The Science of Feeling Safe
SSP is based on Polyvagal Theory
which was developed by world-renowned researcher Dr. Stephen Porges. Polyvagal Theory explains how the autonomic nervous system is impacted by a sense of safety or threat and this in turn affects our health and behavior. Polyvagal Theory provides a framework for the science of feeling safe and SSP builds on this. The Safe & Sound Protocol focuses on gently stimulating the vagal nerve complex to create greater balance and harmony in the autonomic nervous system.
The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve and runs from the brainstem to the colon, innervating many of our internal organs along the way.
It has pathways that send information from the brain down to the organs and pathways that send information from the organs up to the brain. 80% of the pathways send information up from the body to the brain.
The vagus nerve is involved in many bodily functions, including digestion, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, just to name a few.
According to polyvagal theory, there are two branches of the vagus nerve. The ventral vagus and the dorsal vagus. Both are part of the parasympathetic nervous system and should work in harmony with the sympathetic nervous system. When there is a sense of safety and the autonomic nervous system is functioning properly, the majority of time should be spent in a ventral vagal state. When in a ventral vagal state, there is a sense of calm, balance, and being grounded. A ventral vagal state promotes healing, growth and repair in the body.
Please Note: I understand that there is a difference between freeze and dorsal vagal shutdown in polyvagal theory. I am simplifying here in order to make a complex concept easier to understand.
When the brain senses danger it cues the autonomic nervous system to go into a state of fight/flight or freeze to escape the threat. The fight/flight response is activation of the sympathetic nervous system and freeze is predominately dorsal vagal shutdown.
Imagine an antelope grazing with its herd. The antelope is in a calm, ventral vagal state and there is a sense of connection within the herd. When the antelope notices a lion approaching it goes into flight and runs to evade the lion. If it becomes apparent that the antelope can’t escape the lion, it will then go into freeze. The freeze response creates a dulling of physical, mental and emotional awareness, so the experience of being caught by the lion is not so painful.
The human nervous system does the same thing when we feel threatened or unsafe, it goes into fight/flight or freeze to get us to safety or make the experience less intense. These states are meant to be a short-term defense strategy, however, trauma, chronic stress, illness, and the demands of modern life can shift this and the nervous system gets remodeled in a defensive pattern.
When this happens, the nervous system spends too much time in fight/flight and freeze and does not easily and automatically go back to a resting ventral vagal state. The autonomic nervous being stuck in this protective pattern can have a big impact on how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally.
SSP can help to repattern the nervous system back into a more balanced place, that encourages better physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It does this by gently stimulating the ventral vagal complex with modulated music. The music sends a message of safety to the brain and nervous system that helps the nervous system down regulate into a more balanced ventral vagal state.
Video below from Unyte iLs: Polyvagal Theory, or the “science of feeling safe,” is one of the key research advancements that helps us better understand our challenges and gives us a foundational framework for non-invasive ways to support them. This looks at understanding our bodies response to the world around us.