Lillian Wilson

Anchored by Deborah A. Dana

‘Anchored’ is an in-depth guide to understanding the power of the autonomic nervous system for resilience, self-awareness, and well-being.

“Discover your body's neural pathways to calmness, safety, and connection.”

In times of distress or panic, many of us desire better emotional control. Therapist Deb Dana’s book ‘Anchored’ seeks to tackle this concern by guiding readers in exploring their body’s neural pathways to achieve calmness, safety, and connection.

In this review, we will take a closer look at the read and explore the world of self-compassion and awareness with the help of Dana’s extensive experience.

Author’s background

Deb Dana, LCSW, is a clinician and consultant who specialises in utilising Polyvagal Theory to address the effects of trauma and develop therapeutic approaches that respect the autonomic nervous system’s role.

Deborah A. Dana (r)

She is renowned for creating the Rhythm of Regulation Clinical Training Series and frequently lectures worldwide on how Polyvagal Theory informs trauma survivor support.

Deb is a founding member of the Polyvagal Institute, a clinical advisor to Khiron Clinics, and an advisor to Unyte. She has authored several clinical publications, including ‘The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation,’ ‘Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection: 50 Client-Centered Practices,’ and ‘Clinical Applications of Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies,’ as well as the ‘Polyvagal Flip Chart.’

What is the book about?

Deb Dana’s book ‘Anchored’ is a transformative exploration of Polyvagal Theory and its practical applications in our daily lives. The theory focuses on the vagus nerve, a vital element of our nervous system responsible for regulating bodily functions and shaping our responses to stress and challenges.

In the book, Dana presents Polyvagal Theory in an easily understandable and relatable manner, allowing readers to grasp the biology and role of their vagus nerve. She goes beyond theory, providing readers with practical techniques and tested methods to heighten their awareness of their nervous system’s reactions in the present moment. By developing what she terms ‘neuroception,’ readers can better tune into their bodily sensations and modify their responses to life’s various situations.

Among the key topics covered in ‘Anchored’ is the concept of consciously utilising the ‘Vagal Brake.’ By acquiring specific techniques, readers can manage the intensity of their emotions, leading them away from fear and panic.

The book also delves into the significance of recognising and influencing internal cues related to safety and danger, as well as the importance of cultivating nourishing relationships with others and the world around us.

In the latter part of the book, readers are offered practical exercises and guidance, including guided imagery, meditation, and self-inquiry, all tailored to gently shape the nervous system for enhanced resilience, intuition, safety, and well-being.

Table of contents

  • Foreword by Stephen W. Porges, PhD
  • Introduction
  • 1. A Quick Look at the Principles and Elements of Polyvagal Theory
  • 2. Traveling Autonomic Pathways
  • 3. Learning to Listen
  • 4. The Longing for Connection
  • 5. Neuroception: Your Nervous System’s Intuition
  • 6. Patterns of Connection and Protection
  • 7. Anchoring in Safety
  • 8. Gentle Shaping
  • 9. Re-Storying
  • 10. Self-Transcendent Experiences
  • 11. Caring for the Nervous System
  • 12. Creating Community
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • About the Author
  • Also by Deb Dana
  • About Sounds True
  • Copyright
  • Praise for Anchored

Key takeaways from ‘Anchored’

1Flexibility and resilience go hand in hand

In ‘Anchored,’ the author emphasises the close relationship between flexibility and resilience within the autonomic nervous system. Well-being is not solely defined by a perfectly regulated nervous system, but rather by its ability to move between states and return to regulation through flexibility and resilience. The reader is encouraged to reflect on their own autonomic journey, recognising moments of intensity, returning to regulation, and learning from their responses.

The book introduces the concept of a resilience continuum, a tool for tracking and understanding one’s level of resilience. By regularly checking in with this continuum, readers can gain insight into their thoughts, emotions, and actions and better care for their nervous system in navigating life’s challenges.

