Rebel Health Radio

#10 Book Review: Stephen Porges The Polyvagal Theory - a revolution in understanding of the human state

March 24, 2021 Patricia Worby Episode 10
Rebel Health Radio
#10 Book Review: Stephen Porges The Polyvagal Theory - a revolution in understanding of the human state
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Rebel Health Radio
#10 Book Review: Stephen Porges The Polyvagal Theory - a revolution in understanding of the human state
Mar 24, 2021 Episode 10
Patricia Worby

In this 16 min podcast I talk about how reading this book changed my understanding of our physiology and neural regulation - in other words how we feel about ourselves and the world is intimately linked to our nervous system's ability to feel safe. This so called 'neuroception' results from feedback from our internal organs (specifically our gut and heart) to our brain and is developed from our early experience as babies and young children. If we perceived safety from being cuddled and our needs reliably met, we were able to develop our top level autonomic (nervous ) 

  1. Social Engagement System -

We feel connected and able to take part in feeding (suckling), intimacy (cuddling) and then this develops to regulate our heart rate to be slow (bradycardia) and our emotional states to be safe and secure.


If that system is disrupted from developing properly (this can happen for many reasons: birth trauma, post-natal depression of the mother, marital discord, bereavement, etc), then we may learn that safety is not something we can reliably feel and we are left with the two lower systems of 

  • Sympathetic fight and flight (mobilisation and anxiety) or the
  • Parasympathetic freeze state (immobilisation)  of low energy and depression common in chronic fatigue states.


This book is ground-breaking but particularly impenetrable to read as it is full of scientific detail and the writing style is that of a  collection of research papers. Perhaps that's why Stephen published the Pocket Guide to Polyvagal theory  which I would recommend and Deb Dana also summarised it more neatly in her Polyvagal Theory in Therapy book 

Please do get in touch via https://alchemytherapies.co.uk for more info or subscribe here.

Show Notes

In this 16 min podcast I talk about how reading this book changed my understanding of our physiology and neural regulation - in other words how we feel about ourselves and the world is intimately linked to our nervous system's ability to feel safe. This so called 'neuroception' results from feedback from our internal organs (specifically our gut and heart) to our brain and is developed from our early experience as babies and young children. If we perceived safety from being cuddled and our needs reliably met, we were able to develop our top level autonomic (nervous ) 

  1. Social Engagement System -

We feel connected and able to take part in feeding (suckling), intimacy (cuddling) and then this develops to regulate our heart rate to be slow (bradycardia) and our emotional states to be safe and secure.


If that system is disrupted from developing properly (this can happen for many reasons: birth trauma, post-natal depression of the mother, marital discord, bereavement, etc), then we may learn that safety is not something we can reliably feel and we are left with the two lower systems of 

  • Sympathetic fight and flight (mobilisation and anxiety) or the
  • Parasympathetic freeze state (immobilisation)  of low energy and depression common in chronic fatigue states.


This book is ground-breaking but particularly impenetrable to read as it is full of scientific detail and the writing style is that of a  collection of research papers. Perhaps that's why Stephen published the Pocket Guide to Polyvagal theory  which I would recommend and Deb Dana also summarised it more neatly in her Polyvagal Theory in Therapy book 

Please do get in touch via https://alchemytherapies.co.uk for more info or subscribe here.