Stephen Porges Quotes



Best 23 Quotes by Stephen Porges

“If you want to improve the world, start by making people feel safer.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory Quotes

“I am not talking about curing; I am talking about reducing some of the symptoms to make life better for people with disorders. If we understand that physiological state provides a functional platform for different classes of behavior, then we are aware that when a client is in a physiological state that supports fight/flight, the client will not be available for social behavior.

If the client is in a physiological state of shutting down, the client is functionally immune to social interactions. An important treatment goal is to provide the client with the ability to access the physiological state that enables social engagement.

In developing this capacity, the client is informed that access to this physiological state is limited, due to our neuroception processes, to safe environments. With that knowledge, we need to structure settings to remove sensory cues that trigger a neuroception of danger and life threat.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“I have learned about these mechanisms from clinical populations that express difficulties in social connectedness. HIV patients provide an interesting example to elaborate on this point. In studying HIV patients, I have learned that often their caregivers feel unloved and frequently get angry attending to the needs of the infected individual.

Parents of autistic children often report the same feelings and experiences. In both examples, although they often report feeling unloved, what they really are expressing is that the HIV-infected individual or the autistic child is not contingently responding to them with appropriate facial expressivity, eye gaze, and intonation in their voices.

In both cases, the individual being cared for is behaving in a machinelike manner, and the caregivers feel disengaged and emotionally disconnected. Functionally, their physiological responses betray them, and they feel insulted.

Thus, an important aspect of therapy is to deal not solely with the patient, but to also include the social context in which the patient lives with a focus on the parent–child or caregiver–client dyad.

This will ensure that the parents or the caregivers will learn to understand their own responses as a natural physiological response.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Let’s start off by forgetting that we have all these complex diagnostic categories. If we use diagnostic categories, we end up describing comorbidities and using other terms that are not helpful in understanding the underlying functions and processes.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Neuroception evaluates risk in the environment without awareness. Perception implies awareness and conscious detection. Neuroception is not a cognitive process; it is a neural process without a dependency on awareness.

Neuroception is dependent on a neural circuit that evaluates risk in the environment from a variety of cues and triggers shifts in autonomic state to adaptively deal with the cues.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Once we recognize that the experiences within our societal institutions such as schools, hospitals, and churches are characterized by chronic evaluations that trigger feelings of danger and threat, we can see that these institutions can be as disruptive to health as political unrest, fiscal crisis, or war.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Only when we are in a calm physiological state can we convey cues of safety to another.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Outside the realm of conscious awareness, our nervous system is continuously evaluating risk in the environment, making judgments, and setting priorities for behaviors that are adaptive.

These processes occur without our awareness and without the conscious mental processes that we attribute to the 'executive' functions involved in decision-making.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Perhaps our misunderstanding of the role of safety is based on an assumption that we think we know what safety means. This assumption needs to be challenged, because there may be an inconsistency between the words we use to describe safety and our bodily feelings of safety.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Polyvagal Theory defines interactive play as a 'neural exercise' that enhances the co-regulation of physiological state to promote the neural mechanisms involved in supporting mental and physical health.

Interactive play as a neural exercise requires synchronous and reciprocal behaviors between individuals and necessitates an awareness of each other’s social engagement system.

Access to the social engagement system insures that the sympathetic activation involved in the mobilization does not hijack the nervous system, resulting in playful movements transitioning into aggressive behavior.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Polyvagal Theory proposes a neurophysiological model of safety and trust. The model emphasizes that safety is defined by feeling safe and not by the removal of threat.

Feeling safe is dependent on three conditions:
1) the autonomic nervous system cannot be in a state that supports defense;
2) the social engagement system needs to be activated to down regulate sympathetic activation and functionally contain the sympathetic nervous system and the dorsal vagal circuit within an optimal range (homeostasis) that would support health, growth, and restoration; and
3) to detect cues of safety (e.g., prosodic vocalizations, positive facial expressions and gestures) via neuroception. In everyday situations, the cues of safety may initiate the sequence by triggering the social engagement system via the process of neuroception, which will contain autonomic state within a homeostatic range and restrict the autonomic nervous system from reacting in defense.

