Warning: array_intersect(): Expected parameter 2 to be an array, null given in /home/customer/www/drwillhorton.com/public_html/wp-content/plugins/page-or-post-clone/page-or-post-clone.php on line 123
Polyvagal Theory Explained Simply - Dr. Will Horton

Polyvagal Theory Explained Simply

Dr. Will Horton Trauma and Addiction Recovery Expert 

Have you ever been in a fight with your significant other? Maybe it’s not such an amicable day.

Your body has different reactions depending on whether or not the person is close to you, and what type of relationship they have with them. Imagine that same concept applied to all our relationships- at work, school, family members; we are always interacting closely (physically) and building up stress as their proximity increases.

It can be hard for people who don’t understand this theory well enough to see how often I talk about polyvagal theory because so many conversations seem like they’re circling around back there! But once I take some time explaining things clearly then everyone will know why it matters too much when talking about pain management strategies and dealing personally

You’ve been wondering how to live a life without stress, aches and pains?

Well today I’m going to show you! Today we’re talking about the whole body revolution.

It’s not often that you’ll come across a word with such an interesting origin.

The Latin root for this theory is “vagus,” which means to wander and wonder, relating back to the vagus nerve in our bodies as it wanders throughout your body. So what does all of this have to do with us? Well, I’m glad you asked!

The polyvagal theory suggests that we can be more or less grounded depending on how safe we feel at any given time because there are different branches of the Vagus Nerve system: one branch activates when something feels scary while another branch helps calm down those same parts so they don’t respond too strongly but still keep alert enough just incase danger comes close again.

The polyvagal theory was developed by a man named Steven Porges. He revolutionized how we saw our body’s stress response, and changed the way people thought of stress before he developed his revolutionary idea. Before Stephen Porges created this new understanding of what causes physical reactions to stressful events in ourselves, there were two ways that scientists believed you could react: either stressed or not stressed at all times – no middle ground existed between these polar opposites until now thanks to Polyvagal Theory.

In short, the process of digesting is simply off when you are in a state of danger. It’s either on or not at all and this has been an evolutionary trait that people have developed since caveman times for survival purposes.

The digestive system can be considered as one large “light switch” for humans who experienced great stresses during our history with earlier ancestors like ancient hunters being chased by predators!

Emotions are a complex system. While it may seem like we have only two modes of being, when in reality our bodies contain three different circuits to control how stress gets managed and communicated.

The first is ventral vagal activation – the fight-or-flight response that protects us from threats both internally and externally by releasing adrenaline into the bloodstream for quick reaction times;

Second is social engagement circuitry which regulates relationships with others through oxytocin release in order to keep them safe as well;

Thirdly there’s sympathetic nervous system activation or “fight or flight” mode where epinephrine floods your bloodstream so you can either run away or attack what’s threatening you before succumbing to danger.

One of the most important things for a writer is to not only know how to use words, but also have an understanding of what they mean. The word “complex” can be defined as something that has many different aspects or parts and there are several definitions before we even start talking about grammar! So this lesson will get into some complex terms like subject-verb agreement and semicolons while still being relatively easy so you don’t feel too lost in all those big words.

Ventral vagal social engagement is the place in our nervous system that facilitates connection with other people, it’s what we call “social” as humans.

Ventral vagal co-regulation means when your body and brain synchronize to regulate each other based on how much you are connected or related to others; so if someone feels a lot of anxiety – maybe because they’re doing something like public speaking without any preparation – their ventral vago will activate alongside their sympathetic fight/flight response.

When this happens, both systems work together making them more balanced overall which limits the individual from feeling really overwhelmed by fear but also leaves them open for some adrenaline (which boosts confidence) through heightened heart rate and respiration in order not to get too relaxed.

Ventral vagal is a happy place. This system helps us to connect with others, feel empathy for them, and interpret their facial expressions accurately. When we’re in this state of mind, it can be difficult to access things like joy or playfulness because these are usually reserved for when life feels a little easier than usual; however ventral vagal does allow you some sense of safety and security that most people do not have on any given day as well as feeling more content about our current situation no matter what may happen next so long as we maintain an open mindset!

