Making Friends With Your Nervous System

Borrowed from Dr. Stephen Porges theory of the polyvagal; when under threat, the Dorsal Vagus also is known as the “Dumb Vagus,” because it is responsible for causing immobilization (freeze response)  can be redirected in helpful ways. We just have to understand its role as well as how it is repeatedly activated in childhood trauma.  As an adult, there are things you can do to make sure that the ” Smart Vagus,” ( Ventral Vagus)   activates when under stress and not the Dorsal Vagus.

The Ventral Vagus moves to socialization, ( calling out to loved ones or other humans for help)  as the first line of defence when under threat. The second line of defence fight or flight.   In times of extreme threat ( life-threatening), the final response is connected to our reptilian brain and immobilization response. Freeze response is connected to the immobilization part of our reptilian brain. An example of freeze response is seen with reptiles such as lizards or alligators.

When we calm our nervous system, we are less likely to dissociate/ freeze and more likely to access our ventral Vagus which connects us to other mammals as the first line of defence should the nervous system become triggered or activated.

Dr. Porges points out that we do not have to be in a reciprocal loving relationship with another human to calm our nervous system. We can also be in a mutual loving relationship with another mammal such as a pet.

Here is a great hand out by Ravi Dykema on the Do’s and Dont’s of Poly Vagal

Adapted by Crystal Arber  CC  2014

poly vagal hand out