#170 This week, I had a truly incredible conversation with Dr. Stephen Porges. Stephen is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. During our conversation, we discuss the Polyvagal Theory, understanding anxiety, and ultimately, how we can go about healing our traumas.
If you are feeling tension in your body as you’re reading this, then this episode is for you.
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About Stephen: Dr. Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders.
He is the author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation (Norton, 2011), The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe, (Norton, 2017) and co-editor of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies (Norton, 2018). He is the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol ™ , which currently is used by more than 1400 therapists to improve spontaneous social engagement, to reduce hearing sensitivities, to improve language processing and state regulation.
Key points with time stamp:
- The Polyvagal Theory and the Process of Healing Traumas (00:00)
- Defining the Polyvagal Theory (00:06)
- What does it mean to be human following trauma from the pandemic? (01:52)
- The healing journey and learning to listen to your body (03:47)
- Practical tips on understanding and dealing with anxiety (08:48)
- Living in gratitude vs. living in threat (10:40)
- Vulnerability and trauma (14:37)
- Releasing trauma tension from the body (16:36)
- Meditation and healing trauma. Is it a good idea? (23:13)
- The role of exercise in the healing journey (26:29)
- Heart Rate Variability and the body (30:00)
- On Kundalini experiences (35:39)
- Can our nervous systems evolve and change? (38:52)
- The entanglement of health and being helpful to others (40:25)
- The Golden Verses of Pythagoras and Man’s Search for Meaning (44:59)
- How to stay away from toxic stress responses (47:06)
Mentioned in this episode:
- The Polyvagal Theory
- HRV, Heart Rate Variability
- A Kundalini awakening
- Patrick Mckeown
- The Oxygen Advantage, 2015. A book by Patrick Mckeown
- James Nestor
- The Golden Verses of Pythagoras, a book by Fabre D’olivet
- Man’s Search for Meaning, a book by Viktor Frankl
Stephen, welcome to the podcast.
Well, thank you Guy. Thank you for inviting me.
I have been exploring your work like as mentioned and off air for the last few months, and getting myself familiar with it. Because it there seems to be an amazing groundswell that’s been happening via YouTube and the internet, from what I see. And there’s a lot of people talking about your work. And it prompted me to reach out. And I love asking this question on the show, to start, but if we were at an intimate dinner party, and you sat next to a complete, complete stranger right now, and they said, what do you what do you do? What’s your passion? What would you say? Well, now I
tend to be quiet. I used to try to explain to them what I did. But basically, if we ask someone, something simple, what it is to be human, which I think is part of your journey, as well. I think that’s what polyvagal theory is about, I think it’s about, it says under finding the underlying principles of what it is to be a human being. And for many people who hear me talk, they’ll come up to me after my talks and say, oh, I’ve learned so much. And I’ll look at them. And I’ll say, Come on, be honest, you didn’t learn anything. All you learned was that your intuitions had a scientific basis. And this is the kind of the world we’re in where there’s a disparate the separation between what we intuitively know and what we are taught or learned in our professions. So there’s, in essence, a breakdown in that human knowledge or the knowledge of being human polyvagal theory is really about our evolutionary heritage, understanding it, respecting it, honoring it, and through that journey becoming re embodied in our body, and becoming healthy again.
Yeah, beautiful. I’m interested to know what your thoughts are, then what it really does mean to be human. Because from what I can see, looking out in the world, especially in 2021, and 2020, in the year we’ve had, we’re on Red Alert, and we denying ourselves, aspects of life that just
just as people who are traumatized lose certain capacities to express the humaneness. They know what they have lost. And that tells them what’s important in their lives. So in a sense of someone survives trauma, their body has reached tuned, they become defensive or red alert, in proximity of others. But in their own mind, their mental images are of being a human who can be hugged, embrace, have close connections, and trust others, but this ability to trust others and be in close proximity, their body says no, you’ve been injured, and now we’re going to the body is going to protect you, even though your intentions may want to create those relationships. So we talk about the bad night 2020, which we have experienced. We’ve learned what’s important, we’ve learned, assuming that we have had enough resources, that we are not food insecure, or home insecure, or got the virus and we’re seriously ill, what we’ve learned is it doesn’t matter how much resource we have in terms of money or house or stuff. What we really like is our relationships with other people. And that’s what the pandemic is. And by doing that, it shifted our physiological state to become more defensive. Because through our evolutionary history, humans had mitigate the threat reactions through social interaction that was now removed.