The sympathetic nervous system is what you might associate with stress. It’s mobilizing, or ready to fight-or-flight at any moment.

This can be good for short bursts of energy when needed but it isn’t sustainable over the long term because too much activation causes nerve cells in your brain (neurons) to die and other neurons are cannibalized from healthy tissues if they’re not replenished quickly enough by new growths from stem cells.

So this leaves an individual feeling exhausted after a while – like he/she has nothing left in his/her tank, even though there was plenty before their downshift into sympathetic mode!

The fight-or-flight response is our body’s natural defense mechanism against stress and trauma. It often manifests itself in the form of an adrenaline rush, which can make you feel energized when times are rough or anxiety ridden during periods of high pressure. The fight-or-flight response was first discovered by Walter Cannon who identified it as a universal physiological reaction to fear not just humans but also animals such as deer who experience this emotional state before fleeing from danger.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is an evolutionary mechanism that slows everything down when it senses danger, allowing you to think clearly and act defensively.

It does this by activating the back muscles, which tighten up and become rigid in order for your body to be fully prepared for what’s coming next. When not activated because there isn’t any real threat present, these same muscle fibers can cause problems like chronic pain or a stiff neck if they’re constantly contracted without relief from stressors such as sitting at a desk all day or carrying around heavy bags on one shoulder too often.

Sympathetic nervous system was evolutionarily developed 400 million years ago as humans became mammalian creatures with complex brains: they reside near our spinal column where they are susceptible to overstimulation (remember running from that hungry lion).They send signals through nerves all around our body instructing organs like glands.

Almost everyone is familiar with the feeling of stress coming over you and your back tensing up. This can happen when we are in a new environment, feel like our safety or security will be compromised, or simply have too much on our plate to handle at once.

It’s understandable that chronic tension in one area would eventually lead to more widespread pain throughout the body as well as headaches and migraines! Luckily there is an answer for those suffering from this all-too common condition: Acupuncture therapy has been shown to promote weight loss by stimulating blood flow through acupuncture points which then decreases cortisol levels (a hormone connected closely with feelings of hunger) while promoting serotonin production (which increases mood).

I used to experience chronic back pain, but after a few sessions with Larry at my local chiropractor’s office the problem was solved. He said that this type of strain is often related to muscle tension and we found out it showed up in many different places throughout my body. At first I thought only one specific area could be causing all these problems like maybe just an issue with posture or something going on internally, but he helped me do some exercises and now everything feels great!

If you’re someone who has a lot of tummy troubles, pain and tension; this is why stretching may not be working. Moving down the polyvagal ladder one more rung brings us to dorsal vagal shutdown. When we are at ventral levels (front) in social engagement our whole bodies will relax rather than contract or tighten up with discomfort like when experiencing physiological shutdown in response to acute stressors such as injury from an attack or chronic illness.

Imagine a live wire that runs from the front of your body to the back. If you want it to be calming, make sure all energy is flowing through this ventral nerve in order for those positive effects on mental and physical health.

Now think about the fact that your ventral branch of your vagus nerve, this part of you nervous system evolved only 200 million years ago.

So it’s much newer than your sympathetic nervous system and 100 million years younger than the dorsal branch. You can see how evolution played a big role in designing our ability to be social beings by regulating stress like we just did during that shutdown response 500-million year old evolutionary process.

And what dorsal vagal shutdown means is, you could say it’s similar to playing possum. It’s a place of immobilization where the body shuts down as if in deep sleep and death so that predators can’t detect them.

When an individual experiences a state of collapse, they may lack the ability to act and be rather flaccid. I often have seen this in people who are hypermobile because their nervous system has shut down for some reason but also can show up with other health conditions that cause joint mobility such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. The second way is if someone freezes due to overwhelming fear or anxiety which disconnects them from reality allowing themselves time to compartmentalize what’s happening before engaging again. You lay still, paralyzed by fear. It feels like you can’t move a muscle and your mind is screaming for the blood that has now drained from your extremities to return so it might make its escape.  

The voice in my head whispers “please don’t let me die.” I beg myself not to succumb as an inner battle rages on within me taking place with every second ticking away between life or death.

