A picture of a nerve connection taken from the video

The Hidden Language of Our Nervous System: Unmasking the Polyvagal Theory

There may be no better tool to help us to understand navigating through the maze of our nervous system than the Polyvagal Theory. It unravels the intricacies behind both our emotional and physiological responses. The video below, presented by Teresa Lewis on the Lewis Psychology YouTube channel, reveals the complexities of our autonomic nervous system and how it can be understood through a three-tiered hierarchy of states, the concept of neuroception, and the imperative of co-regulation.

Through the illustrative example of Sarah, we are taken through a journey of the workings of the autonomic nervous system. Sarah’s system, like ours, transitions between three distinct states in response to external cues – the ventral vagal state of safety and connection, the sympathetic branch that triggers the fight or flight response, and the dorsal vagal state that signifies shutdown. So, while singing in the car, Sarah feels safe and connected (ventral vegal). Yet, the sound of a police siren suddenly shifts her into a state of anxiety, activating her fight or flight response (sympathetic). Conversely, in the presence of her abusive mother, Sarah’s system shuts down entirely (dorsal vegal).

This Polyvagal theory, founded by Stephen Porges, introduced the concept of “neuroception,” where our autonomic nervous system constantly scans our environment for signals of danger, safety, or threats. Essentially, before our conscious mind reacts to a situation, our nervous system has already assessed it and prepared a response. This intricate system connects our brainstem to vital organs such as the heart, lungs, digestive system, and more. As such, a perceived threat in one organ can quickly affect others.

Interestingly, while healthy individuals can transition freely between these states, trauma survivors might find themselves trapped in either the sympathetic or dorsal vagal state. Using the story of Stephen, Teresa illustrates how trauma can distort one’s ability to interpret environmental cues accurately. Consequently, healing for trauma survivors involves re-establishing a sense of safety and trust, often through the safety modelled by a clinician in a therapeutic relationship.

Central to the polyvagal theory is the concept of co-regulation. Co-regulation is a biological necessity where our nervous system seeks connection with other nervous systems for both physical and psychological well-being. For therapists or anyone in caregiving roles, it’s essential to be grounded in a ventral vagal state, ensuring a foundation of safety and connection for others.

The polyvagal theory’s foundational principles revolve around a three-tiered hierarchy of states, the concept of neuroception, and the imperative of co-regulation. If you’re keen on diving deeper and understanding practical strategies related to this theory, watch the video below.

School of Life Graphic of inner voyager reaching the depths of the true self

Accessing Your Inner Truth: A Journey to Self-Discovery

In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to lose touch with our innermost feelings and beliefs. Surface thoughts often eclipse our deepest convictions, leading us away from our authentic selves. How do we reconnect?

The School of Life, in their thought-provoking video “How To Find Out What You Really Think And Why”, dives into this very paradox of the mind: the inability to access our true feelings about pivotal matters.

It’s quite a phenomenon: the genuine sentiments about a close friend, career choices, or even childhood memories can remain concealed within us, invisible to our conscious awareness. Instead, what we grapple with are superficial, sometimes misguided snapshots of our desires and intentions. Quick judgments made out of fear or haste become our go-to narratives.

“Our childhood was fun,” we proclaim, even when shadows lurk beneath the surface. “Our new friend is nothing but kind,” we tell ourselves, ignoring any gut feelings of unease. Why? We’ve grown in a world that stresses rapid action, which often means overlooking the layered nature of our consciousness.

It’s not just about speed. Diving deep can be unsettling. Uncovering the truths from our subconscious might challenge the image we’ve built of ourselves in the broad daylight. The revelations may not always align with societal norms or even our own expectations. Hence, many of us opt for the comfort of feeling ‘normal’ rather than facing the startling truths of our innermost selves.

However, connecting with our inner sanctum isn’t as complicated as it might seem. All it requires is:

  1. Time: Daily moments of solitude, perhaps lying in bed or soaking in a bath, or sitting comfortably in a quiet place.
  2. Attention: Close your eyes and focus on pressing issues or feelings that demand reflection.
  3. Genuine Inquiry: Ask yourself – “What do I truly feel about this? What’s the real issue here? What is my heart whispering?”