Yeah, wow. Why aren’t more people looking at what it means to one’s health and well being, what a hug can do? What compassion can do, what play can do? What like, even I know you speak about facial interactions, and even the smile. And it seems to be such a very mechanical approach to the way we do things. And it’s not given rise to like you say other aspects of ourselves intuitive. So
even that’s we’re talking now we have to be very careful that we don’t start saying, Oh, we can fix things with a smile. Or, of course, when a smile and a hug are really emergent, spontaneous features of feeling safe enough that you can engage another. So it’s a different conceptualization of both health and human behavior, in a sense, given your interest in health, part of the problem with our imaging of health, how we imagined it or how we visualize it, we placed the healing process outside the individual. So we give all this power to physicians. To surgeons, to drugs to fix us when the healing process is inside of us. Meaning that our bodies have to welcome the interventions have to work with them. And if our bodies are in states of fear, treatments are less effective, our ability to heal is challenged, because being in the state of defense is incompatible with healing processes. And I mean, this is a physiological, neuro anatomical neuro physiological reality, yet, it’s not really what’s discussed. So when people say, all of your researches office, you should relax, people will make statements you should relax, as if it’s the agency of the individual to say, I can now relax when the body is in total state of threat, we have to understand that our nervous system evolved to detect threat. And if we want people to relax, we have to be aware of what are the cues of safety as well as the cues of threat. And we can’t tell them relax, we have to create the environments for them to feel safe enough, meaning we can’t tell them to fix themselves, we have to support them on it.
And that’s where the polyvagal theory then starts to come into play
polyvagal theory, I think one can juxtapose it to the history in psychology of behaviorism, where everything was the input output relationship, the stimulus or response, so that if you want it in prove behaviors, rewarded behavior, got more of it. But what it forgot was that the individual’s physiological state, how they felt, in the context of their learning experience, was amazing determinant of whether they whether or not they could learn. So if they felt safe, and they didn’t have to be hyper vigilant and detect threat. Well, of course, they could detect the features that they were supposed to be rewarded for, they could learn. But if they were frightened, and they were scanning the world for predators, they didn’t have any resource to process the information. Healing is the same type of thing. Our body needs to feel safe. We’ve in the sense many ways blown it, our nervous systems have been telling us for decades, that we’re in a state of toxic stress. Our kids don’t want to go to school because their guts hurt them. And so what do we do, we say go to school, you’ll get over it more, what we’re really saying is, don’t feel your body become disembodied, block the feedback loops that evolved over millions of years in vertebrates, to tell you that your body’s under a state of threat, just reject those become numb to it and move on. Because you’re a cognitive, intellectual organism. And what do we get, we get so called stress disorders, rather than saying, I respect the fact that my body is detecting threat. But let’s see if my body can detect cues of safety, let’s change the context. Let’s change school from being 20 for 24 hours, seven days of the week, evaluative to a journey of a shared journey of intellectual curiosity. Let’s change medicine, from evaluations, which is very similar, you go to a doctor, what do you go for? To be evaluate? How do you feel in the medical environment, you feel threatened, because he valuation is under your nervous system. he interprets evaluation as threat. So let’s say that we treat medicine differently, we say, look, we’re going to learn about your body. And when we learn more about your body, this is what we as a team on a journey to help you optimize your health. This is where we’ll be going.
Okay, that makes more sense. So I’m trying to chunk this down into a practical application for somebody listening to this. So say somebody is suffering a lot of anxiety in their daily life. And they they came to you or somebody that was trained in this work, what what what kind of, are we looking at another more of a holistic approach in different areas of their life? Now,
we’re going to throw all those words away. Okay. Yeah, because never everything has baggage. And we’re going to say to the client, we don’t care what why you think you’re anxious. But can you feel that physiological shift in your body? Right? And when you feel that shift, what does it mean to you? Does it mean that you can be approached by another? Or does it mean that really your body’s in the state of threat, so what re education of understanding the cues of our body, as opposed to allowing our big cortical cognitive brain great narratives to say I’m anxious because I have a deadline, I’m anxious because of the way you’re looking at me. I’m anxious because to throw that, get rid of that, and Say, this is how I feel. And when I feel this way, I attribute things to others I bias by perspective of the world. That is the exercise that we would determine polyvagal informed therapists would go through, I’m not a therapist, but I’m really saying these are the principles that people would take with them, because it’s really trying to educate the clinical world, that behavior is not solely intentionality, behavior is also emergent from the physiological state we’re in when we’re in a physiological state of calmness and relaxation. Or approachable.
