Yet another Tinder date lands on my calendar. I’ve been sprinkling online dates in, here and there. Being in sales I have to believe dating is a numbers game. If you pitch 100 times, one person should be a good fit, right? That’s the theory at least.
I show up, I’m feeling positive. Our text communication was fun, uplifting and enjoyable. We go to a local Sacramento pub get a drink and start playing darts. He asks me about my job and we started to settle in, so I thought.
One of the first modalities I learned in therapy was the Polyvagal Theory. Keep in mind, I am not a doctor, knowing or reading my journey is NOT a replacement for therapy. I’m here to share my stories to encourage others that real change is possible.
The vagus nerve is what regulates our parasynthetic and synthetic nervous systems, basically our fight, flight and freeze responses. These are our physiological responses to unsafe environments.
People who have internalized or experience(d) trauma, especially chronic trauma like myself, can be living in a constant state of danger. Often times we are unaware of our learned adaptive behaviors and/or physical responses from trauma.
I use the word “adaptive” because these responses are natural. It is far too easy to slide into a shame spiral when it comes to behaviors that are or were merely survival tools as a result of our bodies and brains working exactly how they are designed to in the face of trauma.
Back to my Tinder date. Every response to my job or answers to the questions he asked were negative. I felt like I was pulling teeth trying to get to know him. He had a monotone voice and a flat affect. Unlike his engaging and funny text communication. I seriously wanted to stop the conversation and say,” Dude… you’re not in a safe and social space right now.”
But for the first time, I saw it. As a female survivor of trauma, I haven’t always seen warning signs that someone might not be safe. This happens a lot especially with women who have experienced trauma, because they have lived a lot of their lives with an activated parasynthetic nervous system and a weak vagal brake. Obvious red flags to someone who hasn’t experienced the same depth of trauma might be overlooked by trauma survivors as safe or “not that bad”. Inconsistency, emotional avoidance, abandonment all made up my childhood which unconsciously felt safe.
Before, I might have looked at this date and thought his negativity was something I was bringing out, something I could fix or more likely I would have ignored if I really thought he was cute. I’m sure he’s a good guy. Perhaps, he was just having a bad day?
It was a monumental moment because I realized a switch had flipped. Many of the people I’ve been dating for the last few years were probably re-living their own traumas and not in safe and social spaces.
I wanted to start with the Polyvagal Theory, because as I adventure through these modalities a lot of it boils down to being able to self-regulate your own physiological responses in romantic relationships, work environments or life in general.
To learn more check out the Polyvagal Podcast, the first 8 episodes break it down on a clinical level. I seriously took notes at my kitchen table. You can also find the creator on instagram at justinLMFT. They also cover class room management, parenting, etc. I really hope they do workplace environments soon.
As for the Tinder date? I shared two beers with him even though I wanted to leave after one. Still working on finding my voice in these situations. I concluded that while he’s a nice guy, I need to be with someone who is on a similar path as me when it comes to conscious relationship and self awareness.
Are you dating? Have questions? Comment below or DM me on instagram!