If we take a moment here to switch on a polyvagal lense and spotlight the work of Stephen Porgeous, translated for me by Deb Dana, check her out on the internet if you wish to know more.
Researching and reading , her work helped me understand Polyvagal theory and make it a working model. A simplisitc understanding of it, goes like this.
There are 3 branches to the Vagus nerve, which is the biggest nerve in our bodies. These branches have evolved over millenia.
Ventral Vagal, is when we are socially engaged, in Self.
Sympathic arousal, is when our part(s) are in overwhelm, anxiety, hyper arousal. etc. Responding to fight flight, flee.
Dorsal Vagal, is when part (s) of us are shut down in freeze, numbed out, collapse even. Similar to the animal kingdom and when animals play dead so the predator leaves.
Sympathertic arousal and Dorsal vagal shut down, are on a continuim and would be specific to each of us and our expereinces.
All of these built in mechanisms are to help us survive and we are not in control of these responces, as they are built in to help us be safe.
I find this simple overview very useful and I beleive it works well with IFS.
As a heirarchy I imagine it would look like this-
Ventral Vagal- most recent
Sympathetic Arousal- next evolution
Dorsal Vagal- oldest part
We can learn to track our parts and what state they are in, after we have identified this, we can use whatever tool we have in our tool box to make our way back to Ventral Vagal.
This is our goal.
Its not that we stay in Ventral Vagal , but how quickly we can get back there that s helpful.
Deb Dana quotes “The job of the autonomic nervous system is to ensure we survive in moments of danger and thrive in times of safety. Survival requires threat detection and the activation of a survival response. Thriving demands the opposite—the inhibition of a survival response so that social engagement can happen. Without the capacity for activation, inhibition, and flexibility of response, we suffer.” ― Deb Dana, The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Reg