Yeah, okay, that makes complete sense. Absolutely. Where does your passion come from then into this work, and you must have seen a lot of you know, it’s obviously impacts a lot of people’s lives, which is very rewarding.
I would really say, let’s move that back. What was my sense of gratitude. So the sense of gratitude is in a way of fulfilling my own or fulfilling aspect of the biological imperative of being human. And that is to connect and to be helpful, to be generous to be compassionate. Our evolutionary journey of being a social mammal, is accessibility. That’s our biological mandate. It’s do this to be helpful. And so many of us don’t have that opportunity, because our bodies are in states of chronic threat. So we never get that sense of gratitude, of living, literally living out the success, our biological success, which is someone saying, Oh, your work has made my life so much better.
I mean, what a gift. So what we are so tuned into, into thinking, What’s in it for me? Or because why are we saying that because we are threatened, and we have to deal with personal resource to create a safe, these hypothetical safe environment for ourselves. And so we’re always positioning ourselves. And we need to, in a sense, understand that when we are safe, we are a benevolent species, we are helpful to others, and helping others, what I’m really trying to say is, the real gifts come back to us, those are real feelings of gratitude. And they’re not the feelings that I could have had, when I was untenured, assistant professor, they’re not even the feelings I could have had as a full professor, when I was starting here, but they are the feelings that I can have now, because I’ve been able to translate the ideas of what I worked on, into a language that people can digest can function with, and can use in their day to day lives. Gone.
Because I think we all love the idea. And I was one of those people as well love the idea of, of living in gratitude and being in this place. But feeling hostage to
that, then you weren’t living in gratitude, where you know, exactly
it was it was all intellect.
Right, right. And so, you know, there’s so many people who said, studied the science of compassion. I know many of these people, and therefore from people who are accessible, and generous, and truly compassionate. In fact, my own personal definition of compassion is not the ones that they would use it. So they kind of overlap, compassion, and empathy, and they get everything all all confused. My journey is to say that compassion is not is totally non evaluative, but supportive. So when someone is in pain, you’re there, you’re present. But you’re not there to fix their pain. You’re not there for retribution, or fixed there, yo, change the worlds of their suffering disappears. What they need at that moment is for you to be a good witness of their experience, without listening to them and being good witness, they’re marginalized, they don’t exist, because their narrative of their pain hurts you, if you appears to hurt you, if you want to fix it. So you’re like, Oh, this is horrible. We do want to fix it. And what you’re doing in making those gestures and express feelings, is you’re not listening to them, because they want to be x acknowledged for who they are at this point in time.
And how much does vulnerability play a part in that then does work…vulnerability
or vulnerability? Well, I you’re basically, the issue is, well, we’re going to get into a kind of a translation, because vuln- with the metaphor that I use is a continuum. It’s a line that stretched out between my arms which are going off screen In which on the far right is vulnerability, the far left is accessibility. So they’re both functionally the same process. But in one, you’re welcoming the other into your core. And the other your vulnerability is, if someone goes towards your core, you’re going to defend. And the other metaphor that I have is that we are a warm benevolent core as a species loaded with wrappers of defense. So underneath the core, is this wonderful, loving, compassionate, benevolent core. But that core can’t be expressed if the feelings are feelings of vulnerability, because you won’t let anyone in it. And I think the world of trauma has taught me so much about this. Because this is very much a stereotypical script of a person who has been survived trauma, and that is, they want people to come into their core, but they are not going to allow anyone to come into their core, the wrappers are going to be defensive. And when I’m really also saying is, the survivor of trauma teaches us what’s going on in society as a whole. This society as a whole is triggering physiological states in the in the human species of defense, which is enabling us not or not enabling us to be who we evolved to become
counted. And with people with trauma, and again, I just think of everyone listening to this, because there’ll be people with trauma right now listening to this today. From what you’ve learned, experience, witnessed, and people, if somebody has a case of trauma that they’ve been living with for many years, is it possible to take somebody with trauma to be able to not feel that tension that within the body at a certain stage two sort of
movie will be able to love starting off with certain assumptions? Let’s start with another assumption, okay, that as a species were traumatized species. Now we’re talking more inclusive. And well, if we say that not only we are traumatized species, but we are trans, generational traumatized species, then what we learn is through our awareness of our own bodily feelings, some of those defenses can be dissipated. And then the true self or the body itself, the felt self, whatever terminology we want to use, can emerge, it’s not going to emerge in isolation is going to emerge in a dyadic or a pluralistic set of interaction, we are going to engage others as we emerge, we are not going to sense withdraw from others as the emergent prop process. We are social species. And that is part of what this embodiment journey tells us.
