polyvagal theory as a way of being, not just a therapeutic practice theory. They see the world through the lens of the autonomic nervous system and intentionally take steps to create safety for themselves and others, thereby opening a pathway for creativity, vision, and hope. As Dana says, “Our autonomic nervous system is the common denominator in our human experience and is at the heart of our lived experiences. The brain’s job is to make sense of our felt experience, and I can make up some crazy stories!”
Porges was a pioneer in the study of “feelings” in psychology in the 60’s when emotion was not a valid science at the time.
The roots of this research were in psycho-physiology: the idea of measuring beat-to-beat heart rate, what we refer to today as our HRV. It was the beginnings of biofeedback and neurofeedback and our ability to modulate heart rate through breath work. Porges’ work paved the way for our understanding of vagal efficiency, health, and intentional vagal regulation. Dana collaborated with Porges in bringing polyvagal theory to life through the clinical therapeutic lens.
Glimmers is a term Dana uses to explain the spark of ventral vagal energy in all of us, regardless of the problems and stressors we hold in our nervous system. Ventral vagal refers to the face-heart nerve network that allows for safety and connection in our lived experience. In other words, life without fear. She believes we can hold both fear and glimmers at the same time. There are glimmers all around us!
In light of the holidays and gratitude of the season, I invite each of you to look for glimmers.
A glimmer is a glance that brings a spark of love and hope, a spirit of safety and connection as if for a second all is well in life. Anchor yourself with this hope even in the darkest of times.
I describe glimmers as a feeling of “awe.” Awe is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, even a trickle of fear in knowing that you are connected to something bigger than you, something powerful and grand. A sense of wonder describes the profound curiosity and amazement for things outside your immediate understanding.
You may experience a sense of wonder and awe pondering the vastness of the universe. Or by seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary, like nature, animals, and babies. A life worth living — and recovering for — is one experienced with the full spectrum of the senses: a song moving you to tears or a glance to remind you that you are loved.
Catch yourself when you notice a glimmer.
Stop and look for that heart feeling. Appreciate and acknowledge it. Then, share it with others, Dana encourages you to ”beam your ventral vagal energy out to the world.” As we enter the holidays, hold onto the intention to look for glimmers everywhere. When we feel safe, we are capable of generosity, empathy, altruism, growth, and compassion.