This explanation is based on the Polyvagal theory which says that there are 3 branches of the nervous system:
Dorsal Vagal, which is responsible for sleep and freeze. The way this system responds to threat is to freeze – “play dead” more or less – slow everything way down.
Sympathetic, which is responsible for activity, getting things done. The way this system responds to thread is to fight or flee – ramp everything up.
“Social Engagement nervous system”, which includes the Ventral Vagal system plus several muscle groups in the head and neck, is responsible for pleasant, authentic and collaborative interactions between humans (all mammals actually).
And this explanation is also based on the understanding of how traumatic memories or programs get implanted into our body systems:
When there’s a threat, and we can’t negotiate out of it using our social engagement system, then we go into fight or flight mode. But if for whatever reason or set of reasons, we can’t successfully fight or flee (we might not even try because we are so outgunned, as if I am a young child under threat by a caregiver) then at some point our system engages the Freeze response. However, since the threat is still real, our sympathetic fight/flight system is still running full tilt. This would allow us to quickly respond in an act of attack or escape if an opportunity presented itself. So the Sympathetic system is running full tilt and the Freeze is also running full tilt.
Now, if there is never a satisfactory and comprehensive enough resolution to this traumatic experience, wherein I am seen and heard and can feel and release all of the fear, helplessness, terror, anger, and overwhelm that showed up in me, if that safe resolution does not happen, then we get the ingredients for PTSD, or generally for unresolved trauma. In this case, the reality of the threat continues to live in the body even when the threat is far away geographically and/or far gone in the past. That means that inside my system, my flight/flight system continues to run full tilt and my freeze system also continues to run full tilt.Continue reading “How Trauma/Freeze/Nervous System Dysregulation causes Syndromal symptoms”