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  • Guest - Mike

    Dr. Porges, I cannot quite put into words what you've done for me.

    I've been suffering from trauma for the last 12 years - from age 16, to 28 (my current age). I have not had any social relationships outside my immediate family in 12 years. I didn't graduate highschool; I Haven't have any girlfriends; I havent had a job. I've been on social disability for the last 3 years.

    Over the last 7 or 8 years, I have been studiously educating myself. It began with an interest in religion and spirituality, grew into mysticism and philosophy, then branched out into psychology, neuroscience, genomics and other fields. For the last two years, I have been reading up on all the research on trauma. I've read many books on the subject. But I've need been so affected by knowledge the way your polyvagal theory has.

    I had already been reading much on this subject, as I said. A few weeks back I read Alan Fogels "body sense"; then I picked up "healing developmental trauma" Dr. By Laurence Heller and "the healing power of emotion". Last week I bought the polyvagal theory.

    The concept of a social engagement system completely rings with my own insights into my problem over the last 2 years. But not having a deeper understanding, not having any physiological mechanism to moor it to, made me have doubts.

    The polyvagal theory is a profoundly powerful contribution to psychology. It boggles my imagination. Having suffered what I have, I have a very acute sense of the significance of what your research has accomplished. I can see what it can do.

    Over the last few weeks, I have broken down powerful, almost omnipotent, cognitive walls. Phobias, trepidations, and anxieties about never getting better, of being unable to overcome the fear to speak in public; these walls, they were huge. Just a few days ago, I was in the computer room in the library, when a filipino woman asked for help with a computer problem. At that moment, I felt myself, felt my physical vitality, and eagerly offered my help. For the 5 minutes that I worked with her, I felt comfortable and relaxed throughout. Afterwards, I was astonished with myself, and what I just did. I felt as if for that period of time, my nucleus ambiguus was putting a break on the DVC; I was experiencing positive, uplifting emotions, and came away with a positive sense of the connection made.

    The social engagement system provides a psychological and physiological explanation for whats happened to me. It describes my experience - the dissociation of my tepid emotion. This sense of being "out" of your body, of feeling a chronic sense of tension, yet unemotional about it; it became so normalized because of it's constancy. And in that quietness, cognitive issues developed. I had formed an obsessive and compulsive belief that my voice is "wrong". Which, for the individual speaking now, is understood as a consequence of the physiological trauma to my brains emotional systems. My nucleus ambiguus obviously shut down; and my default state became dissociation. If I didn't dissociate, I would have felt the enormous trauma and the toxic shame which often came with it.

    The concept of the social engagement system has been an enormous aid in helping me maintain focus and perspective with my problem. It allows me to emphasize the feeling component of the subjective experience: to "feel" my body, to pursue interests, with a ZEST, and intrinsic anticipation, to act, to be, to express myself. Having lived with such a "cerebral" experience for so long gives this new (or old, I was normal before age 13) perspective the sense of a magick carpet: my mind feels like the rider, while the emotion, is the magick carpet. It conveys and mediates connection. To feel such emotion when I act, honestly, it feels beautiful. I want to cry just thinking about it. It's as if my heart has thawed.

    Your research has justified your claim that calmness results from social engagement. It's as if, as you argue, that the social engagement system is a functioning system the ANS uses to deal with environmental demands. So when it's engaged, its engaged in very real, ontological way (this is what it feels like to me). When I am connecting, or "en rapport" , inter-subjectively connected with other people, I feel like a basic emotional narrative is uniting us; we are subsumed, it feels, by a larger "spirit".

    Anyways, I am a few weeks in, and I am feeling very happy and thankful for this almost serendipitous personal growth.

    Thank You, so much.

    Comment last edited on about 5 years ago by Administrator
    15 Reply
  • Guest - guest

    I really benefited from hearing the video outlining your Polyvagal Theory. I'm a voice-hearer with PTSD.

  • Guest - guest

    I had the privilege of hearing Dr Porges speak at the ISSTD conference last weekend - a wonderful speaker with a lot of important things to say! I just saw this blog online and thought he'd be interested in the pictures: http://www.boredpanda.com/toddler-naps-with-puppy-theo-and-beau/

    a perfect example of relaxing into the embrace of another without fear. thanks so much!

