Illuminate a Path to Freedom
If you have grown up with long-term, chronic trauma exposure you might find it difficult to accurately perceive whether people or places are safe or trustworthy. Sometimes, it can become difficult to tell differentiate between experiences that occurred in the past and what is happening now, in the present moment. The polyvagal theory helps us understand the neural circuits involved in these types of symptoms of PSTD and can illuminate a path to freedom.
Initial research about stress and trauma identified the sympathetic nervous system as responsible for PTSD symptoms. As a result, symptom reduction emphasized accessing the healing power of the parasympathetic nervous system and the “relaxation response”. At that time, the parasympathetic nervous system was only associated with our ability to rest, digest, regenerate, and heal from injury. While the parasympathetic nervous system does play a role in healing, it isn’t the whole story.
“It turns out that the parasympathetic nervous system is not only associated with relaxation but is also implicated with symptoms of PTSD. Stephen Porges introduced the polyvagal theory as a means to help us understand this dual function of the parasympathetic nervous system. His work reveals an evolutionary older survival mechanism in which the parasympathetic nervous system leads us to immobilize or “faint” in the face of a life-threatening event. Most importantly, the polyvagal theory teaches you to engage your social nervous system to consciously inhibit your defensive system. This allows you to finally find freedom from trauma symptoms and experience a deeply nourishing sense of safety here and now.”
–Dr. Arielle Schwartz