The Polyvagal Theory
The Polyvagal Theory outlines three divisions in our autonomic nervous system that operate within a hierarchy designed to ensure our survival: (1) freeze, (2) fight/flight, (3) safe/social.
When faced with the fear of life threat, our dorsal vagal “freeze” response is a function that reflexively kicks in to allow the body to survive the experience, conserve energy and immobilize, dissociate, disconnect and even faint.
When faced with danger, our sympathetic nervous system “fight/flight” response overrides the “freeze” response and automatically mobilizes our body for action to defend in anger or escape in fear.
When we sense and perceive safety, our ventral vagal “safe and social” response emerges and physiologically overrides both the “fight/flight” and “freeze circuits”. This response shifts our physiology to a more relaxed state, promoting health, restoration and well-being, as well as allowing us to effectively form bonds and feel socially connected through a mutual exchange of facial expressions, speech and listening to the higher frequency sounds of the human voice.
What does sound have to do with danger and safety?
When the nervous system senses danger, the middle ear muscles relax in order to perceive the lower frequency sounds of predators (growling, stomping feet, rumbling, etc.). The autonomic nervous system involuntarily and reflexively responds to cues of threat, danger and safety, without our conscious thought, in order to successfully ensure our survival. This is something to celebrate! But, sometimes difficult or traumatic life experiences can overwhelm our nervous system, resulting in maladaptive responses to danger cues, even when the actual danger has gone.
When the nervous system is held in a perpetual state of defense and protection, it can contribute to uncomfortable symptoms such as chronic pain, anxiety, depression, a sense of disconnection to others, difficulty focusing, irritability, hypersensitivity to sound, light, smell, taste or texture, digestive disturbances, and ongoing sleep difficulties.
When the actual danger has gone, what can we do to help the nervous system shift out of a maladaptive state of defense and protection, and back into a state of safety and social engagement?
The "Safe & Sound Protocol": A portal into a sense of safety
Since the ventral vagus nerves and facial nerves supply the middle ear muscles, the Safe & Sound Protocol is a direct portal into gently activating the social engagement system. Exercising the middle ear muscles can reduce auditory hypersensitivities and improve the ability to listen and to attend to human speech. The five to ten day protocol progressively stimulates the natural biological rhythms of homeostasis, while also challenging the nervous system to self-regulate. This proven method gently assists the nervous system in returning back to a sense of safety, restoring a sense of health, well-being, ease and joy!
Following successful completion of the program, individuals often experience improved attention and focus in every day life, a calm emotional and physiological state, and an enhanced ability to engage socially. The SSP provides a neural platform for neuroplasticity, allowing all other forms of therapy to become more effective. When the nervous system shifts out of a state of defense and into a state of safety and social connection, many people experience a substantial reduction in pain, tension, anxiety, as well as improved sleep!
Each 30-min to 1-Hour session includes listening to progressions of filtered and gated musical sounds in a quiet room with headphones, supported by activities that encourage neural regulation.
5-10 consecutive daily sessions are required
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