In this episode, we put together all of the pieces that we’ve covered so far in the Polyvagal 101 series and how they relate to trauma. What it is. How we get there. And what to do about it.
My name is Justin Sunseri.
I’m a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist obsessed with the polyvagal theory.
Welcome to Stuck Not Broken.
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 could prove to be challenging for you, I’ll be naming a few things, though won’t go into specific details of events.
This podcast is not therapy, nor intended to be a replacement for therapy.
TOPIC -WHAT IS TRAUMA?
Widely used, possibly overused.
It’s more than the pieces of a diagnosis.
Being overwhelmed in a moment of danger? Yeah.
Too much too soon? Sure.
Something to do with the ‘reptilian brain’?
According to PVT and SE, tying together PVT101
Being stuck in an autonomic state of defense
flight/fight, shutdown or freeze
Not having access to the state of safety
This is what keeps the defensive states from becoming defensive
They become tolerable or mixed states
TOPIC -THE VAGAL BRAKE
The influence of the social engagement system on the heart
When the vagal brake is not strong enough:
We exist in a defensive state
The vagal brake calms the heart beat, taking us out of mobile defense or allowing mobility to return
Important for daily functioning so we don’t exist in defensive states
We’d be running, fighting or shutting down all the time
Probably has a lot to do with who gets traumatized or not
Surviving the same incident will result in different impacts on the individuals
Stronger VB comes from exercising the social engagement system more
Good enough parenting
Healthy history of play
2 PATHS TO TRAUMA -
How do we get stuck in a defensive state?
Surviving an acute event (freeze, PTSD); “shock trauma”
Neurocepting danger and life threat simultaneously
Mobilizing while shutting down
Social engagement system can still develop and the individual can potentially live a functional life, have healthy friendships
Someone with a healthy enough childhood, sees success in life, could survive something and be traumatized, but still have a healthy life overall
If proper supports are in place, have access to necessary self care resources
Will have triggering experiences
Chronic disruption of connectedness (shutdown, freeze, CPTSD)
Social engagement system does not develop
Never meeting developmental milestones, including necessary social engagement
Loneliness, abandonment, rejection, isolation
Left in a shutdown state
Ongoing abuse, lack of safety relief
Student that would dissociate during Father’s sexual abuse - had both freeze and shutdown, especially when grandparent died
Individual less likely to be able to identify healthy relationships
TOPIC -HUMANS STAY STUCK IN TRAUMA
Humans are spooked by the bodily sensations of coming out of immobility
We get sent back down the ladder when our bodies attempt to go up
Our bodies are stuck in a state of defense
The experience, the pain, the sadness, the humiliation, disgust, embarrassment, the loneliness that stems from the traumatic event itself
We avoid these because it’s vulnerable, scary and we literally might feel like we’re dying
Stories and beliefs we create about the event or ourselves keep us stuck in trauma
Isolating ourselves keep us stuck in trauma
Keeping it secret keeps us struck in trauma
TOPIC -COMING OUT OF A TRAUMATIZED STATE
Animals can come out of trauma easily
They shake it off and move on
Humans can, but don’t really
Crying can be an avenue to do so
Laughter can also be an avenue to do so
Essential to the process is developing the strength of your vagal brake
BSA is helpful for this
Doesn’t solve the problem of the stuck energy, but helps to lay the foundation for climbing the polyvagal ladder
Understanding the Polyvagal Ladder
Knowing what will happen next so it’s not a surprise when one attempts to resolve their stuck energy
Feeling into the somatic pieces of the stuck state
Under the emotions, the somatic feelings and sensations
Being with the sensations and allowing them to do what they need to, while maintaining access to safety and present moment
Peter Levine does a lot of great work around the shock type of trauma and being with the sensations and allowing them to discharge
THANKS SO MUCH FOR LISTENING!
I hope you’ve learned something new to help you climb your polyvagal ladder and got a clearer or more comprehensive understanding of how trauma and the PVT relate.
Building Safety Anchors - https://www.justinlmft.com/challenge-page/5180d0d1-fa0d-4833-8a96-b41546791435/
This week’s Patreon episode -
Intro/Outro music & Transition Sounds by Benjo Beats - https://soundcloud.com/benjobeats
PTSD & Freeze episode - https://www.justinlmft.com/podcast/episode/3a4ba2ff/ptsd-and-the-polyvagal-theory
CPTSD & Shutdown episode - https://www.justinlmft.com/podcast/episode/1ff7370b/complex-ptsd-and-the-polyvagal-theory
Polyvagal Ladder episode and blog - https://www.justinlmft.com/post/the-polyvagal-ladder
5 Ways Humans Keep Themselves Stuck - https://www.justinlmft.com/podcast/episode/1fd9965e/5-things-humans-do-to-keep-themselves-stuck
5 Ways Humans Keep Each Other Stuck - https://www.justinlmft.com/podcast/episode/1fba397c/5-things-humans-do-to-keep-each-other-stuck
Deb Dana and other books - https://www.justinlmft.com/books
Deb Dana interview 1 - https://www.justinlmft.com/post/debdanainterview
Deb Dana interview 2 - https://www.justinlmft.com/post/debdanainterview2
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.