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    Meeting Your Nervous System

    Many of us are unfamiliar with the functions of the Autonomic Nervous system (ANS). Ironically enough, this is by design. Our nervous system is a finely tuned network of electrical signals always running in the background sending messages between the brain and the body. This network controls all of our lives’ subconscious functions from breathing to digestion. It was not until 1994 that the work of neurobiologist, Stephen Porges had begun to transform our understanding of the role the nervous system can play in connection and safety. The experimental work that Porges had begun in the late 60’s was evolving into a theory that was now thought to be applicable in a clinical setting; thus, Polyvagal theory was born. Deb Dana, the visionary of polyvagal theory’s application in clinical work, termed the theory the science of safety.[1] She outlines that through the lens of this theory we are able to better understand the autonomic nervous system’s (ANS) role in an individual’s perception of safety and ability to connect with others.

    Polyvagal theory looks at the role of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, specifically the Vagus nerve, and the information it gathers from the environment through a process called neuroception. [2] The information gathered throughout our lives, through observation and interaction, influences how we interact with ourselves, others, and the larger environment. Our ability or inability to connect begins to tune our expectations for safety and ultimately shapes the narrative of our lives. [1] The knowledge pulled from Polyvagal theory creates a map that better explains the deeply rooted effects of trauma and the important role that coregulation plays starting in early infancy.

    In Deb Dana’s book, “The polyvagal theory in therapy: Engaging the rhythm of regulation” she provides a breakdown of the theory and the organizing principles. [1] In this work there are several practical applications of the theory that demonstrate ways that we can become more familiar with our nervous system and the experience of the individual states (Ventral Vagal, Sympathetic, and Dorsal Vagal).

    To learn more about Polyvagal theory and the role our nervous system plays in our connection to others and the environment visit https://www.rhythmofregulation.com or https://www.polyvagalinstitute.org .

    1.Dana, D. (2019). The polyvagal theory in therapy: Engaging the rhythm of regulation. W W Norton and Company.

    2. Porges, S. W. (2011).The polyvagal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation. W W Norton and Company.