Monday, February 17, 2014.  In spite of having a quite demanding young toddler after my attention at the moment – (distraction:  Too strong a word?  Not.) –  I am going to try to post something important as I introduce it in my almost coherent words!!

What does being human have to do with ancient jawless fish?  Have you ever read any of the work of Dr. Stephen Porges (professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and director for that institution’s Brain-Body Center)? 

Illuminating.  Simply illuminating, very important information about – being HUMAN!

Here is a transcription Ravi Dykema was kind enough to post online in April 2006 of an interview done with Dr. Porges that is very readable and a great place to begin thinking along the lines of this great man.

What if many of your troubles could be explained by an automatic reaction in your body to what’s happening around you? What if the cure for mental and emotional disorders ranging from autism to panic attacks lay in a new understanding and approach to the way the nervous system operates? Stephen Porges, Ph.D., thinks it could be so. Porges, professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and director for that institution’s Brain-Body Center, has spent much of his life searching for clues to the way the brain operates, and has developed what he has termed polyvagal theory. It is a study of the evolution of the human nervous system and the origins of brain structures, and it assumes that more of our social behaviors and emotional disorders are biological—that is, they are “hard wired” into us—than we usually think. Based on the theory, Porges and his colleagues have developed treatment techniques that can help people communicate better and relate better to others.

The term “polyvagal” combines “poly,” meaning “many,” and “vagal,” which refers to the important nerve called the “vagus.” To understand the theory, let’s look at the vagus nerve, a primary component of the autonomic nervous system. This is the nervous system that you don’t control, that causes you to do things automatically, like digest your food. The vagus nerve exits the brain stem and has branches that regulate structures in the head and in several organs, including the heart. The theory proposes that the vagus nerve’s two different branches are related to the unique ways we react to situations we perceive as safe or unsafe. It also outlines three evolutionary stages that took place over millions of years in the development of our autonomic nervous system.”  By Ravi Dykema

How your nervous system sabotages your ability to relate:  An interview with Stephen Porges about his polyvagal theory

These are some of the questions Dr. Porges answers in this interview:

RD: Please tell me about the theory you have developed, polyvagal theory. Isn’t it an innovation on the theory of the two nervous systems [sympathetic/autonomic]?

RD: I’ve heard the human mind described as a paranoid instrument. The premise is that when we are living in our senses, in the here and now, we usually feel safe, but our thinking mind often throws scary impressions in front of us, as if it’s anticipating some threat.

RD: Can you talk about polyvagal theory as it relates to our need for safety and our reaction when we don’t think it’s there?

RD: Where’s the “freeze” response in all this?

RD: How does polyvagal theory relate to all this?

RD: So we could use dramatic facial expressions to calm down?

RD: So do humans have the ability to consciously access our more recently developed neurological systems, instead of reverting automatically to our reactive systems? If so, can we use them to override the vague anxiety with which many of us live?

RD: So let’s say I’ve just arrived at a party where I don’t know anybody, and I realize I’m underdressed for the occasion. I’m embarrassed, but it’s an important business function and I can’t leave. How would I use the listening-to-my-body approach to calm myself and feel safe?


How your nervous system sabotages your ability to relate:  An interview with Stephen Porges about his polyvagal theory


My personal favorite Porges’ gem in this article:   “…“home” is a powerful metaphor for safety.


Here is our first book out in ebook format.  A very kind professional graphic artist is going to revise our cover pro bono – what a gift and thank you Ben!o Click here to view or purchase:  A STORY WITHOUT WORDS

It lists for $2.99 and can be read free for Amazon Prime customers.  Reviews for the book on the Amazon.com site are WELCOME and appreciated!


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