Okay. Okay. So I’m just figuring that bringing that in my mind, then, is that as we includes that I’m just I guess, I’m just trying to summarize in a point that we’re able to look back without the the emotional charges, the loops that can that can happen to get the body to the point where we have memories, but they’re not. They’re not
holding you actually very close to what many therapies do. They try to they’re not saying the trauma didn’t exist, but there is as disentangling the visceral feelings from the event. And what we have to start understanding, including, you know, this great interest in aces or adverse childhood experiences, and adversity, but those are those strategies about trauma are basically spreadsheets of accumulated traumatic events. They’re not really talking about the personal experiences. So we externalize so much of the experience of being human without talking about the true feelings as being the experience. So so as we respect the feelings, we are able now to separate the feelings from the associations which tend to be learned and reinforced with specific events. And those events or similar events become triggers someone coming close to me, someone talking in a voice that is seductive or trying to make me feel safe. My body will say get away from this been there before, not going to go there again. So, but the wisdom of what our body has done for us So when we talk about the traumatic reactions, those feelings of those experiences, the healing process starts with an acknowledgement that those bodily feelings were heroic strategies of our nervous system to protect us. And many people who have survived trauma are literally angry at their body. Because the body goes into these states in proximity without this degree of respect and honoring. So part of the healing process is to respect those feelings, and then to honor them. And then to understand that you can dissipate from those feelings by literally titrating going there a little bit, and realizing those feelings are not devastating. So for many people with trauma histories, it’s not the feelings that are so devastating. It’s the anticipation of having those feelings, the anticipation becomes so destabilizing and the debilitating.
Right. And then, as that anticipation is removed, we can then start to perceive and feel because I think you did, you mentioned the term neuro ception as well. Yeah,
yeah. Yeah, I did. I didn’t mention today. But you’re right now, because when you use the word perceived, that’s a flag to me. So it’s not trauma trigger. But it’s a trigger of to clarify that with we react to cues in the environment, of safety in danger without a cognitive awareness, our body interprets it, and we get physiological state shifts, long before we know what we’re reacting to, is visualized crossing the street and someone honking their horn, or tires squealing, your body responds long before you create the narrative of what is happening. So we, as vertebrates, on this evolutionary journey share a lot with all our vertebrate, more primitive vertebrate ancestors. So we all have this neuro ception, the nervous system, capacity to evaluate risk in the environment. So we have a neuro ception that detects danger and life threat, which is shared with many primitive organisms. But unlike other vertebrates, mammals, have a neuro ception of safety, we detect cues of safety in those cues to safety adaptively reflexively, turn off by threat responses, and just visualize the crying baby that’s being come by the mother, the prosonic voice, the gentle gaze, and think about if you have a puppy, you do the same thing, you talk to the puppy with the prosonic intonation of voice. So we know intuitively how to downregulate threat responses, but that’s a uniquely mammalian feature. Yeah. And that’s what our nervous system was craving. It doesn’t crave. It doesn’t mind the removal of threat cues, let me be, let me make that statement. But that’s not enough. We need to use a safety. So metal detectors may keep the guns off of airplanes, that that’s not making us feel safe on the airplane.
