Responding to Cues of Safety & Danger (5/6)

Presenter: Deb Dana

It is unrealistic and unhealthy to always be in ventral. We are at our healthiest when we are flexible and can easily and quickly move between these states as needed.

For example, when we are playing and we lose connection, we will move from ventral into sympathetic and become aggressive.

Without any regulation, the heart would beat dangerously fast, so the heart has a vagal brake, which typically suppresses the heart rate to 60-80 beats per minute through its influence on the sinoatrial node of the heart.

The vagal brake releases when we inhale and reengages when we exhale, which is why we see heart rate variability and why it’s important to breathe out for longer than we breathe in.

We have to have the right amount of challenge to our system where we can stretch our limits and savor our growth. If we go too far, we put the body into stress and it goes into survival mode, which releases the vagal brake.

The vagal brake allows us to mobilize when there is danger. It allows us to rapidly engage and disengage, to quickly energize and calm, and brings a sense of ease to transitions.

People often want to power through even though they feel their sympathetic or dorsal vagal systems activate, which is not helpful because we can’t learn in these states.

The longer we stay in sympathetic or dorsal, the harder it becomes for us to move between states.

Ventral vagal is our home state when we are healthy. In order to build up ventral vagal as our home, we need more and more moments in ventral vagal.

Which state would you say is your home away from home- sympathetic or dorsal? The one you go to most often if you aren’t safe and social?

We cannot go from dorsal directly to ventral. We have to mobilize first and then move into feeling safe and social.

An example of how we experience grief in each of the states- When we are in ventral, we are able to feel the loss. When in sympathetic, we are angry about the loss and want to get away from it. When we are in dorsal, we fall into despair.

Head here to learn more about grief or head here to learn about sound therapy.


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