Treat this exercise as a journey, not a destination. What you’ll likely discover is enlightening. The answers, much like stars hidden during the day, have always been there. They simply await the quieting of the sun—our daily distractions—to shimmer in the night sky. The truth is, deep down, we often already know our feelings about friendships, our purpose, and what truly benefits our well-being. All we need is the courage and patience to tune in.

To dive deeper into this enlightening journey of self-discovery watch the full video below and take the first step towards uncovering your inner truths.

The Path to Liberation from the Sickness of Shame

Shame is an emotional and psychological affliction that often festers in the dark corners of our minds. Invisible yet insidious, it can wreak havoc on our mental well-being. It is not the same as guilt, which attaches itself to specific actions or events. Shame is a more pervasive feeling of inadequacy, a notion that we are fundamentally flawed. It’s not about what we’ve done, but about who we are. The School of Life’s compelling video, “The Problem of Shame,” meticulously unpacks this concept, offering not just a diagnosis but also a prescription for healing.

The first step to disentangle ourselves from the web of shame is to identify it. This might involve introspective exercises like rating how true various statements feel, such as “I don’t deserve to exist” or “I am unworthy of being known and loved.” High scores on this self-assessment can serve as a reality check, illuminating the debilitating extent of shame in our lives.

Shame is not something we were born with but rather something inflicted upon us. Often, these feelings can be traced back to early caregivers whose own perceptions we internalized as fact. Shame can touch every aspect of our existence, making it difficult to form relationships or even to love ourselves. It can lead us into a cycle of addictive or self-destructive behaviors, further intensifying the sense of shame.

Radical Imperfection: The Road to Recovery

The video suggests a rather unconventional way of liberating ourselves from shame. Instead of inflating our self-esteem by telling ourselves that we are good and beautiful, which often doesn’t work for those deeply rooted in shame, it suggests embracing the truth that every human being is radically imperfect. It’s not about comparing ourselves to an ideal but understanding that ideals are unrealistic measures that set us up for failure and disappointment.

Rather than counter shame with self-aggrandizement let’s consider cultivating self-compassion. This is something we can learn to do not just towards ourselves, but also towards others. After all, if we are all flawed, then we all deserve kindness and understanding. The true sin of those who have shamed us is not that they have spotted our imperfections but that they have forgotten their own. Thus, to overcome shame, we must let go of impossible standards for ourselves and others.

“The Problem of Shame” offers a profound and nuanced look into one of the least understood yet most debilitating emotional states a person can experience. It suggests that the journey out of shame involves not inflating our ego but rather accepting our collective imperfections. In a world that constantly measures us against unattainable ideals, this acceptance is not just liberating; it’s revolutionary. Let us all strive to replace judgment with mercy and shame with self-compassion. This could be our way out of the barren lands of shame into a more understanding and accepting existence. Watch the video below.

The Irresistible Lure of the Unavailable: A Dive into the Human Heart

For many, the allure of love is often found in those who are near, accessible, and very much within our grasp. Yet, peculiarly enough, the heart sometimes veers in an entirely different direction. This video from the School of Life titled “The Charms of Unavailable People” throws light on this intriguing paradox of human emotion.

“Though one might imagine that it’s the available ones who charm us, the curious truth is that very often it’s the elusive, not-returning-our-calls ones that really develop a power over us.” From falling for someone continents away to being drawn to a married individual, to the heartbreaking allure of someone with limited days due to a grave illness, all of these situations share a common thread – the external obstacles of love. Such barriers paradoxically intensify our yearnings, making the love seem all the more potent, almost forbidden.

One may argue that true love should overcome all barriers, but reality often writes a different script. Sometimes, the very challenges that should keep two individuals apart become the glue that binds them tighter. These challenges paradoxically stoke our desire, making the heart yearn more fiercely against the odds. On the flip side, those in a seemingly secure relationship might find it crumbling, leaving them grappling with pain, trust issues, and a shattered heart.

