Glossary of Terms


Adverse Childhood Experiences: The original Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) study was conducted by Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda in 1998. The largest epidemiological study of trauma ever done, it began with a sampling of 17,421 adult patients of Kaiser Permanente (a private non-profit medical provider) in Southern California. The study correlated early childhood exposure to 10 categories of adversity (abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction) in the past with health outcomes in the present. By the conclusion of the study, the team had accumulated data on the current medical conditions and health histories of 1 million patients. The study revealed that 2/3 of participants had experienced a form of early adversity, and demonstrated a graded dose-response relationship between early childhood adversity, and poor health outcomes later in later in life, across all physical, mental, and emotional health domains. In other words, the more early adversity, the more likely people were to experience poor physical, mental, and emotional health. In the original study, ten categories of trauma were identified. Subsequent critique of the study has pointed out that a) its subjects were largely college educated and middle class, and b) it did not include questions about social trauma, such as racism or sexism. Had it been of broader socio-economic scope, and included questions of social trauma, the number of people recognized to have had early childhood adversity would assuredly be higher. We would add that if you include the awareness that colonialism traumatizes both the perpetrators and the victims (albeit creating different types of injury), and if you include traumas of ecological alienation (disconnection from nature) as a form of early adversity, 100% of modern people would be diagnosed with early adversity. This is why we assert that to be modern = to be traumatized.

Asana: from Sanskrit, seat, or manner of sitting. Generally refers to sequences of poses in yoga. Could also refer to sequences of poses in emotional yoga, or other types of work with physical, emotional, or cognition formations.

Autonomic Nervous System: or ANS, is the neural architecture of the mind-body connection. Its primary neurology is the vagal system, the structure and functioning of which is mapped out by the Polvyagal Theory.

Building ropes: (San Bushmen concept) The San culture of the Kalahari is the oldest continuous culture in the world, with an oral history that tracks back more than 100,000 years. Those still living their ancestral lifeways are masters of deep nature connection. They say that when a person goes out into nature and recognizes an individual animal a tiny energetic thread forms between the two beings. Each further recognition strengthens the thread. Soon it becomes a cord, then a rope. They say that to be a bushman is to create ropes with all of the Creation. The San culture is one of the primary models for the Restorative Practices Alliance.

The Connection System: In our work, we consistently refer to two fundamental processes. Turning on the Connection System (this is the title and subject of our first film in the Restorative Practices Film Series) and remediating adversity. In physiological terms, the Connection System is the ventral vagal branch of the Vagal System. The vagal system is the primary conduit of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which is the neural architecture of the mind-body system. Dr. Stephen Porges, developer of the Polyvagal Theory (and our advisor and Honorary Chair of Neurophysiology on our Faculty), explains that this ANS shapes our experience through three primary neural circuits. The ventral vagal system, the crowning jewel of our social biology: a fine-tuning regulatory system that ties together the neural regulation of the face and voice with the heart and the breath when we feel safe, evokes a state of functional calm, and permits us to co-regulate through attuned relationships. The sympathetic, or fight/flight system is our first defensive response, triggered by detection of threat, which raises our arousal, mobilizes the body to fight or flee, and polarizes us so that we seek affiliation and identify threat. The dorsal vagal system, our most evolutionarily ancient threat responses, shuts down the body and immobilizes it in response to life threat. Turning on the Connection system is the process, a trainable process, of learning to evoke this ventral vagal system, and stabilize our bodies, and our lives in operating from this system.

Consciência: (Portuguese) which means both consciousness (awareness- associated with mind) and conscience (moral sense- associated with heart) suggesting that there is a fundamental relationship between the two. This is a word that literally combats a mindbody split.

Discursive thought: to be in our thinking minds, generally formulating thought in words in our heads.

Diventity: coined by ‘urbatect’ Ayssar Arida in the book Quantum City, which explores urban space through the lens of quantum theory, the term unites three words: identity, density, and diversity. At a certain level of diventity, a new identity emerges in a system whose order is higher and more elegant than its component parts.

Evolved Developmental Niche (EDN) or Evolved Nest: Dr. Darcia Narvaez, PhD, defines the Evolved Developmental Niche (or evolved nest) as a developmental maniford: a set of inherited extra-genetic characteristics that match up with the maturational schedule of offspring to optimize development. In other words, this is an appropriate context created by ecology, family, culture, society, that is designed to create an appropriately conditioned environment for the offspring (in our case human children) to thrive. Traditionally, this is deeply connected to indigenous child-rearing practices.

The Felt Sense: a term coined by Dr. Eugene Gendlin, developer of focusing-oriented psychotherapy, denoting the synthesis of awareness of sensations, emotion, and memory. Moment-to-moment contact with an embodied sense of self from inside.