Of course, yeah. I’m interested to know your thoughts on meditation as well. And if you looked at it, because I have no doubt as well, people like the body is is carrying trauma that just sitting down for one minute could feel like hell. Yeah, well,
I mean, I would say everyone knows what many people know now, that meditation for people with severe trauma can be disastrous, because if they don’t move or close their eyes, they’re in grates, they’re vulnerable, their bodies feel vulnerable. So there are different ways that things could be done, so that people who have trauma histories May May gravitate towards yoga with some movement. And so as long as we’re moving, that vulnerability is less. So there are different ways of incense engaging the neural regulation of our visceral of our autonomic nervous system. And part of it once you understand again, polyvagal theory outlines the sequence. But if we if we keep moving with facial interaction, like with dancing or play team sports, drum circles, you know, this type of activity, there is a co regulation amongst the people doing that. The magic word here is co regulation. And co regulation provides the basis for self regulation. And again, within our community within our civilized community. We play such a high value on self regulation and we basically get a angrier children and others who can’t self regulate, when in reality, co regulation provides the resource that enables us to be bold to go off and do exciting things, and to self regulate.
Yeah, it is interesting, isn’t it? Because sometimes it’s the last thing we feel like do and if we’re in a state of stress, though, is to actually be with other people and have that human connection and, and,
well, wrong, either. You see, you’re really, I would say, a good host or a good guest for this dialogue, because what you’re saying is, you know, when you have true feelings, it gets in the way of interacting? And the answer is yes, but you now, in making that statement, there is a an awareness of your visceral feeling as powerful. So then you would say, when, when do I feel better? When does it dissipate? Does it take time? Do I need to go to my room close the door to dissipate? Do I need to sit and listen to music? Or do I need to do some breathing exercises, or just go for a walk? And many people do these various things, however, they often feel that they shouldn’t have to do those things, they should be able to will it on their body? And in this view that they can control it? And will it? It’s a dishonor of their dishonouring their own nervous system? Because their nervous system is telling them? It’s just not safe enough?
Yeah. Okay. It’s interesting, when you say that, because when I look at my own journey over the years, I’ve gotten to know myself really well, if you like, and, and I honor how I feel like Like, if I’m about to exercise, not as like, I have to tie them is my nervous system saying, you know, go for a walk instead. And it’s not be lazy, but it’s actually and then sometimes I feel really vibrant, and there’s a lot of energy to burn. And I will actually do something creative, or whatever it might be. As opposed to being unconscious,
exercises, something kind of unusual, because I do and I’ve been well, I’ve been doing over the past couple of years, as almost, almost daily. And it’s part of the aging process and trying to stay healthy. But it’s I would always I would say that it’s not necessarily enjoyable. But it certainly enables me to sit down at the desk for several hours afterwards. And my exercise routine can go from 45 minutes to almost two hours. So that’s because I’m doing stretches lifting, walk up and down staircases with weights, and then they do elliptical from for two and a half miles. So it was interesting to me is the elements a separation between a psychological negativity to wanting to exercise and the actual experience itself. So it’s like for decades, I said, Well, you know, I don’t have the time for this. I don’t really like to do this I like to play. It’s I used to like team sports a lot. But that’s not the same because that’s face to face is social moving. But as you get older team sports kind of leave the table. And exercise becomes your kind of portal to maintain certain levels of health. But there’s also kind of issues of it doesn’t feel great, there’s a little bit of pain, do you work through the pain or not. And I’m actually finding it extraordinarily interesting that there are cues of discomfort that are extremely minor. They don’t get exacerbated by the exercise. It’s kind of like, it’s almost like a lot of learn, oh, you’re exercising better have some pain. So it’s, it’s kind of a strange thing. Because if I isn’t saving myself, I’m going to do another three or four minutes on the elliptical or a walk up another four or five flights of steps with weights. Just do it. It’s never been in and this has now been two years of working on this exercise. It’s never been, oh, I’ve ever done it. It’s just been this do it. Yeah. And it to me the feeling of really being the feeling of health from it is actually looking at, again, I use the I have a Fitbit so I can see the heart rate curves coming back. So the feeling of I that I did something is the fact that I could get my heart rate up really high. And then it actually came down and came down quickly. And I had this feeling Ah, a resilient nervous system is making me feel feel good that I can see on paper. So my narrative is now I’m a healthy guy. This system is resilient and recovering. So it’s working from both levels, that physiology the feelings, but also my narrative. My narrative is you know, I I’m held