Childhood plays a significant role in how we handle such emotional trials. Those raised with consistent love and care find it slightly easier to move on from heartbreaks. In contrast, others might struggle more, clinging on to impossible relationships, seeking love in hidden corners, and risking it all for moments of ephemeral happiness.

While the mysteries of the heart remain vast and complex, one truth shines clear – treading carefully in the realm of love might eventually lead us to the right destination. For love, in its truest form, is a bond shared with someone who understands, cherishes, and grows with us over time.

So, if you’ve ever wondered about the magnetic pull of someone just out of reach, or questioned why your heart beats for someone so clearly “wrong” for you, this video offers some illuminating insights. Dive in, and discover the charming, painful, and bewildering journey of loving the unavailable.

Being Well Podcast: Attachment Theory & EFT with Dr. Sue Johnson

In this episode of the Being Well Podcast, hosts Forrest and Rick Hanson speak to an exceptional guest, Dr. Sue Johnson, the pioneering force behind Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Dr. Johnson, known for her transformative work in attachment theory, engages in a deep and thoughtful dialogue that is certain to broaden and inform your understanding of relationships.

We are treated to the fascinating story of Dr. Johnson’s development of EFT. This valuable context provides a strong foundation what follows. The hosts and Dr. Johnson then transition into an exploration of relationships, emphasizing their nature as emotional bonds over mere transactional bargains.

One of the standout elements of this episode is the enlightening discussion around the role of the amygdala in solidifying skills learnt in therapy. Alongside this, the conversation around vulnerability’s significant role in forming genuine, fulfilling connections is truly powerful, equipping listeners with essential knowledge to cultivate healthier relationships.

Forrest and Rick Hanson expertly guide the dialogue, covering topics from the importance of good examples of bonding conversations, the transformative effect of changing how one relates to oneself, and the appropriate contexts for using EFT versus Internal Family Systems. A particularly poignant segment of the podcast involves the recognition of helplessness, a novel perspective that may empower listeners in their own personal growth journeys.

Towards the end of the episode, the hosts and Dr. Johnson reflect on the balance between individualism and vulnerability, a pertinent topic for many navigating relationships in today’s world.

The breadth of Dr. Johnson’s knowledge, gathered from her expansive career as a clinical psychologist, researcher, professor, and EFT founder, radiates throughout this episode. Her acclaimed contributions, including her best-selling book “Hold Me Tight”, make her a reputable source of wisdom for anyone aiming to build secure and emotionally healthy relationships. This episode of the Being Well Podcast is an enlightening deep-dive into the realm of relationships, providing a harmonious blend of theoretical understanding and practical advice.

Hold Me Tight Couples Exercise #2

This is the second in a series of exercises which can be found in the Hold Me Tight Workbook A Couple’s Guide For a Lifetime of Love by Dr Sue Johnson.

The acronym A.R.E stands for Accessibility, Responsiveness, and Engagement, which are crucial elements in love relationships. The strength of a relationship is found when we find ourselves asking questions like, “Do I matter to you? Can I reach you? Are you emotionally available to me? Can I rely on you to respond when I need you? Will you engage with me and give me your attention?” These A.R.E. questions often remains hidden under the surface during recurring arguments that revolve around practical concerns such as chores, personality differences, sex, children, and finances. Partners who feel secure and loved can navigate these differences and issues collaboratively, whereas those who don’t tend to channel their relationship problems and fears into constant disagreements.


Does your partner’s perception of how accessible, responsive, and emotionally engaged you are, fit with your view of yourself and how safe your relationship is? Read each statement and answer T (true) or F (false). You can complete the questionnaire individually, then either reflect on the answers on your own, or discuss your answers together.

From your viewpoint, is your partner available to you?

  1. I can get my partner’s attention easily. T F
  2. My partner is easy to connect with emotionally. T F
  3. My partner shows me that I come first with them. T F
  4. I am not feeling lonely or shut out in this relationship. T F
  5. I can share my deepest feelings with my partner. They will listen. T F

From your viewpoint, is your partner responsive to you?

