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from Justin Sunseri, LMFT99147

Polyvagal Intro

The fundamentals of the Polyvagal Theory

What is the Polyvagal Theory?

The Polyvagal Theory, in essence, is the science of how mammals connect, but also how they respond to danger.  You've heard of fight & flight.  Wellll, there's more to it than that.  The PVT is the first to explain that there are actually three distinct primary states the body may be in:

Safe & social

(aka "ventral vagal") parasympathetic

Allows for social connection, executive functioning, play, stillness, health, growth and restoration.

Active when the external & internal worlds are perceived as safe.

Puncbag Hit

Flight & fight

(aka "sympathetic")

Survival mode - allows for legs to be used for evasion and arms for aggression.


Active when the internal or external worlds are perceived as being in danger.

Heart rate up, shallow breathing, muscles tense, looking for danger.


(aka "dorsal vagal") 2nd parasympathetic

Life threat response - allows for the end of life with little to no pain.  Numbing and dissociation allow for possibility of escape.

Active when the internal or external worlds are perceived as life threatening.

Body numbs, dissociation, drop in blood pressure and heart rate.

Mixed states

Those 3 are just the primary states.  It's also possible to have "mixed states," meaning the primaries are activated at the same time.  Just like mixing primary colors creates another color.  But you can't create a primary color by mixing other colors.  They simply exist on their own.


Safe /Social + Flight/Fight

For it to be play,  both mammals need to have access to their safe/social state as well as their flight/fight state.  If the flight/fight energy becomes too much, it's not play anymore.


Safe/Social + Shutdown

This is the ability to immobilize - to be still - without fear.  Including laying down to sleep, practicing yoga or meditation, being intimate and using the restroom, plus more.

Built on
the Polyvagal Theory

Just like my free resources, my courses are also built from the ground up on the Polyvagal Theory. I adhere to the fundamental teachings from the primary sources.

Building Safety Anchors

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Find more personal safety.

Polyvagal 101

Deepen your Polyvagal education.

My Polyvagal Trinity