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Dec. 13 Healing Trauma Series focuses on the Polyvagal Theory

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During the Christmas season, we move toward the expectation of joy and happiness. It is what we hope for and want. Unfortunately, many people have painful memories around this time of year. Staying calm when uncomfortable memories intrude may require some special skills.

The Polyvagal Theory, developed by scientist Stephen Porges, PhD, will be the focus of this month’s Healing Trauma Series presented by NAMI Piscataquis County at Dover-Foxcroft’s The Commons at Central Hall at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13. During the video presentation, Dr. Porges will speak about how his theory can help those who have or are experiencing unsafe feelings or danger. The information is valuable to professionals and to all others wanting to prevent or heal large or small traumas that occur in our lives.

The essence of the theory is about safety, meaningful relationships, trust, and connectedness. It is based on Porges’s research of many years about the functions of the two branches of the vagus nerve, a primary component of the autonomic nervous system. The dorsal branch emanates from one area of the brain to the lower gut while the ventral portion’s neural pathways lead to the heart and lungs. Both parts of the vagus nerve participate in what happens in the body during unsafe moments or danger, such as a pounding heart, cessation of digestion, or rapid breathing. Porges found that the vagus nerve is also directly related to communication and connection with the autonomic nervous system. This finding of a third component is what exemplifies the Polyvagal Theory.

The theory is complex, but has practical implications as to how we communicate and connect emotionally with others, particularly with pleasant facial expressions and vocal tone and intonations. The ideas and techniques are useful to everyone, including therapists who work with folks with borderline personality disorder. Good social engagement and meaningful connections with others calms us and dampens our stress response. There is a physical link between our facial muscles and the nerves that control our heart and lungs, which means that we can use our facial muscles to restore composure. Pramayana yogic breathing techniques can work, too. When feeling unsafe, we can take voluntary action to move to another space.

Dr. Porges is a Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Distinguished University Scientist at the Kinsey Institute at the Indiana University Bloomington, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Emeritus Professor of Human Development at the University of Maryland, College Park,

If you would like to view Stephen Porges’s presentation to learn more about the Polyvagal Theory, call 924-7903 to register for this free event.

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