Porges is studying technologies clinicians will love,
including measuring vagal regulation from a distance, or the heartbeat by video.
As Porges pointed out, we’re often intuitively aware of the emotional states of our clients and our own body’s response to threat. His research provides the physiological explanation.
We learned some fascinating things including:
- Without thinking we analyze vocal intonations, the muscles around the eyes, and reciprocity during listening.
- Our ears literally open up when we’re in a heart-felt place and close when we’re under stress (causing us to miss consonants on the ends of words), and the prosody in our voices conveys our emotional intentions.
- “The two worst things for a mammal are isolation and restraint,” Physiologically, our bodies evolved to expect co-regulation and reciprocity from others.
- Having a strong social engagement system, that includes receiving lots of safety cues, is how we grow, develop and acquire resilience.
- When the nervous system feels safe, people have the ability to be more creative and bold.
Porges says when we need soothed there is a hierarchy of calming. Some things just penetrate a distressed state faster and more effectively than others. It starts with the ears during co-regulation with another person.
When we hear prosodic words (warm and melodic intonations), the muscles in the ears relax, then the muscles in the eyes and face. Our-breath deepens, the heart calms, and the sympathetic defense system down-regulates.
As clinicians we see the development of well-being when we use attachment theory and a person’s
partner to bring someone out of the danger zone and into safety. We slow things down. You’re on your
guard; it’s okay—I see you. You’re safe. You’re important. I hear you.
Stephen Porges’ work has been so important for clinicians to understand the origins of physiological
responses. When we honor who we are and how our nervous systems are set up, it allows healing and
Let’s change the way we interact as a society and make the world a safer place.
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To see the Replay of Talk Time with Dr. Porges click here.