Polyvagal Theory

Polyvagal theory in a gist.

I love illustrating concepts and putting them into understandable chunks. Hope this helps.


When we’re threatened our Sympathetic nervous system is active. We go into flight and fight response. It’s the mobilzation stage, the first line of defence against threat. A survival response.

When our life is threatened we might also go into a freeze state which is part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s a shut down. This is the second line of defence, the last ditch effort when fight or flight isn’t possible.
This is the dorsal vagal branch of the parasympathetic nervous system. This nerve comes around the brain stem and goes into gut and viscera.

The ventral branch ( Ventral Vagus) of the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our social engagement system. When we engage with ourselves, our environment, connect and communicate with others, our ventral vagus nerve is activated. The ventral vagus comes in front of the Brain stem and goes into the chest, heart, throat and face. Healthy attachment with caregivers helps in developing the ventral vagal system.

When there is unresolved trauma, the Fight/flight and/or the freeze response ( dorsal vagus) will drive our system. When we resolve our trauma, then even if we are activated at times, we can easily switch to the rest/digest, repairing part of our nervous system, the ventral vagal branch that helps in connecting and communicating. It helps us feel safe.

You can check out Irene Lyon’s video for more information.


About Puja

I am a Counseling Psychologist, Certified EFT Practitioner & Accredited EFT master Trainer of Trainers with EFTi. In my 15+ years of experience, I have effectively used EFT and Counseling to help clients heal their emotional and physical problems.
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2 Responses to Polyvagal Theory

  1. SHEILA KIRBY says:

    Whew! Need to rest/digest this info. Will listen more times. Really respect the explanation of the science. Thinking of so many examples as you were speaking, of coping. My sisters and I, victims of abuse and we all cope differently, not healthfully. One by isolating, one by overworking, one by drinking and me a combo. And every difficult event in our lives is handled in that manner automatically. Would like to have an “act not react” choice.

    • Puja says:

      Ya, Irene takes us through the science very well. That’s why I made the infographic.
      We all cope differently based on our history but we can slowly learn to “act not react” and unlearn/replace the previous coping mechanisms. Thanks of your reply Sheila.

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