  1. If I need connection and comfort, they will be there for me. T F
  2. My partner responds to signals that I need them to come close. T F
  3. I find I can lean on my partner when I am anxious or unsure. T F
  4. Even when we fight or disagree, I know that I am important to my partner and we will find a way to come together. T F
  5. If I need reassurance about how important I am to my partner, I can get it. T F

Are you positively emotionally engaged with one another?

  1. I feel comfortable being close to and trusting my partner. T F
  2. I can confide in my partner about almost anything. T F
  3. I feel confident, even when we are apart, that we’re connected to one another. T F
  4. I know that my partner cares about my joys, hurts, and fears. T F
  5. I feel safe enough to take emotional risks with my partner. T F

How to Make Love Last Forever

This insightful video from the School of Life is aptly titled “How to Make Love Last Forever”. At the dawn of relationships, it’s usual to find ourselves immersed in a powerful wave of admiration and longing for our partners.

We relish their company, continually preoccupied with their myriad abilities and accomplishments. Yet, as time passes, this fervour cools, a phenomenon often attributed to the mundanity of constant exposure. This video explores the deeper, psychologically complex reasons behind this shift, which reveal a far more optimistic perspective. Our initial infatuation and experience is the hope we have that our relationship can be all that we truly long for. However we also need to do the work and truly understand who we are if these seeds are to grow and produce the fruit of love.

Alaine de Botton – Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person

I was recently captivated by this thought provoking presentation by Alain de Botton on stage at The School of Life, where he unravelled some profound notions first presented in his thought-provoking New Yorker essay, “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person.”

With his trademark blend of wisdom, wit, and vulnerability, de Botton delves into the complexities of modern relationships, challenging conventional beliefs and offering a compelling perspective on the elusive nature of true love. I particularly loved the way he explored the delicate balance between our yearning for happiness and the inevitable imperfections that accompany human connection. In this video de Botton talks about how rage is an indicator of the hope that things can be better in our relationship, a theme we explore in EFT as well. Watch it alone or with your partner to seed some hope in your relationships.

Hold Me Tight Couples Exercise #1

Welcome to a series of relationship exercises designed to strengthen your emotional bond with your partner using the Hold Me Tight Workbook A Couple’s Guide For a Lifetime of Love by Dr Sue Johnson. As Sue Johnson writes, ‘Love relationships are not bargains; they are emotional bonds based on our innate need for safe and emotional connection.’


Attachment theory underpins the vital role our loved ones play in providing us with a sense of safety and security in our lives. When emotionally distant or unresponsive, we may experience feelings of isolation and helplessness, triggering emotions like anger, sadness, hurt, and fear. Fear triggers the amygdala, the part of our brain that detects danger, and is a natural response that activates when our relationship is threatened. In this state, our actions may become reactive and impulsive, resulting in two common patterns: demanding or withdrawing.

These responses are unconscious and may give us temporary relief, but if they persist, they can create a cycle of insecurity that drives partners apart. As both partners become defensive, they start assuming the worst about each other and their relationship, leading to a lack of safety in their relationship. This delicate dance of panic and fear requires partners to move in sync, or else they risk stepping on each other’s toes.

To better understand your own steps in this dance, try this introspective journal exercise from Dr Sue Johnson. By becoming aware of your individual responses, you can start identifying and addressing the dynamics of your relationship with your partner.

Journal Exercise

Our fears are wired into our brains. Everyone has them. Can you pinpoint or identify your fears? Listen to the feelings you have, and find, at the core, any fear or anxiety that involves being rejected or abandoned by your partner. To help you get in touch with your internal experience, here are a few of the common feelings or qualities of demanders and withdrawers. Check off the ones you resonate with.


  • Frightened of their aloneness; scared they’re not wanted
  • Afraid of being abandoned
  • Frightened of their feelings of hurt
  • Scared of being invisible


  • Frightened of rejection
  • Scared of their experience of disappointing their partner-coming up short
  • Afraid of failure
  • Overwhelmed
  • Numbed or frozen with fear
  • Afraid of being judged or criticized

Reflect on and write down what scares you most, and then invite your partner to do the same. Share your reflections with each other.

What is your attachment style?

By recognizing your own attachment style, you can gain insight into your patterns of behavior and begin to make changes that will lead to more secure and fulfilling relationships.