  • Guest - guest

    Good Evening Mr. Porges, I just purchased your book. I am doing investigation on my Vagus Nerve, and came across your book. I would like to share with you some of my story to help explain why I am doing investigation. I am a 41 year old woman living in Deerfield Beach, Florida. I was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. I moved here I believe about 15 years ago. Without getting into too much detail about my past I am just going to speak to you about the last 8 years. Many of the thing I share with you from my past is going to be from what I have been told. I had a baby boy in Feb. 2006. I had an epidural with the birth. Apparently I started having pain in my back where I received the epidural. It started moving up my back, and got to the point where I told my husband I felt like it was going to come out of my head. Well I developed a migraine so bad he took me to emergency room. They gave me a shot of something to help with the pain. They said I would sleep and when I woke up I would e fine. Well when I woke the next morning I knew nothing. I did not know my husband, my children, I did not even know who I was. So he took me back to the hospital. They preformed an MRI and discovered my brain had swelled in the right and left temporal lobes. I had developed Encephalitis. The caused is till unknown, but theoretically it was cause from the epidural since the pain generated from the spot I received the shot. Well either way it left me with amnesia. I have no recollection of the past 20 years. Which by the way is considered my short term memory. Not a clue who my husband was, I had a 2 year old daughter, and just gave birth to a baby boy. Memory is gone, and has not returned. Well I attempted to go back to work. I graduated from The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale with honors in 2003 with a bachelors degree in Interior Design. Later when on passed a national test in interior Design and got my license. I was working for a prominent design firm in Ft. Lauderdale designing million dollar home. With my memory issues my knowledge of my profession was gone. So I was no longer able to work. Also the swelling had gone down on my brain however left scars on my right and left temporal lobes. I started to develop these spells of this familiar but very scary feelings. My neurologist since for a series a tests. Found out I was actually having Simple Partial Complex seizures. I went into a state of shock. I have Epilepsy, and my seizures can only e described as the very scary aura that some over me. I would get this burning sensation in my nose, my skin would start to burn, and then I would start to cry uncontrollably. I literally felt no emotion except when is my next seizure coming. Needless to say and only be describe as a constant state of depression. Nothing ever felt familiar only when I would have an aura at the onset of a seizure. Well after several failed attempts at medication testing was done and determined I was a candidate for brain surgery to remove the focal point of my seizures on the right hippocampus. I had seizures coming off the left and right side of my brain. However the debilitating seizures were coming off the right side. So in July of 2010 I flew up to Cleveland and had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. So life was ok for some time. Still having seizures coming off the left side. The very many years I was battling a serious depression. We tried antidepressants to no avail. My way of dealing with all of this was to numb the only feeling I had was drinking my wine to numb it. My drinking progress to hiding it. I would drink from the time I woke up until I passed out at night everyday. This went on for 7 years. I was found out a few times. I was put into treatment, but came right back out and drinking again. There is still so much more to my story. To get to my point of emailing you I had to share my past, and to the point this all took me. After many more failed attempts to control my seizures it was determined that I was a candidate for Vagus Nerve Stimulator. So in Dec. of 2011 I had my VNS implanted. So now I started having control of stopping my seizures. However the depression was still there, and again I dealt with it the only way I knew how. I continued drinking my wine. I would drink a box of wine in a day and a half. Just to give you am idea of how much I drank. To skip to the part where my life changed. I went into a halfway house on Aug. 10th of 2012. It got to the point that I would have welcomed death. My first day sober was spent in the hospital because I was so intoxicated I fell into my dresser and my large jewelry box feel on my head. My entire right side of my face was black and blue. So went I went into treatment I has two choices. I either get busy living or I get busy dying. This beautiful thing happen in treatment. I started to feel again. Yes drying out helped, but this was different. I started smiling, laughing, and empathy. I could feel again, and they only way to describe it to understand it, was imagine you lost your ability to walk. Then one day you can walk again. I call VNS my brain pacemaker. Through out the year I had it adjust to make it stronger and last longer then the couple seconds. My "pacemaker' is sending electricity to the parts of my brain that do not work on their own. There is still so much more to share, but I will rap things up. On Aug.8th of this year I picked up one year clean and sober. I started running. I have been a handful of races. I trained for a 13K in the halfway house I lived in for 3 mos. I would just run a path in the townhouse. To sum it even more I am registered for a small triathlon on Nov. 30th. I just ran a race where I ran 5 miles in 55mins. I also started CrossFit, and workout there 5 days a week I run 3 miles a day when I do not do my WODs at CrossFit, but have been running my 3 miles a day also in training for my 3 mile run 7 mile bike, and quarter mile swim on Nov. 30th. I also started volunteering at a horse stable giving horse rides to children with autism. I also volunteering with the City of Deerfield Beach Police Department. I am a Citizen on Patrol. I will be with another volunteer driving around in a cop car just checking out the neighborhoods for disturbances. I am in training for the 2015 Boston Marathon. Women's Running magazine is doing a story on me in the Jan. Feb. 2014 issue. The good, the bad, and the ugly. CNN is inquiring about my story as well. I work a 12 step program to maintain my sobriety. Also I do my 3 mile runs down along the beach. I attribute this all to my VNS. Cyberonics caught wind of my story, and they are the ones sending it to everyone. This is how so far the press is inquiring about my story. I have een doing my investigation on the vagus nerve because this is amazing what I am feeling today. That I remember I have never been this peaceful or happy my whole life. Don't get me wrong I still have bad days, and I still get the occasional seizures. I have control of them now. I can zap them into oblivion with my magnet, and the beautiful part of all of this is I don't have to drink over these bad days anymore. So this vagus nerve is powerful stuff. So I just wanted to share all this with you, but your book is helping understand all of this. Would love to chat more with you, but I understand you are a busy man. Just really wanted to tell you thank you for your book, and helping me process all of this. Take Care.