Yeah, which is a great narrative. You know? The, I’m intrigued as well, while we’re on this topic, because I noticed that you did a study on HRV heart rate variability way back in 1969. If I’m not mistaken. You’re looking at HRV. And it’s a term that gets thrown around a lot. Today, you know, you get your Apple Watch, you can check your heart rate variability, and my fatigue or not like, what are your thoughts and insights? Like, what is heart rate variability? I’d love you to break that down, and how can I support
and living in a world and were something that I kind of fought to be acknowledged is now being treated in a way that I didn’t fight for it to be acknowledged? Right. So it created a became a construct and a metaphor. I saw it. And you know, I was really there. I was the first to quantified as a response variable and the individual difference. And I had two cents justified in publications in a world that thought that variability was error. So if you had heart rate variability, it was because you weren’t a good scientists controlling the environment, they didn’t understand that the heart rate had spontaneous oscillations. So heart rate variability is really a reflection of neural feedback loops. And that really has to be at the underlying aspect. heart rate variability became a global construct. It’s really merely a descriptor. It’s saying that the variance, the consistency between the time period between heartbeats varies, but within that pattern of beat to beat heart rate, our biological rhythms that reflect neural feedback loops, and that was my journey. And that’s even where polyvagal theory came from. And the journey was that you could see these rhythms and some of these rhythms were not only easy, I wouldn’t say easy. They were definable. But the neurophysiology underneath them was also definable. And one of them was the respiratory rhythm. That one was observed, actually, in the early 1900s, as an indicator of the cardio vagal inhibition, the ability of the Vegas a cranial nerve to actually inhibit the hearts pacemaker. And I started calling this cardiac fatal tone, that you could actually get this measurement. And so and this is respiratory sinus arrhythmia is the observable. So heart rate variability is a global construct of b2b variability, but has the potential to be reanalyzed to extract neural influences, including that the Vegas right, now, I need to add one thing. It becomes important if your metaphors and your mental and your theoretical orientation say the Vegas is critical to the systems that you’re studying, whether it’s critical to health, to cardiovascular function, or even sensitive, we’re where I start, I saw it as being sensitive to mental effort. So I actually came from it from more cognitive processing linked to bodily activity.
Okay. And so what’s getting in use today with heart rate variability is I’m just trying to simplify what you said is, then if we get feedback, we’re getting data and we’re looking at it. And we can, what are we what are we wanting to do with that data
becomes I’ve actually had podcasts on this where people want to hack the system, but and they miss the understanding of this system. That’s reflecting homeostatic function. So once not, it wants not to be hacked, it wants to be relaxed, he wants a sense to be supported, then it will do its job. And we are using re evaluating it. Remember, I mentioned this issue of evaluation all the time. And those processes of evaluation can actually be counter indicative to the actual process you want to enhance. So if you see the pattern is low, your body goes into a state of threat, and it gets even lower. because your body is shifting neuro regulation to deal with threat. And the vaco regulation. That scene in heart rate variability is the antithesis of being in the state of threat, or being in a state of severe mental effort. So it’s the state of allowing your body to be and that’s, so if you go back to the meditative question, and don’t even stay there move into the breathing meditations, the respiratory movements. When we exhale slowly, the vagal influence on the heart becomes greater. When we inhale longer, and exhale shorter, we down regulate the vagal activity and we live We all get more worked up, we get more mobilized. And so these have been, of course traditions for 1000s of years about breathing, slow exhalation, but also what is singing. Slow exhalation. What is playing when it’s slow exhalation? What’s chanting, slow exhalation. So I mean, there’s a lot of consistency to the history of man about what it is that makes us feel better. Slow exhalation is really a wonderful toolkit that we all have. It’s a portal because we have intentionality on that. And we can exhale slowly.
Yeah. And it’s given us the time and the space to do it, though, isn’t it? You know, in our busy lives, is a big thing. Now, it’s, it’s fascinating what you read everything you say, and I’m interested to know, Your feedback is off. Well, you know, I was mentioned about through my own meditation experiences, and it was through different practices and techniques, I had what was called a Kundalini awakening. Now, I felt energy goes through my nervous system, very strongly. And and I’d love to know, from your perspective, or if you’ve seen research or
look at all, the question I would, I would ask you, I’m not sure the list, many listeners would track this, where you prepare for that.
I knew it was coming. Yes. Yeah.
Well, you mean, were you? Were you prepared? Meaning were you trained for that?
