How to map your emotional landscape: A polyvagal perspective

Written By admin

May 13, 2023

Have you ever stopped to ponder the intricate workings of your own nervous system, the silent conductor orchestrating your experiences and emotions? I’ve embarked on a fascinating journey of self-discovery that led me to explore the depths of the nervous system, informed by the wisdom of Polyvagal Theory. Let me take you on a personal adventure where we unravel the wonders of the nervous system and delve into the transformative power of this theory.

Our nervous system is an intricate network of pathways that extends throughout our body, connecting our brain, organs, and muscles. It’s a fascinating system that regulates our bodily functions, processes our emotions, and influences our interactions with the world around us. However, it wasn’t until I learnt about Polyvagal Theory that I truly grasped the complexity and versatility of this awe-inspiring system.

Polyvagal Theory, developed by renowned neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges, sheds light on the connection between our nervous system and our emotional well-being. It explains how our autonomic nervous system responds to different cues, shaping our physiological and psychological states. The theory introduces us to three distinct states: the ventral vagal state, the sympathetic state, and the dorsal vagal state.

Graph illustrating the threat response- autonomic nervous system in action

The ventral vagal state, often referred to as the state of safety and connection, is the pinnacle of well-being. It allows us to engage with the world, forming healthy relationships, and experiencing a sense of groundedness and calm. This state supports emotional regulation, fostering a deep sense of inner peace and resilience.

On the other hand, the sympathetic state, known as the fight-or-flight response, activates when we perceive a threat or danger. In this state, our body prepares to either confront or escape the perceived threat. We may experience increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and heightened alertness, as our body gears up to protect us.

Lastly, the dorsal vagal state, also referred to as the freeze or shutdown response, occurs when our nervous system perceives extreme danger or overwhelm. In this state, our body conserves energy by slowing down bodily functions, and we may feel disconnected, numb, or dissociated from our surroundings.

Understanding these three states has been a revelation, as it empowers us to navigate our emotional landscape with greater awareness and compassion. It reveals that our nervous system is not simply a reactionary entity but a complex system that continuously seeks safety, connection, and self-regulation.

Through my exploration of this theory, I’ve learned a lot from Deb Dana, another pioneer in this field. I have learned that our state of well-being is not fixed or predetermined. Instead, it is influenced by the cues and context of our environment. By consciously cultivating an environment of safety, connection, and self-care, we can activate the ventral vagal state more frequently, allowing for enhanced emotional regulation and a greater sense of wholeness. Please refer to her wonderful books and further resources here.

Self compassion is foundational, these responses are neurobiological. Be kind to yourself

Polyvagal Theory also highlights the importance of self-compassion and understanding. It teaches us to embrace the various states of our nervous system, recognizing that dysregulation is a natural response to life’s challenges. By befriending our nervous system and cultivating a compassionate relationship with ourselves, we can navigate the ebbs and flows of our emotions with grace and resilience.

So, my fellow explorer of the self, I invite you to embark on your own journey into the depths of your nervous system. Dive into the wisdom of this theory, allowing it to guide you towards a deeper understanding of your emotional landscape. Embrace the power of creating a safe and nurturing environment that supports your nervous system’s quest for connection and regulation.

As I delved deeper into the wonders of the nervous system, I couldn’t help but feel inspired to explore a specific aspect in greater detail: the transformative potential of glimmers. These subtle sparks of ventral energy have captivated my attention, and I’m excited to share with you the intricate ways in which they can support our emotional well-being. Stay tuned for my upcoming follow-up article, where we will dive into the magic of glimmers and discover practical ways to cultivate more of these precious moments in our lives. Together, let’s continue unraveling the mysteries of the nervous system and embrace the beauty of glimmers for profound healing and connection.

May this newfound knowledge be a catalyst for your personal growth and self-compassion. May you unlock the transformative power of your own nervous system.


How to add play to your wellbeing toolkit

The opposite of play is not work - the opposite of play is depression." Says Dr. Stuart Brown We have been conditioned to believe that play is exclusively for children. Growing up comes with such ‘serious’ connotations. Play is also essential for adults to engage...

read more


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Submit a Comment