    11 Reply
  • Guest - guest

    Thank you for your enormous contribution for those suffering from trauma. I was wondering if you know of any research that provides some insight on one's nervous systems susceptibility to trauma? I have read that based on one's genetic make up that some are more prone to trauma than others. Are some born with a nervous system that just plainly registers outside events as more traumatic than others? One study I read separates children into 2 categories, Orchids and Dandelions. Orchids need a lot of care and if that care doesn't stay at a high level, problems can occur. Dandelions on the other hand can do with less attentive care above a certain threshold, and still do just fine. I was wondering if you have a data on this. Thanks.

    Response from Dr Porges: "This a very good question. Unfortunately, I do not have any data on this. I anticipate that there will be findings in the near future from other laboratories investigating early developmental insults as a factor reducing resilience and creating a vulnerability to trauma via epigenetic mechanisms."

    Comment last edited on about 5 years ago by Administrator
  • Guest - Heleen Grooten

    At request of Stephen I would like to share my experiences in my work as a voice therapist with the polyvagal theory. As a speechtherapist I am specialized in voice- and breathing therapy.
    I followed a training Somatic Experiencing (of Peter Levine) which is partly based on the polyvagal theory and apply this method in my therapy for 2 years now. My clients are really happy to feel themselves understood, hearing that they are not mentally ill and that their complaints can be explained by consequences of serious life events they experienced. Inspired by a conference withStephen, a study in his book and dvd’s, I started tot think about the consequenses of the polyvagal theory for people with medically not understood voice- breathing- and throat complaints. The results of applying this together with the aid of SE are amazing, so I started to tell collegues about this. I was allowed to give lectures on several international voice conferences about the subject. The reactions are overwhelming and warming. Therapists, singing teachers and ENT doctors see that this might be a link we are missing. For example when doctors cannot find any medical ground for complaints, but maybe also as a cause for many other “organic” voiceproblems. In a meantime I am invited as a PhD student to this subject. I got the feeling that I just started to discover and understand what the importance of this all is. I remember Stephen saying in Amsterdam: I discribed the polyval theory, you have to put it in the word. Stephen, thanks for that, I will do my best.

    Heleen Grooten, the Netherlands
    Juli 2014:
    De Polyvagaaltheorie van Porges, door Heleen Grooten, In Logopedie jaargang 86 nr 7/8.

    Comment last edited on about 4 years ago by Administrator
  • Guest - Guest

    One year ago I was sitting in the garden of an outdoor cafe with your book.

    Nearby a young family with two children - a boy around 8yo and girl around 4yo - i sensed tension between the parents, Mom was a bit agitated, talking about changes they will have to make in the house, Dad calmly reassuring her. The kids were running around playing, I could see the girl once had some kind of operation to her head. Mostly this was taking place on the periphery of my awareness. After a bit, the father approached to ask me about your book - apparently the title caught his eye. After giving my best brief overview, I ended by mentioning the remarkable connection with the middle ear and the importance of music and voice. He clearly was becoming increasingly interested. He informed me that he is a physical therapist but his inteest was even more personal. He told me that his daughter suffers from seizures which are typically managed at home. But the night before our meeting his daughter went into a severe seizure that would not stop, so they rushed her to the ER. There she was quickly surrounded by medical staff scurrying around, bright lights, loud machines…at some point he said it became too much for him and he commanded them all to stop and back away from his daughter, who was still experiencing seizures. He looked at the M.D. in charge and the doctor nodded to his staff to back down. The father leaned in, put his face close to his daughters face, and began to sing her her favorite song…immediately the seizures stopped.

    He went on to wonder why our hospitals are set up to trigger alarm rather than calm.

    At some point in our conversation the son had wandered over and was listening, he asked about our conversation and his father, clearly a man of faith, told his son that our conversation had been a "visitation". When the son asked what that meant, he explained that sometimes meetings are arranged by God.

    He thanked me profusely before exchanging contacts and my promise to send him more info.

    Interestingly, another book I was reading that day was a book by Gabriel Bunge about the remarkable Icon of the Trinity by the great Russian artist Andre Rubalev. The theme of the Icon involves the visitation of angels and the hospitality we should extend to strangers, as they might be "angels" in disguise…or perhaps more fittingly, how we should treat each other with the hospitality that is befitting of the recognition of each individuals unique gift of existence.

    I can still feel the warmth and sense of wonderment when I recall that remarkable story - and the encounter that you helped facilitate.

    With deep gratitude-

    Comment last edited on about 4 years ago by Administrator
    13 Reply