No, I know, no, you can’t prepare for something you’ve not experienced before in not
necessarily. So you’re saying that you could feel it coming in. But the issue is, you didn’t exactly know what was coming now. So the issue of issue of Kundalini experiences, their terms that are like unresolved Kundalini energy, which is really that what happens to individuals who aren’t prepared to process it, because the nervous system doesn’t know what to do with it. So it becomes a chaotic, this, the stabilizer or dis regulator, as opposed to a unique, almost a two term esoteric type experience. So that’s why the traditions that deal with Kundalini, have traditions of training, for preparation for this. So the part of all this is where where we go in our own way we use it use it as a spiritual ladder or a spiritual cord, the experienced drivers, they only view it as a regulator of our life. And there are people who have had really serious breakdowns fallen coolly experienced, I can imagine. So it’s the same neurophysiology is, again, how we welcome it in our body deals with it.
Absolutely. And that was something that I had to come to terms with as well, once once it happened, was working my way through what had happened, and being able to set myself down. And by learning the things that I’d learned that led me that I was able to process.
Well, you know, there are similar situations. I mean, not that I really don’t know about this, because I haven’t experienced it. But people who have taken hallucinogenics, same types of story, if they take it are in safe environments with good guides and supportive people, the experiences can be wonderful. But if they have taken it on their own, it can be totally chaotic. It says they’re floating in a chaotic orbit without the anchors of the social connectedness that makes us human social species.
Yeah. Yeah. I know. One last question on the topic I have here, which I find fascinating is you talk about neuro ception. And it’s so I’m just trying to simplify my own mind as well then, does the nervous system continue to adapt and evolve as we continue to work with it basically, is it always another rotation that because I found since that experience, sense, senses are heightened, and I find I feel things more than I did previously? Well,
a lot has to do with, I’d say where you were before. Okay, yeah. And so it’s hard to make a judgement of, of whether the awakening that you’re experiencing is an amplification or an awakening. So is he my model would be that you’re taking off rappers and okay core view is beginning to express itself. In the core of us literally as a as a heightened sensitivity for cues of safety which enable connectedness and expansiveness. So the other part of the story is that you don’t have even expansive thinking appreciation for aesthetics or spirituality. Unless your body safe. Yeah. And so. So the issue is everything comes back to this background of a physiology that is safe. If this is geology shifting into threat reactions, all these other corridors are blocked, or dampened.
Yeah, no, that makes that makes complete sense. I’ve never thought of it like that. But yeah, it’s unveiling more of ourselves. We I’m curious, I would ask people questions on the show before we wrap up. And obviously, you know, to get to know you, but the person behind the conversation a bit better. But do you? Are there any with all your knowledge and everything that you’ve learned? And now we’d like you You live in in northern Florida you live in but do you live in a beautiful place? are there any kind of how does your mind work? Other things that you ensure you implement every day from this kind of work? So you’re, you’re looking after yourself? Are there any practices?
It’s a fair question. But but it’s the answer is not where, you know, again, it’s one of those processes that I’m, I would say, I’m not totally satisfied with where I am on it. I’ve been working on breath, I’ve been working on actually nostril breathing, to try to, in a sense, get greater sensations of it. And to become more aware of it. That doesn’t mean all the time being aware of breathing, but the exercises to be awareness of the air moving into the each nostril independently to get the sensations. And for me, this is a interesting journey. Because when I was younger, I had lots of allergies, and that was not a nose breather. So nasal congestion wasn’t sense part of the world I was living in and falling asleep with nasal congestion can also wake you up. So it creates some type of apnea, especially if your mouth is closed. But over the past few days, actually, it was my, my transformative moment was when my older son was born. And that was 40 years ago. And then my allergies just disappeared, and was an interesting, I would say psychological, physiological transition, because it was a shift in priorities from self oriented, to child oriented. And I think what we start learning is that the core if we are, thrives when we are able to be helpful to those close to us. So we we are actually as as a parent, it has a tremendous positive attribute. For Health, even though As parents, we often feel that we’re depleted, I think it shifts the priorities from a self orientation to a child or family orientation. And I think this changes our physiology. So for me, if you’re asking me, there are two things that I do every day, I do a body scanning, I tried to go and feel my body and feel, especially I’ve tried to feel down to my gut and lower limbs. And then I’m also trying to work on nostril breathing, which is now on the other part of the body try to feel this whole movement of air going through it. And the cues that that elicits, is that it’s almost the taste of the air. So you start getting a different sense, a palette of the air when when you start doing nasal breathing. So it’s kind of this is what I’m doing now. I used to think that things like posture shifts would be the answer that was my earlier metaphors, I felt that exercise was was was really a missed direction that our nervous system really didn’t need the cardiac output, especially when you’re young. But it needed posture shifts. And the posture shifts were triggers to a very complex neuro physiological circuits. So I do that still, I have an awesome I have a tilt table, but I built as a researcher, an oscillating tilt table that literally tilt and be rhythmically to simulate are entrained certain biologically relevant rhythms. Unfortunately, don’t take a look here. But when I used to have it, I would when when I had it in my lab, and people would visit and they want to try it out. They didn’t want to get off of it. When was this cool? It was, it was so it was like so relaxing for them to to feel this gentle oscillation if people would think you know, it’s like being on the waves but slower and your head is never dipping below horizontal and only going up 21 degrees. So it’s, it’s all physiologically tuned. And the body does. This is where it should be Wow.
