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Intro to the Polyvagal Theory / episode 1 Show Notes

Updated: May 4, 2023

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Further reading:


Episode 1 Show Notes

Mammals are able to automatically adjust to various levels of safety, danger or life threat. But these adjustments have consequences for daily living because we can get stuck.

The Autonomic Nervous System controls the body’s internal environment.

  • Breathing, heart rate, digestion

  • 2 main branches: sympathetic & parasympathetic

  • Unconscious

  • Every autonomic response is in service of survival


  • Safe & Social

  • Flight & Fight

  • Freeze

  • It’s not an option, it’s a sequence.


  • Either Safe & Social, Flight/Fight or Freeze

  • A reaction to the outside world, internal world, and our perceptions

  • The filter that we experience the world through


  • The body’s ability to detect risk outside of conscious awareness

  • Shifts the body up and down the polyvagal ladder to the different states

  • As the body moves down the ladder, we lose access to the behaviors higher up the ladder and defensive behaviors are unlocked in order to survive

Healthy Neuroception

  • The body detects and shifts to the appropriate State based on environment

  • The body uses safe & social behavior in a safe environment

  • The body does not use defenses like fighting or fleeing unless in danger

Unhealthy Neuroception

  • The body does not accurately detect or shift State based on environment

  • The body does not flee or fight when in unsafe situations

  • The body does not use safe & social behavior in a safe environment

  • May be at the core of many mental health disorders

To get back to the top of the ladder, we need to go through each state. If we’re in shut down, we need to go into fight, then flight and then into safety. If we’re in fight, we need to move up to flight and then into safety


When these State shifts occur, we create a story to explain why.

  • “The teacher hates me. There’s no point in trying,”

  • “I deserved it.”

  • “I’m worthless.”

  • “I shouldn’t have been there.”

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