Notice and Name: Reshaping Your Experience with Autonomic Arousal
The most fundamental step in beginning to influence our body’s autonomic response is to first become aware of its existence. Once acknowledged, we are able to dive deeper into the separate states of arousal and learn how those states are manifested through our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The process of developing an awareness of our autonomic states then lends us the ability to successfully befriend our ANS and sets us in a position to attend to our individual experiences of arousal in a whole new way.
Befriending and becoming more engaged with our autonomic states begins a process called reappraisal. Reappraisal in its simplest terms is the reframing of our relationship to the experience of arousal in a way that allows us to see the experience from a different perspective. This offers the chance to engage with our body’s experience of the autonomic arousal rather than being engaged by it.
Deb Dana notes that through the polyvagal lens we can increase our vagal tone by naming the response and giving it a category. She has coined this process as the “Notice and Name” practice. This practice gives us the ability to actively acknowledge our ANS and turn toward the experience of arousal. Stopping to “Notice and Name” interrupts the automatic nature of the response and leaves space to write a new story. With this space we can actively separate our experience with arousal from the story it is telling without being washed away by the intensity of the response.
The Four Steps of “Notice and Name”
1: Turn your attention inward and tune in to your physical body, feelings and thoughts.
2: Notice what your inward assessment tells you about your present autonomic state.
3: Name that autonomic state (ie: Ventral Vagal, Sympathetic, Dorsal Vagal).
4: Be curious. What have you learned about your nervous system in this moment? What are the cues (safety or danger) you are picking up from the environment? Can you separate your ANS state from the story your thoughts and emotions are telling?
1. Dana, D. (2019). The polyvagal theory in therapy: Engaging the rhythm of regulation. W W Norton and Company.