online dating

Dating in a Dangerous World

How does terrorism effect our search for romance? Stephen Porges' polyvagal theory helps us understand that our bodies act out of different nervous system response when we sense danger than when we sense safety.

When we are afraid for our lives, we operate out of fight/flight or if there is no clear way to fight or flee, we shut down. If we are dating, we may desperately cling to any potential partner. If clinging is not our thing, we may drift into Romance Trance where we are not present with the real person we are dating but a fantasy version that we are projecting onto whoever is across the table or in our bed.

It is new for scientists like Porges and his wife, Sue Carter, to be able to measure the biological response that occurs when we feel safe. Porges studies ventral vagal nerve activation and Carter studies the presence of the neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin.

In his polyvagal theory, Porges calls this I am safe biology our social engagement system. When we are using our body's social engagement system, life is more nuanced, more creative, more playful.

Is there a way to date from our social engagement system, even when our world can feel so dangerous? Yes. We can use Naked Online: A DoZen Ways to Grow from Internet Dating, the book/workbook that helps us use online dating to develop healthier nervous system functioning.

Using Naked Online, we can become mindful of our urges to control situations where control is limited. What can we control in our dangerous world? Our mindfulness. We can stay awake to our surroundings, our voting choices, our expression of our opinions. What can we control in our dating?

  • We can stay awake and notice our body responses by using the Sensation Chart in chapter nine.
  • We can express our feelings in words and drawings throughout the book/workbook.
  • We can experiment with intentional breathing patterns using the information in chapter eleven.
  • We can use chapter ten to soothe our inner kid selves because our inner kid responses come directly out of our animal biology.

Dating in a dangerous world requires some action toward staying awake. When we are awake to the realities of our changing world, we can soothe our kid selves by sorting out what we have control over and what we do not. We can partner with this workbook, something we can hold onto and from which we can read comforting words and helpful science. As we calm our beating hearts, we can find the spaces where it is possible to enjoy the sensations of our sexual selves with the real people with whom we are sharing those moments.

That One

Dozens of writers are trying to help daters find great relationships if we find The ONE!  I mean no disrespect to those who claim this, but I’m now looking for THAT ONE instead of “The One.” I changed my mind when I learned from my friend Dee Wagner, a psychotherapist, that if you are searching for “The One,” you are actually looking for your mother, or whoever raised you.

Evidently relationship theorists have known for years that we attract mates with whom we can work out issues we developed in childhood. And now scientists explain to us about our need to attach to our biological mothers. Whatever happened to us as babies sets up what’s called our attachment style! 

So instead of looking for ‘The One” I’m going to start looking for THAT ONE.

From dating online these past 4 years, I have figured out THAT ONE may not be the best looking man I meet. Or the man whose profile I SO connect to online. He’s probably going to be someone I’m attracted to, but not over the moon about at first.

This is a shocker. I’m accustomed to fireworks. I want BOOM!!!

I’m used to the “ants in your pants” and “popping a blood vessel” feelings described in the sensation chart in “Naked Online:A DoZen Ways to Grow From Internet Dating.” I’m new to the sensations the book calls “the fertile valley” of “Om,” “cautiously content,” and “in the flow.”   

I’m a co-author of this book, so it may seem strange when I say I’m learning from it. But “Naked Online” was written for me in a lot of ways. I co-created it with Dee and her partner, who she met online. We all used our online dating experiences. Dee threw in her therapeutic skills and work with couples and clients who online date. Naked Online is a book/workbook to help us deal with the stresses of dating online and to make the whole process playful, instead of so serious.

The sensation chart in Chapter 9 has worked well for me. When I go out with a guy and I stay conscious of my body and how I feel, I stay in the “fertile valley.”  Instead of popping a blood vessel and building a great fantasy about how this connection will go, I stay more present.  I am able to practice mindful romance. And more and more science shows that it is from staying calm and “in the fertile valley” that we are able to truly connect and grow towards a long term, healthy relationship with THAT ONE.  

 Author Kathy Jernigan is co-author of “Naked Online: A DoZen Ways to Grow From Internet Dating,”  ( and

Technology Portals and NYTimes

I read this Sunday NYTimes article. Check it out with attention to the internet addiction part of the story.

In a webinar that Ray Barrett and I are developing for therapists, we differentiate between an internet portal that is like an umbilical chord/IV line and one that is like a viewing window. The window helps us keep our distance and our boundaries.

In the NYT article, a scammer preys on a regular guy's vulnerability. Fortunately, the guy talks about it with the authorities. Unfortunately, the authorities think he is delusional and/or a spy. As an author of a workbook for online daters, I can recognize his behavior as what we call Romance Trance.

Naked Online teaches us how to use a Sensation Scale and a Giving and Taking Scale to care well for our vulnerable selves which are like our inner kid selves. When we care for our kid selves, we are less likely to drift into Romance Trance and become prey for scammers!

Read the NYTimes article here