Indigenous Child-rearing practices: Ancestral cultural technologies around child-rearing. In indigenous cultures the world over, Dr. Darcia Narvaez, PhD, has repeatedly found common characteristics in how children are raised. These include: infant swaddled and carried by caregivers in touch contact for first 9-18 months, frequent and lengthy breastfeeding, affectionate touch, responsiveness to child's needs, lots of play in a natural (living world) environment, positive social climate and social embeddedness, lengthy periods of quiet/stillness/ settling, embeddedness in the living world. Indigenous child-rearing practices correlate with high rates of thriving, and high moral development.

Instantiate: etch into your neurobiology.

Interoception: is the felt moment-to-moment awareness of how it feels inside your body. This awareness is physiologically shifted by defensive neural platforms of behavior. Shutdown (dorsal vagal) states, which are dissociative, can numb out the body and decrease interoceptive awareness.

*We want to note here that in order to measure the physiological impacts of trauma, one of the domains that we have to assess is interoceptive competence. It is significant that interoception is not a word that most English-language speakers know. We well know about our five extero-senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Interoception (inward-perception) is a term that Dr. Stephen Porges describes as our ‘sixth sense’. It is the inward, felt, bodily awareness of how it feels to be ourselves, from inside. Interoception comprises our felt sense of ourselves viscerally (our heartrate, breathing, muscle tension, degree of arousal), our sensations, our embodied emotional state, and our implicit memory. It creates the foundations for how we experience ourselves existentially, and the platform for what we feel and think, how we interpret the world, and in turn how we behave. Trauma sculpts our interoceptive awareness, because it alters the neural platforms that govern the parameters of how we experience ourselves from inside. Trauma alters the neural regulation of our interior state. In order, therefore, to heal trauma, it is diagnostically necessary for us to be able to accurately measure interoceptive experience (assessment). Deficits in interoception predictably lead to specific developmental challenges of regulation, emotion, and cognition– yet it is not even something that we routinely assess for in medicine or mental health. We, at the Restorative Practices Alliance and the Academy of Applied Social Medicine, envision a world where assessing for interoception is as common as having an eye exam, where there is a gold standard for such an assessment, and where there are health practitioners everywhere qualified to deliver it.

Like people whose interoceptive awareness is altered by shock, relational, or developmental trauma, people who have experienced the trauma of alienation from Nature have specific (and though sometimes overlapping with other forms of trauma, also distinct) perceptual deficits. We have a word (interoception) to accurately denote the faculty of awareness of the interior of the body, but we would propose to you that in English we don’t have words for many of the faculties of awareness whose development is impeded by lack of connection to nature. Thankfully, other cultures do. Ilarian Merculieff, our advisor and an Unangan elder raised in the traditional lifeways of his people on an island off the coast of Alaska, and author of the book Wisdom Keeper, explains that in the west we conceptualize intelligence as something that arises from thinking (discursive thought), whereas indigenous people know that intelligence is something that arises the moment thinking stops. Not only do indigenous people have names for these other faculties of awareness: their cultures have developed extensive methodologies for training them. Naming in a culture is significant, because what a culture holds within the net of its language tells us something about what it can perceive (the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously said that the limits of our language mean the limits of our world), and to what it ascribes importance. A culture that doesn’t have words for the ways of knowing that develop through connection with nature can’t assess, heal, or develop those ways of knowing. If you are interested in learning more about this topic of language and epistemology, please look for our book Keywords: A Field Guide to the Missing Words, or our Connection Phenomenology Keywords poster, avialable in the store, which maps 36 words in 17 languages that are missing in the English language and mainstream modern Euro-centric thought.

Koyaanisquatsi: Hopi word (Hopi is shortened from Hopituh Shi-nu-mu (“The Peaceful People” or “Peaceful Little Ones”) for a life (or world) out of balance.

La facultad: from Gloria Anzaldúa. “A rupture in the everyday world that breaks into one’s everyday mode of perception, causes a break in one’s defenses and resistance, taking one from one’s habitual grounding, and allows the depths to open up, causing a shift in perception. This shift deepens the way we see concrete objects and people; the senses become so acute and piercing that we can see through things, view events in depth, a piercing that reaches the underworld (the realm of the soul). As we plunge vertically, the break, with its accompanying new seeing, makes us pay attention to the soul, and we are thus carried into awareness.”

Lexical gap: or lacuna, is a place where there is a hole in a language. In other words, a missing word. A concept that needs to be named, but doesn't have a word for it in a given language. Since, as philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein noted, The limits of my language mean the limits of my world, this is problemmatic. The practice Keywords, which refers to our forthcoming book of the same name, is a map of lexical gaps in the English language. The poster called Connection Phenomenology Keywords fills in thirty-six lexical gaps in the English language. The poster called Ways of Knowing, references twelve non-cognitive ways of knowing, many of them drawn from non-english language sources.