2Listening to yourself is crucial in moments of distress and suffering

In the chapter ‘Learning to Listen,’ Deb Dana highlights the significance of understanding how the autonomic nervous system influences our emotional and behavioural responses to experiences. By incorporating this polyvagal-informed knowledge, we can cultivate the ability to stay present with our emotions and thoughts without being overwhelmed by them. Anchoring ourselves in ventral safety and regulation enables us to create a space for meaningful reflection, even in the face of intense emotions.

Central to this process is the practice of autonomic listening, where we learn to approach our experiences with curiosity rather than reacting impulsively.

For example, when we feel distressed we can move from self-critique to self-compassion by uttering the following phrases: ‘This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is a part of life. May I be kind to myself.’ This will bring calmness, especially if you place your hand on your heart and repeat these phrases several times.

3Self-care is a way of nourishing one’s well-being, not a manifestation of egotism

In the chapter ‘Caring for the Nervous System,’ the author explores the often challenging concept of self-care, which is commonly misunderstood as being selfish. Through the lens of the nervous system, self-care is grounded in ventral vagal safety and connection, while selfishness arises from survival states driven by fear. By listening to our nervous system, we can gain valuable insights into our self-care practices.

The book encourages readers to explore their self-care beliefs and experiences by reflecting on how different autonomic states influence their perceptions. Recognising the language of ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ is crucial, as these words often convey demands rather than nourishing invitations. Instead, the focus shifts to two essential questions: ‘What does my nervous system need at this moment?’ and ‘Is what I’m doing nourishing my nervous system?’ Attending to these questions lays the groundwork for developing sustainable and autonomic-sensitive self-care practices.

By understanding self-care through the lens of the autonomic nervous system, readers are encouraged to develop a more compassionate and adaptive approach to caring for themselves, embracing a range of practices that truly nourish their well-being.

Overall rating & strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews

The book has gotten 3.97 ⭐️ on GoodReads.


  • Presents essential information on the nervous system in an accessible and understandable manner, making it suitable for readers without a scientific background.

  • Provides practical tools and exercises based on science, making it beneficial for anyone with a nervous system, including therapists and clients.

  • Contains a variety of exercises and practices to observe and work with one’s own nervous system, promoting healing and personal growth.


  • Some information may seem repetitive for readers with prior knowledge in related fields.

  • Lack of extensive research and reliance on inspiring quotes, leaving readers wanting more in-depth analysis.

Best quotes from ‘Anchored’

“We need to remember that well-being is not defined by a nervous system that is always in regulation.”
“Engaging in moments of befriending and learning to listen change the way we see our own experiences and the way we see the world.”
“Sometimes when we are alone, we find that – not so much in spite of but because of being so truly alone at that moment – we are united with everything and everybody. Whether we are alone [in our room or] with the trees, the rocks, the clouds, water, stars, wind, or whatever it is, we feel as if our heart is expanding, as if our being is expanding to embrace everything as if the barriers were in some way broken down or dissolved, and we are one with all. When I am most truly alone, I am one with all.”

Final takeaway

In ‘Anchored,’ Deb Dana masterfully demystifies the complexities of Polyvagal Theory, offering readers a transformative journey into understanding and working with their autonomic nervous system. With a focus on resilience, listening, and self-care, the book provides invaluable insights and practical tools to navigate life’s challenges and foster well-being.

This book is a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of their nervous system’s influence on emotions, behaviours, and overall well-being.

Where to buy

You may purchase ‘Anchored’ on Amazon at the best price. It is available in paperback, audio and Kindle versions, so you may choose an option that appeals to you the most.

Healthypedia FAQ

The book explores Polyvagal Theory and its practical applications in understanding and managing the autonomic nervous system.

The book presents complex concepts in an understandable and relatable manner, making it accessible to readers without a scientific background.

Yes, the book provides practical techniques and exercises to heighten readers' awareness of their nervous system's reactions and develop resilience.

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