In this episode, we begin to revisit the foundations of the Polyvagal Theory!
My name is Justin Sunseri.
I’m a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist obsessed with the polyvagal theory.
Welcome to Stuck Not Broken.
EPISODE MAP -
Foundational Polyvagal Theory elements to begin this series: the ANS, the Polyvagal Ladder, the Vagus nerve and neuroception
Resources to go along with this and all parts of the upcoming Polyvagal 101 series in the File Share on justinlmft.com
But before I get into things -put yourself first. I keep every episode as safe as I can, but just by the nature of the topics, you may experience some stuff come up. Take a break if you need to. This episode is probably going to bring up some stuff for you.
This podcast is not therapy, nor intended to be a replacement for therapy.
The Autonomic Nervous System
The Autonomic Nervous System controls the body’s internal environment.
2 main branches: sympathetic & parasympathetic
We don’t shift ans state due to choice
Like you’ll probably shift your state right now when you realize there’s a spider hanging right behind your head
Or you won’t react, also out of your choice
Every autonomic response is in service of survival
Supposed to happen
Why the ANS is important
Makes daily living and surviving possible
Otherwise we would have to think about all these processes in real time
How much to tense our muscles, sweat, increase heart beat and adjust our breathing
Moment to moment
Primary ANS States
Either Safe & Social, Flight/Fight or Shutdown
Mixing these states is possible
More on this in a future episode
A reaction to the outside environment
Dangerous environment or person
Sounds, sights and sensory inputs
Chronic illness, pain, hunger
Also environmental, but worth differentiating
Between two or more people
Cues of danger in big and small
Aggression or looking at a cell phone
More on this in co-regulation later on
A football fan’s reaction to something is much different than a non-fans’, like the 49ers losing their past two Super Bowl appearances
One group of men scoring more points than another might mean nothing to you, but it’s devastating for others
A Star War’s fan is much different than a non, like in the sequel trilogy that is awful and genuinely upsetting due to its awfulness
Gunshots in a neighborhood example
The filter that we experience the world through
Possible to become stuck in defensive states
The Polyvagal Ladder
From Deb Dana
Metaphor for ANS hierarchy stacked in body
Top - Ventral vagal Safe & Social
Middle - Sympathetic Flight & Fight
Bottom - Dorsal vagal shutdown
Not a menu of options
Often how a survivor’s bx is evaluated
The Vagus Nerve
Porges quote from 15
Not thing we’re addressing in and of itself
Porges quote from 15
But the brainstem is really the key to all of this
This is the key point that triggers the ANS into different bx and the brain into different possibilities
Created by Dr Porges to explain the phenomenon of hardwired autonomic shifts within the mammalian organism
Information comes in through the five senses
Then primitive parts of the brain evaluate for safety, danger or life threat
Responses are unconscious and biologically hardwired
Not a choice
We are hardwired to respond to some stimuli in certain ways, but won’t look the same for everyone
Prosodic voices bring us a neuroception of safety
Monotone voices are a neuroception of danger
Thought experiment -
Wide eyes, stiff muscles, a head that is looking straight ahead will be…?
A baby that is cooing and smiling and giggling and looking at you in the eyes will be…?
Social or defensive behaviors are triggered
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
Like a key
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
Accurately identifying red flags and safety
Feeling safe with safe others, but also mobilizing when needed
Feeling safe on a date with your spouse, mobilizing if there is danger on the date
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
Missing red flags in the moment
Sexually abused mom that allows short-term b/f to move in
Stillness examples - yoga and kids in class
“Story follows state”
Might not be reality
Example of a child watching a parent sleep?
Example of Jay walking into my room in the middle of the night, saw shadow movement first, neuroception of danger and tense muscles while holding breath, image/story of burglar in mind, then realized it was him
Takeaway from all this -
Polyvagal Theory as a new Paradigm
PVT brings a new paradigm vs DSM
State vs disorder
Roadmap of change
More utility with less judgment
PVT as a new Narrative when applied to the self
Apply it to the self
Polyvagal Patrons, let me know what you thought of this episode and the Member’s episode in the Patreon comments.
Polyvagal resources on my website
Blog with short articles
THANKS SO MUCH FOR LISTENING!
I hope you’ve learned something new to help you climb your polyvagal ladder.
This podcast is not therapy, not intended to be therapy or be a replacement for therapy. Nothing in this creates or indicates a therapeutic relationship. Please consult with your therapist or seek for one in your area if you are experiencing mental health sx. Nothing in this podcast should be construed to be specific life advice; it is for educational and entertainment purposes only. More resources are available in the description of this episode and in the footer of justinlmft.com.
PVT Books - https://www.justinlmft.com/books
Polyvagal 101 - https://www.justinlmft.com/polyvagal101
File Share - https://www.justinlmft.com/fileshare
Stephen Porges interview - https://www.justinlmft.com/post/episode15
Deb Dana interview - https://www.justinlmft.com/post/debdanainterview
Building Safety Anchors - https://www.justinlmft.com/challenge-page/5180d0d1-fa0d-4833-8a96-b41546791435/
Intro/Outro music & Transition Sounds by Benjo Beats - https://soundcloud.com/benjobeats
National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1 (800) 273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline -1 (800) 799-7233
LGBT Trevor Project Lifeline - 1 (866) 488-7386
National Sexual Assault Hotline - 1 (800) 656-4673
Crisis Text Line - Text “HOME” to 741741
Call 911 for emergency
This podcast is not therapy, not intended to be therapy or be a replacement for therapy. Nothing in this creates or indicates a therapeutic relationship. Please consult with your therapist or seek for one in your area if you are experiencing mental health sx. Nothing in this podcast should be construed to be specific life advice; it is for educational and entertainment purposes only.