Neural Cartography: Mapping the relationship between neural responses and various processes. Many of our posters are mapping neural cartography. This includes our posters on The Polvyagal Theory, Ways of Knowing, and the Space Between Us.

Neural platforms: In Polyvagal Theory the physiological state containers that are evoked depending on whether we feel safe or in danger. Polyvagal Theory identifies seven, we propose an eighth. If we feel safe, these are: Social Engagement, Play, Intimacy. When threatened: Fawning (our proposed addition), Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Shutdown. A neural platform shapes 5 aspects of experience: -Your visceral state (how it feels in the body) -Your experience of self (existential aspect) -What you feel and think -How you interpret the world -What behaviors are available to you

Neurocardiology: The neurology of the heart, which contains more neural cells that muscle cells.

Neuroception: the moment-to-moment bodily detection of safety or threat that shapes our deepest neural platforms of behavior.

Neurophysiology: the study of the physiology of the nervous system, i.e., how it works…

Nunchi: (Korean). The ability to accurately read the emotions of others.

Polyvagal Theory: reconceptualization of the relationship between the Autonomic Nervous System and behavior.

Sintonize: to bring into rhythmic relationship with. In Portuguese, the verb sintonizar expresses this concept. In English therapeutic contexts we might say attune, but in Portuguese the musicality of this is more expressed and the term more generally known. Two friends falling into rhythm estao sintonizados. (are sintonized). When you haven’t seen someone for 20 years, and pick up right where you left off, you are sintonized.

Social Location: Gender, Race, Age, Class, Gender Orientation, Religion: sociological categories that shape our perspective. For those whose social locations are centered (dominant), we may not realize our social location is shaping our perspective.

Tracking: often people imagine paw prints on the ground, but tracking is really the highest art of studying the pattern language of nature, when following a trail. Following, in a direction, with all faculties of awareness. So we can, in learning Restorative Practices, learn to track: -nervous system state (through a Polyvagal lens) -vocal prosody -facial expression -eye gaze -classes of gesture -posture -symmetry -emotional resonance -our own felt sense

Weaving: To unite various threads (strands) into a pattern. While often referring to cloth, could refer to wisdom (one group of our mentors is called Wisdom Weavers), or to the stands woven together in ceremonies. Some sacred songs are woven around the listeners. From the imagery of spiders (the master weavers), to Penelope’s loom in The Odyssey, weaving is connected with home and with integration.

Window of Tolerance: A window of tolerance, understood physiologically, is the adaptational range of experience that we can work within without triggering defensive responses. In other words, it sets the edges of the kinds of experiences and conversations that we can process and have while feeling safe enough to keep our Connection systems online. The term is generally used within trauma therapy contexts to talk about working in a way that doesn't shift a client's nervous system into neural platforms of defense. When someone is within their window of tolerance, they can generally receive, process, and integrate information without too much difficulty. One of the explicit objectives of the Restorative Practice neurodevelopmental model is to increase the size of our participant's windows of tolerance. This is a trainable capacity with both physiological and psychological underpinnings. We can increase this capacity through neural exercises, and restorative practices, as well as through relational mindfulness and anti-oppression training. The term was originally introduced by Dr. Dan Siegel MD, who has conceptualized and developed the field of interpersonal neurobiology. It is highly applicable across a broad range of dimensions of relational experience, and enriches conversations about what is productive when we are dismantling various forms of oppression and bias. When white people in the United States have a samll window of tolerance for conversations about race it is called 'White Fragility.' Through a physiological lens, what it means is that certain folks (generally white) are are easily dys-regulated (shift into neural platforms of defense) when conversations about race arise. This has deep pedagogical implications, because racism is primarily a white problem, but when white people are confronted about our/their racism, we/they generally experience this as a threat, move to platforms of defense, and shut down. If we apply the methodological framework of somatically-oriented trauma healing to this problem, it suggests that we need to work with white folks in a way that respects, and then expands our/their window of tolerance, since we know that the moment someone shifts to defensive platforms, their learning is impaired. While there is a place for confrontation, sustained neurological changes that address the roots of structural oppression, and dismantle white supremacy in white folks must take this into account in order to achieve systems-level change. Similarly, we would propose that when we speak about dismantling other systems of oppression, such as male supremacy, a similar logic would apply. Beyond its tremendous moral courage, this is why non-violent approaches, such as Kingian non-violence, are most likely to succeed in broad systems-level change, because they dismantle the defensive reactions of oppressors, and keep then in a state where change can actually occur. Outside of our window of tolerance, it is very hard to actually learn.

Visceral: as in ‘visceral state’- the viscera are your intestines, visceral refers to the felt interior of the body. How it feels inside of you.