Book Review: Anchored
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM has a playbook for handling threats. When we are dysregulated, disconnected, or healing from trauma, our usual playbook becomes unreliable. We freeze and capitulate into inaction and despair. Or our heart races and we scan the metaphorical savannah for safe ground. In Anchored, we can learn—or retrain—our bodies and nervous systems to feel safe and grounded through polyvagal theory.
Polyvagal theory, which was developed in 1994 by Stephen W. Porges, is a clinical framework in which the vagus nerve is the command center of emotional regulation. Polyvagal therapy shifted the focus of treatment from traumatic events to the resulting bodily feelings. Polyvagal healing modalities begin in the body.
Core concepts of this book are regions of the nervous system. The ventral vagal (source of calm/rest), sympathetic vagal (flight response), and dorsal vagal (freeze response) are not literal locations in the body, but ideas of places that for some people will feel intuitive: the heart, the gut, and so on.
For a body-centered book, the text sometimes becomes bogged down in the cerebral. Case studies, interviews, and profiles of people healing from stress, anxiety, and trauma would have offered vibrant and relatable inroads. There is only the author’s voice, story, and teachings. That said, her voice and practices are welcoming and safe for readers who are healing and building resilience.
Dana’s metaphor of anchoring is resolute and apt. Her theories visualize the nervous system and equip us to care for it, cultivate its inner strength, and share those lessons with others. They empower us to heal from a place of ease and safe harbor.