This constrained range of autonomic state has been referred to as the window of tolerance and can be expanded through neural exercises embedded in therapy.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“The theory forces us to question whether our society provides sufficient and appropriate opportunities to experience safe environments and trusting relationships.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Therapies often convey to the client that their body is not behaving adequately. The clients are told they need to be different. They need to change. So therapy in itself is extraordinarily evaluative of the individual. And once we are evaluated, we are basically in defensive states. We are not in safe states.

I have given a few lectures on mindfulness, and in these lectures I state that mindfulness requires feeling safe. Because, if we don’t feel safe, we are neurophysiologically evaluative of our setting, which precludes feeling safe. In this defensive state, we can’t engage others and we can’t recruit the wonderful neural circuits.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“This is why people who have experienced severe abuse and trauma often have difficulty explaining their experiences. They have a problem because clinicians, friends, and family often don’t have the concept of an immobilization defensive system in their vocabulary.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“Thus, to fulfill our biological imperative of connectedness, our personal agenda needs to be directed toward making individuals feel safe.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

“We can cluster both PTSD and autism together, because from a Polyvagal perspective, the pivotal point is whether we can help another human feel safe. Safety is a powerful construct that involves features from several processes and domains, including context, behavior, mental processes, and physiological state.

If we feel safe, we have access to the neural regulation of the facial muscles. We have access to a myelinated vagal circuit that is capable of down-regulating the commonly observed fight/flight and stress responses. And, when we down-regulate our defense, we have an opportunity to play and to enjoy our social interactions.

I wanted to introduce into this discussion the concept of play. An inability to play is a characteristic of many individuals with a psychiatric diagnosis. Yet, we do not find an inability to play with others or to spontaneously and reciprocally express humor in any diagnostic criteria.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

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“We live in a world that has a cognitive bias and assumes that our actions are voluntary. We are confronted with questions related to motivation and outcome. We are asked about costs, risks, and benefits.

However, state shifts in the neural regulation of the autonomic nervous system are usually not voluntary, although the state shifts have profound impact on behavior. The state shifts occur in a more reflexive manner when we are confronted by specific cues in the environment.”

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory

The Polyvagal Theory Quotes

“A child's (or an adult's) nervous system may detect danger or a threat to life when the child enters a new environment or meets a strange person. Cognitively, there is no reason for them to be frightened.

But often, even if they understand this, their bodies betray them. Sometimes this betrayal is private; only they are aware that their hearts are beating fast and contracting with such force that they start to sway.

For others, the responses are more overt. They may tremble. Their faces may flush, or perspiration may pour from their hands and forehead. Still others may become pale and dizzy and feel precipitously faint.”

The Polyvagal Theory

“By processing information from the environment through the senses, the nervous system continually evaluates risk. I have coined the term neuroception to describe how neural circuits distinguish whether situations or people are safe, dangerous, or life-threatening.

Because of our heritage as a species, neuroception takes place in primitive parts of the brain, without our conscious awareness.”

The Polyvagal Theory

“People with impaired social engagement systems are prone to misinterpret safety as a threat and objective danger as safety. Their visceral feedback system fails to protect them, or prevents them from engaging in the fullness of what life has to offer.”

The Polyvagal Theory

“Playing nice comes naturally when our neuroception detects safety and promotes physiological states that support social behavior. However, pro-social behavior will not occur when our neuroception misreads the environmental cues and triggers physiological states that support defensive strategies.

After all, 'playing nice' is not appropriate or adaptive behavior in dangerous or life-threatening situations. In these situations, humans – like other mammals – react with more primitive neurobiological defense systems.

To create relationships, humans must subdue these defensive reactions to engage, attach, and form lasting social bonds. Humans have adaptive neurobehavioral systems for both pro-social and defensive behaviors.”

The Polyvagal Theory

“The detection of a person as safe or dangerous triggers neurobiologically determined pro-social or defensive behaviors.
Even though we may not always be aware of danger on a cognitive level, on a neurophysiological level, our body has already started a sequence of neural processes that would facilitate adaptive defense behaviors such as fight, flight or freeze. ”

The Polyvagal Theory

“To switch effectively from defense to social engagement strategies, the nervous system must do two things: (1) assess risk, and (2) if the environment looks safe, inhibit the primitive defensive reactions to fight, flight or freeze.”

The Polyvagal Theory

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