The sympathetic system is responsible for the fight or flight response, which in turn creates feelings of intense stress and anxiety. The dorsal vagal shutdown has a much more sedating effect on emotions since it shuts down activity from both systems to create feelings of lethargy and sadness among others negative emotional states like hopelessness that are not so close as frenzied chaos caused by the sympathetic nervous system when activated. So I don’t want you to think that the three states are easy. They’re actually much more complex and they can be broken down into a lot of different factors, but for now this is going to have to do!

Stress and anxiety have become our new way of life. We’re always on edge, we constantly worry about what people think or say to us, but when are they responsible for the stresses that happen in their lives? It’s just too much! So how do you survive this constant sympathetic activation without going insane or dying from your heart exploding like an over-caffeinated squirrel who forgot his coffee break?

You need a good balance between being able to feel stress so it doesn’t overwhelm you while also giving yourself breathing room with mindfulness practices where there is nothing else happening except calmly existent awareness. It’s not surprising that so many people are stressed. There’s the stress from work, traffic and living in a busy city to name just three of them! All these different factors can be overwhelming which is why it has been shown time and again how important it is for us to take some much-needed “me” time every once in a while.

We all have to deal with a number of stresses in our lives. You might be working, taking care of the kids and your mother who just broke her hip- not only that but you also need to find time for social activities while trying to maintain cultural traditions as well. It’s true that if we lived out on the Serengeti it would be more difficult because there are usually other animals around us like tigers chasing us too! What happens is, and also it compounds right so not only do you have your job, you have your kids and you have these societal stressors which can’t really escape from even when they’re going about their day-to-day life; this includes things such as family obligations or religious rituals.

In our hectic world, we often feel like life is moving too quickly for us to keep up. We end up in a constant state of fight or flight and the sympathetic system activates that response with an unrelenting compounded stress over time.

Luckily your body has ways of protecting you from these high levels of activation by shutting down dorsal vagal responses which brings your nervous system back into balance and protects its homeostasis (or natural equilibrium).

So people will often have this like a ball of sympathetic activation and then on top of it, a bit like a pressure cooker is that dorsal vagal going “nope, we can’t sustain this for long period time” So they appear calm. If you’ve ever met someone who just seems really chill or over-chill with an uneasy feeling when around them; that’s the hidden response to their capped sympathetic nervous system. Whether it’s a sudden outburst or an angry reaction, anger is one of the most common emotions that can be seen in everyday life.

It seems as though anyone could get mad at any moment and this has been my experience with friends, family members, and previous clients alike. Anger usually occurs for no apparent reason but there are some people who manage to keep their cool when they might make others feel like they’re overreacting by not reacting enough.

The sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems are constantly at odds with each other, but when too much of one system dominates over the other it leads to explosive situations.

The ventral vagal is a calming response while the dorsal vagal acts as an inhibitor for our emotions which can be helpful in times where we need calmness or patience. A person’s energy levels can be a lot more complicated than just being in the dorsal and ventral vagal states. Sometimes, when you give someone an energetic push they will move from their immobilized state into their sympathetic system instead of jumping over to the other side. These two systems are not mutually exclusive; it is possible for them both to exist at one time under different circumstances–especially nuanced ones like stress that play with these energies as well!

So, polyvagal theory is a relatively new discovery that helps us understand why we can have such drastically different reactions to similar stimuli.

Explanation: In order for me to make sure I’m able track whether or not what information was getting across effectively, I wanted some feedback from those of you who are reading (or watching) this post and taking time out of their day just so they could get more knowledge on something dedicated like Polyvagal Theory. So please let me know if questions arise below and don’t forget to give “Yes” as your response when asked!

Okay, so why is it important to understand the polyvagal theory and how stress impacts our bodies?

Understanding these two things will help you manage your pain more effectively. Simply put, we have a sympathetic system that activates when we feel threatened or activated in response to an unexpected event (e.g., fight-or-flight). This can result in tight muscles or tension headaches as well if not dealt with healthily by taking care of ourselves physically and mentally – which I talked about earlier!

