On Friday I convened 47 people to a discussion on Polyvagal Theory and how bodywork / body therapy can address and support the functioning of our nervous system, particularly the branches of the vagus nerve. Everyone who joined was a Zero Balancing practitioner, like myself, and the discussion was rich.
We are wired to respond to stress
As humans we have access to several response to stress including fight, flight, freeze, submit and attach. Previously it was simplified to fight/flight or rest/digest and it's 'freeze' that's newer and comes via research by Dr Stephen Porges and the Polyvagal Theory. The freeze (or faint) response is the nervous system essentially playing dead via lowering blood pressure, reducing the ability to hear/listen, process sounds and words, and also potentially affect memory following the event, as a few examples of what it looks like.
It's important to note that freeze, and all of the stress responses, are called up not just in response to life threatening events -- they can also be in response to events PERCEIVED as life threatening. And the more one is activated from previous stress or threat, the more likely a new threat will be perceived as high, or higher than it actually might be. Whether or not it reads the threat correctly, the body is doing the best it can with the information it has to protect you and your life.
We're bio-psycho-social - the response is adaptable
Whatever your reaction to stress, it's normal. We're all whole people and our bodies are doing the best they can to keep us alive. Fantastically, your response can be updated with new information. We are adaptable. There are specific activities that can boost emotional and body intelligence so the responses are to the current conditions rather than a memory of a previous event including --
Develop body awareness
Learn to self-regulate
Receive safe touch
Find soothing social engagement -- eye contact, smiling, talking softly
The heart of interpersonal neurobiology has shown we're wired to respond to our surroundings, especially people, in the growth and development, and perhaps healing, of our nervous systems. We are designed to be social creatures and can change most rapidly in connection with others.
Books and Charts
Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana
Clinical Applications of Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges and Deb Dana
Questionnaires and Research
Bulletproof Radio: Stephen Porges: The Polyvagal Theory & The Vagal Nerve
Time guide to specific interests --
4:00 start here
14:35 (understanding how the autonomic nervous system responds)
24:30 (how the inner ear of a mammal differentiates frequencies related to danger or safety)
34:50 (how to calm the nervous system -- spoiler alert: leave out the loud bass)
44:30 (how do I practice this?)
49:35 (THE ACTUAL THEORY!)
54:40 (If I want to be a better human, what are the three things I should know?)