So as fascinating I am, there’s a couple of things I want to just mention on there. First of all, I’ve got a 10 months 10 and a half months baby daughter. And it’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me and like I laugh more I, my heart a lot wider is just incredible. And I just saw relate to what you say. And the other thing was that I’ve had Patrick Mckeown on the show of the oxygen advantage. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him. And also James Nestor, who did the research and recent released science journalist wrote a book on breath all about the nasal breathing. And, yeah, I’ve been implied in my own life as well for the last couple of years. And it’s been an incredible journey. One I never thought that would, I would say, but yeah, it’s, it’s a seems to come up all the time at the moment, which is interesting. Last question for you. If you were to gift a book to anyone, what would it be?
Okay, what just flash tickles my brain. And I think they’re going to be very few people online who will have ever heard of this? It’s the golden verses of Pythagoras.
And there’s some fabulous, which is from the Pythagorean triangle, you know, we geometry but he was a philosopher in in Greek, ancient Greek times, and he had certain lines in this golden for the basic principles have live your life. And it just was when we were talking acid, it just kind of like flip through that. And the other part of me, is thinking about Viktor Frankl’s book, which I can remember the title, which basically teaches us that even under the worst conditions, there are angels out there, there are people who are benevolent and compassionate. So our behavioristic What’s in it for me? concept of the world has to be revised.
Yeah. Beautiful Man’s Search for Meaning. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, no, it’s an incredible book. Absolutely. Last question. To wrap everything up it with everything we’ve covered today, is there anything you’d like to leave the listeners to ponder on?
The thing I like to leave people with is an optimistic journey. So what polyvagal theory says is that many of things that we call pathologies, are really quite flexible. They’re really because our physiology is locked in the state of defense. And if our body can process cues of safety, we reorganize that system, we stay out of the toxic stress response, and we become accessible, and we become connected to others. So there’s there’s a big interest, of course, in neuroplasticity, epi, genetics, methylene methylated pathways, and we tend to get into more and more of a deterministic model. And what polyvagal theory emphasizes is that much of what we call behavior, or locked or fixed behaviors are also often a product of what physiological state we’re in. And if we can get our physiological state to be more homeostatic, to be more relaxed, then there’s a lot of wonderful emergent properties that come from that isn’t. So when we say I’m stressed and anxious. We tend to localize it up here, but our body is reflected here. And when our body is says, becomes peaceful, I relaxed and our gut starts working. Our mind changes, we have a different bias to the world.
Fantastic. Yeah. And if people want to take a step into your world, where would be the best step to go and learn more.
We have created the polyvagal Institute, and that’s polyvagal Institute, one word.org. And we are developing educational materials that will be courses and other things, which will be accessible through the web page. And I also have a web page, which is Steven porges. One word.com. And there are materials on that. So people are very welcome to go to either or both webpages and track what’s going on.
Yeah, beautiful. Thank you so much, Steven. And for everyone listening, there’ll be links in the show notes that can take you directly there. From the show, Stephen, just just want to honor you and everything that you do and put out to the world and, and to be able to have a conversation with you today. Was was fabulous. So thank you for coming on the show.
Thank you guy and give your daughter a hug for me.
I shall do. Thank you. Thank you, Mate.