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Shutdown - 1 Page Lesson

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

This is a segment from my Polyvagal One Pagers free PDF in my File Share. There are more short lessons on the fundamentals of the Polyvagal Theory in that PDF as well. These are useful for your own short lessons, classes you might teach or handouts you might give out at a seminar or workshop.


The shutdown system is the dorsal vagal parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous


The shutdown system is important for conservation of bodily resources. If the body goes into shutdown, it’s anticipating that its life is in threat and shuts down all bodily processes. This serves to not only conserve resources, but also provides potential opportunities for survival. Predators are less likely to eat a corpse, which “playing possum” looks like. This conservative shutdown state is intended to be temporary and something the body comes out of when able to mobilize to safety.

Shutdown results in significant changes in social functioning:

  • disconnection from the self and others

  • numbness and dissociation

  • removal of eye contact

  • flat facial affect

  • inhibited movement

  • voice becomes more flat and monotone

  • limited range of emotional expression

The world is: overwhelming, uninteresting, pointless

Thoughts become: hopeless, apathetic

Feelings of: hopelessness, fogginess, tiredness, numbness, disconnectedness, aloneness,


Loss of: energy, motivation, connection, hope

Become more: cold, disconnected, isolated, lethargic, unmotivated

For even more information on the Polyvagal Theory, check out these other resources I have:

  • You can download a 1-page Polyvagal Theory resource in my File Share. There's this and many many other one-pagers for you to use.

  • The Polyvagal 101 page

  • the Polyvagal Theory on the Stuck Not Broken podcast, episodes 101-109

  • plus everything else I have in the blog and the Polyvagal 101 course below

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