Complex PTSD Workbook: Vagus nerve; part one

The vagus nerve plays a central role in ANS regulation because it connects your brain to your digestive system, heart, lungs, throat, and facial muscles.
Dr. Stephen Porges introduced polyvagal theory , which proposes your nervous system reflects a developmental progression with three evolutionary stages:
• When you experience a stressful event, your ANS responds with sympathetic nervous system mobilization into the fight-or-flight response. This process aims to protect you and help you reestablish safety.
• If you can’t resolve the stressful situation or are facing a life-threatening event, you will resort to an earlier set of evolutionary mechanisms maintained by the dorsal vagal complex (DVC). This parasympathetic branch of your vagus nerve puts an abrupt, unrefined brake on your sympathetic nervous system by promoting immobilizing defensive actions such as fatigue, depression, or dissociation—consider concepts like fainting or feigning death.
• In order to regulate your ANS, you need to engage the most recently evolved parasympathetic branch of the vagus nerve called the ventral vagal complex (VVC), or alternatively, the social nervous system. This branch functions as a highly refined brake on sympathetic activation, and has a calming and soothing effect.
Importantly, both the DVC and VVC have parasympathetic actions that exert inhibition on the sympathetic nervous system.
The DVC inhibits it in a negative way (dissociation, helplessness, and despair), which can have serious repercussions on mental and physical health.
Conversely, the VVC is associated with increases in health and emotional well-being, as it allows you to rest, digest, and relax into feelings of safety and connection.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Anonymous on May 31, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Thank you

  2. I am curious about the relationship between VVC and SNS. The VVC puts a brake on fight/flight, but it seems like there are positive and pleasurable activities where both SNS and VVC are very much on board, like theater or sports.

  3. Great question. I am definitely not a brain scientist.

    I just read about a scenario where we find ourselves on a roller coaster. Our usual fight or flight mechanism would be going defcon 5 but our cognitive side over rides panic by knowing it is a ride and will be over with in three minutes.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on this subject.

    Also you may have a post in you about your journey you would like to share.

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