The fight-or-flight response is the body’s natural way of protecting itself. When you are in a situation that would require these responses, your brain senses danger and sends out hormones to prepare for action–whether it be fighting or fleeing from an animal who could kill us with one swipe of its paw.

This causes our blood pressure and heart rate to increase while simultaneously decreasing digestive processes as digestion takes up too much energy when we’re running away! The fact of the matter is that being in either state (the sympathetic or dorsal vagal shutdown) constitutes a survival state within our bodies because there’s an act of self preservation happening within this nervous system. And if we remain in these states long enough then not only will they sensitize it.

Your hearing will actually shift to tune into low-frequency sounds like the growls of a predator. This is what’s happening when people say they “saw red” or felt angry without any stimulus in front of them that would make them feel this way, and it totally changes how you perceive your reality. As we know from neuroscience, our perceptions are not always based on external stimuli–our brain can sometimes interpret input as dangerous which means sensory stimulation (such as an unpleasant noise) has been interpreted by our brains as being painful even though it shouldn’t be.

It’s no wonder that dysregulated states of the nervous system can really affect your performance in life, and give you more problems than just an upset stomach.

For example, if a person is dealing with these types of regulations to their body then they are not going to have as much energy available for working or doing anything else because the sympathetic state means less focus on digesting food; it also has negative effects on athletic ability which I’m sure will be hard enough without having this extra problem when trying out for sports.

Your stomach might be growling, but a serial killer could make you forget about all that. It’s easy to focus on running away instead of eating when there is a murderous stalker after your blood and guts.

The inability to digest food and the physical toll it takes on your body can negatively impact other aspects of life as well.

In a social situation, for example, you may have trouble connecting with others when symptoms like digestive issues or anxiety make it hard to focus on conversation and carry out day-to-day tasks that require concentration.

Your mental performance is also impaired by these conditions because they interfere with how effectively we process thoughts at rest (known scientifically as “ventral vagal state”). This means not only does this condition impair our digestion but also causes us problems in communicating socially or performing cognitively demanding tasks such as reading comprehension tests after being exposed to stressors. Your body is your guide to how you’re feeling in the moment.

When we are under too much stress, our sympathetic nervous system shuts down and so do all other bodily functions. This causes us to be out of touch with ourselves on a deep level and it can make for an unsafe environment around people who don’t understand what’s happening or might react poorly if they did know about this phenomenon that has infiltrated modern society at large levels.

Relationships take time to build and a lifetime of dedication – but as humans, we are relationship creatures. Being in these stress states make it difficult for us to be the best versions of ourselves when interacting with others on every level: physical health, mental health & emotional wellbeing.

There are a lot of programs and books around becoming aware of yourself, but these insights only go so far. In order to change your beliefs for the better you need more than just awareness; deep insight is what will make lasting changes in how we see ourselves.

It is said that the “social engagement” neural processes are 400 million years old.

This means they have existed since before language even became a thing, so it will not be easy to converse with them on an intellectual level without first understanding how to use your physical body and practice certain exercises in order to interrupt these older reflexes designed for hunting prey which do not exist anymore thanks modern society!

So the first thing that I recommend you do is start to become aware of what state your body’s in and how it responds to certain contexts. That goes on all the time beneath our conscious awareness, so even if we don’t really feel like there’s a reason for us to be stressed about anything happening right now, maybe things are looking pretty good from an external perspective; internally though, as we go through different situations throughout life- whether they’re emotionally taxing or not -we can have stress states going on within ourselves.

When you’re born, your nervous system is not developed enough to handle the outside world which causes us to have a fight or flight response. Over time this can lead and contribute to anxiety because we are constantly on edge waiting for something bad to happen when it’s more likely that nothing will ever come of it in most cases.

Even so, if you want some help with how co-regulation works then checking out my pain free at any age video series might be helpful! In this video series I’ll give you some tools and worksheets to help manage your physical states of arousal.

Sometimes we are in the habit of over-regulating our bodies, which can lead to being stuck with chronic pain that never goes away; other times it might be important for us not to feel ourselves so much when managing persistent trauma or abuse from childhood.