The Polyvagal Theory is a theory that explains how our autonomic nervous system (ANS) works.
- It explains how our ANS reacts to experiences and manages responses.
- It describes how our ANS processes information and sets responses in motion to support us in safely navigating the demands of our day-to-day lives.
- It introduces a hierarchy of three biological response states that demonstrates how we navigate states of engagement, mobilization, and collapse in response to our daily lives.
Ventral Vagal State
The Ventral Vagal state is a state of safety, social engagement, and connection. In this state, we feel safe, connected to the world around us, and are open to social engagement with others.
When we are in Ventral Vagal, we are able to stay in a state of calm and balance, manage our challenges without emotional outbursts, ask for and receive help if needed, and are able to problem-solve effectively. This is our desired “home base”. In body-oriented therapy, we aim to identify when we are in this state, what helps us stay in this state, and what helps us find out way back into this state.
The Sympathetic state is one of mobilization, agitation, and frantic response. In this state, we feel unsafe, overwhelmed, agitated, and disconnected from the world around us.
When we are in a Sympathetic State, we have an urge to take action and mobilize to avert real or perceived danger. We often feel a rush of energy in our bodies propelling us into action. This response is most commonly associated with a state of anxiety and irritation. Without effective strategies to find our way back into Ventral, we will either take action to discharge the activated energy through fight or flight response or drop into the Dorsal Vagal State.
Dorsal Vagal State
The Dorsal Vagal state is one of numbness, hopelessness, and collapse. In this state, we feel unsafe, alone, despaired, and empty.
When we are in Dorsal Vegal State, we have given up hope and feel empty inside. We feel isolated from others, and believe that no resolution can be found and there is no hope for us. We…