No submarine could operate without its sonar, no driver without maps and signs. Yet most of us arrive at adulthood with many of our inner signal readers numbed out — or totally blocked.
Dr. Stephen Porges, in his landmark work The Polyvagal Theory, talks about how humans operate optimally when we feel safe and connected to the world around us. His polyvagal research and theory have brought to light how healthy vagus nerve function is what helps us feel happy and connected to life.
The vagus nerve regulates the entire “rest-and-digest” part of the nervous system — the parasympathetic branch — stimulating everything from the salivary glands in the mouth to the beating of the heart to full digestion and elimination — in other words, from one end of the system to the other.
Is It Safe or Dangerous? Pleasurable or Painful?
When the sympathetic part of the nervous system, the “fight-or-flight” impulse, is operating, it suppresses the functioning of the parasympathetic branch and the vagus. From an evolutionary perspective, this helped us outrun the tiger. Our bodies shifted from digesting our lunch to working our legs so we wouldn’t become lunch!
However, this means that in today’s world most of us are not operating from healthy vagal functioning due to the daily stressors in our lives as well as to past unresolved trauma. This in turn inhibits our “rest-and-digest” system, as well as the social engagement system that gives us a deeper sense of connection in each moment, which we all need for a better quality of life.
When the body’s core systems are not registering safety and nurturing connection, all our systems slow down and become depleted, leaving us in a constant state of hypervigilance, always on the lookout for the next threat.
An Epidemic of Disconnection
The bad news is that this epidemic of disconnection is everywhere. Look around and you’ll see that many people are more connected to their technology or their “to-do” list than to their loved ones.
Check out the number of parents who are on their cell phones while they are out with their children. Notice the couples checking email in a restaurant rather than talking to each other. You may even feel overwhelmed yourself, rushing through life and yet missing the joy because of a busy schedule.
Today we spend more time worrying about the future or being haunted by the past than living in the present moment. Sadly, the more trauma you have experienced, the more disconnected you may feel. But even if you have not experienced serious trauma, life in our fast-paced culture can disconnect us.
The good news is that this is repairable in a number of ways. Neuroscience confirmed the concept of neuroplasticity in the 1990s. This means that, throughout life, our brain and nervous system can grow, heal, and remodel.
Reclaiming Your Navigational System
My work for the last three decades has been about reclaiming all of who we are to restore our natural balance and our innate healing potential. Peter Levine says it so clearly, “Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”
While your path home to yourself is unique, all paths include your body and the capacity to feel the sensations of being alive within your skin.
The journey of reclaiming these instinctual parts of who we are is an exciting exploration. You will then be on your way to having a healthy relationship with your inner navigational system. You will have access to the vital, primal information your body provides.
Your inner radar will be up and running and fully functional.
Once most of your system is available to you again, you can easily navigate the rest of the way home as you go about living your life through openness and curiosity rather than from fear and anxiety.
Consider questions like these as you go about your day:
- What food would nourish me right now?
- Is this a healthy exchange I’m having, or do I need to speak up for myself or remove myself from this situation?
- What is my next step in this relationship?
When we’re in tune with our body wisdom, these questions become simple, curiosity-stimulating avenues that lead us back to our body — our home, our refuge, our safe place — without a lot of charge or angst.
You can begin to feel the exquisite joy of connecting to life: the beauty of a flower or a landscape, the love of a pet, or the connection you feel with a friend or your beloved.
©2017 by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of New World Library.
www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.
Reclaiming Your Body: Healing from Trauma and Awakening to Your Body’s Wisdom
by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana.
Many of us have learned to ignore, deny, or even mistrust the wise messages our bodies give us. The result is that when trauma strikes, a time when we need every aspect of our beings to master the challenge, we may find ourselves disconnected from our greatest strengths.
About the Author
Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, CMT, CST-D, has taught about conscious awareness and its relationship to the healing process for more than twenty-five years. She is passionate about teaching people practical skills that allow them to feel the joy of being present in each moment of their lives, without burning out. Suzanne's Healing from the Core curriculum, combined with CranioSacral therapy and other bodywork modalities, creates a complete, body-centered guide to awareness, healing, and joy. She is also the author of Full Body Presence. You can learn more at HealingFromTheCore.com.