Important Terms

Activation – Arousal in the autonomic nervous system. Activation happens when our Sympathetic Nervous System revs up.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) – The neural networks that rev us up, calm or freeze us down, and fine-tune us for communication. This involuntary part of our nervous system regulates sleep, temperature, digestion, blood pressure, immunity, energy levels and more. 
The ANS has three layers:
  1. The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) – calms us down to rest, digest, sleep, and heal, or shuts us way down in freeze, or dissociation, to cope with overwhelming trauma. It evolved first, with the reptilian brain.
  2. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) – revs us up to meet the demands of daily life, or revs us way up to cope with survival threat. It evolved with the mammalian brain.
  3. The Social Nervous System (Soc.NS), (Porges, 1995) – fine-tunes our system, adjusting up or down for responsive communication. It evolved with the human brain.

Body Up! Co-Regulation – Connecting nervous system to nervous system with another person (or mammal), in a way that helps both of you regulate your own nervous systems. It usually depends on embodiment and attunement with yourself and the other.

Boundaries –  Protection against over stimulation of the nervous system. A healthy nervous system can be counted on to take immediate self-protective action when threatened. When boundaries have been ruptured, threats may go unnoticed, or the response may be inhibited, dissociative or exaggerated.
Healthy, flexible boundaries allow us to feel safe and function well in a wide variety of situations.
Competent Protection (Poole Heller, 2003)  – An internal and an external experience of safety based on a sense of self or other as able to meet expected challenges. We tend not to venture into old scary memories without any hope of competent protection. People who have no experience of competent protection need help building it before they are willing to try connecting with past trauma for healing. A sense of competent protection is key in clearing trauma.

Completion (Levine & Poole Heller, 1997)  – Finishing interrupted activation patterns that got trapped in the nervous system during trauma. Completion builds resiliency.

Co-Regulation – Using our connection with each other to shift emotional gears, or to stay steady in challenging situations. It is cooperative, and two way. Like cooperation, co-regulation is interactive, by definition. Together, we are each regulating our own nervous system. It is a way we can support another person while benefitting rather than depleting ourselves. Co-regulation means good for you, and good for me, too.

Corrective Experience (Levine & Poole Heller, 1997) –  Retelling the story how it should have been, and noticing the response in the body. We cannot change history, but we can lay in new circuitry to expand our brain’s frozen perspective on what is possible.
Discharge (Levine & Poole Heller, 1997)  – Trapped energy moving out of the nervous system. Track it in deeper breaths, sighs, yawns, tears, tingle flows, chills, goose bumps, trembling, shaking, laughing, sweating, twitching, fight or flight gestures, flushing, heat waves or flows, burps and intrinsic movement.
Exploratory Orienting – Approaching the present with curiosity about what might be pleasant or interesting or useful. It is expansive and opens us to new information and experience.
Flooding –  Overwhelming discharge. It happens when we get too activated. Shift toward some resource or risk shutdown and/or retraumatization.
Fight or Flight – A sympathetic threat response where we rev up to save ourselves.
Freeze – A parasympathetic threat response where we shut down, dissociate, and/or limit breath. 
Hypervigilance –  An anxious state of watchfulness that interferes with rest and recovery. It keeps us activated and on guard, looking for new threats and problems to defend against. It stops us from noticing and accessing resource.
Intrinsic Movement (Poole Heller, 2003) – Involuntary, often subtle, unwinding responses or fight or flight gestures that complete trapped action patterns. This is a form of discharge/completion that can clear activation from the system. We cannot do it at will, but we can recognize it, allow it and watch as it moves through us when the impulse comes.
Language of Sensation (Levine & Poole Heller, 1997) – Words that describe sensation. The Language of Sensation links conscious, language based neocortical resources with the sensory-based reptilian/limbic memory networks where trauma patterns get stored. This can quickly build a sense of competent protection. 
Looping (Levine & Poole Heller, 1997) –  Intentionally alternating between resource and activation to keep the activation manageable.
The Mending Zone – Where we can heal by touching into a manageable, digestible amount of activation and discharge, without flooding or dissociating. Competent Protection, the language of sensation and a neuroception of safety are key to this deep process of neural integration. 

Nervous System (NS) – The Human Nervous System has 2 functional divisions:
  1. Voluntary Nervous System (VNS) – The neural networks that allow us to move and sense at will. It includes muscles like biceps and pectorals and sensory organs like eyes and skin.
  2. Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) – The neural networks that calm or freeze us down, rev us up, or fine-tune us for communication. This involuntary part of our nervous system regulates heart and breath rate, sleep, digestion, temperature, blood pressure, immunity, energy levels and more.
Neuroception (Porges, 2004) – Our nervous system’s unconscious assessment of safety or threat. It may or may not agree with our conscious perception of safety.  Building a neuroception of safety is key to clearing trauma. 
Oxygen Triage – When oxygen is scarce, it is routed away from the neocortex and to the brainstem for survival. This can make it hard to think, talk or move.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) – see Autonomic NS
Pendulation (Levine & Poole Heller, 1997)  – The nervous system’s natural rhythmic alternation between resource and activation. Pendulation titrates activation organically.
PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – (Better called PTSR, Post Traumatic Stress Response) Dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system that generates a wide variety of symptoms and conditions.
Resiliency – The capacity to bounce back to health and grow stronger from challenges big and small. 
Resistance – SE teaches us to value and understand “resistance” as the nervous system taking care of itself. It s not viewed as a negative, but as the nervous system showing where it is getting overwhelmed, and what seems safer, more resourcing.
Resource – Anything that calms us, or shifts us into a relaxed autonomic response. Knowing how to resource makes it safe to begin to access past trauma so we can discharge, Integrate, and heal .
Resourcing – Means bringing our attention to anything that shifts our autonomic nervous system into relaxed functioning.
Retraumatization – Overwhelming an already traumatized nervous system with more intensity than it can integrate. Avoid This!  Retraumatization happens when past traumas are replayed in memory or in life, without the time and resource to resolve and integrate them.

The Social Nervous System (Soc.NS) (Porges, 1995) – see Autonomic NS

Somatic Experiencing® – SE is a efficient, naturalistic approach to the resolution and healing of trauma developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine.
The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) – see Autonomic NS
Titrate (Levine & Poole Heller, 1997)  – To carefully manage the activation experienced in revisiting past trauma as we are clearing it. 
Titration – Means taking things in carefully gauged, small doses.

Voluntary Nervous System (VNS) – see Nervous System

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