Transforming Trauma Episode 074: The Polyvagal Theory and Developmental Trauma with Dr. Stephen Porges
A podcast brought to you by the NARM® Training Institute
In this episode of Transforming Trauma, our host Emily facilitates a discussion between NARM creator Dr. Laurence Heller and Dr. Stephen Porges PhD, the originator of the Polyvagal Theory. Dr. Porges is a distinguished neuroscientist, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium, and author. He is also creator of the Safe and Sound Protocol™, a music-based intervention which is a “distilled essence of trust in acoustic signals to achieve physiological shifts.”
Dr. Heller and Dr. Porges discuss cues of safety and the nervous system, connection as our “biological imperative,” as well as shame and life-threat reactions. Dr. Porges describes how the Polyvagal Theory emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral, mental, and health problems related to traumatic experiences. In their engaging conversation, Dr. Porges presents the polyvagal interpretation of trauma as physiological states similar to NARM’s understanding of adaptive survival strategies. “What we learn in adapting to connection failures very early on in life is what we have a tendency to carry forward, not just on a cognitive level but on an emotional level and a physiological level.” Dr. Heller shares.
Dr. Porges did not set out to so greatly influence the field of trauma, but he is happy to see how much trauma therapists have been able to use the Polyvagal Theory in their understanding and work with trauma. He shares, “What I often say is that we’re a traumatized species. That’s our history. We are transgenerationally traumatized and our journey to a type of normalcy is, can we get back into our bodies and can we feel the states that we’re in? So can we be informed that when our physiology is in a state of threat (…) we’re broadcasting cues of separation and not connection.”
We hope you will enjoy this episode with two pioneers in the trauma field, Dr. Laurence Heller and Dr. Stephen Porges. Both of their models – the Polyvagal Theory and the NeuroAffective Relational Model – have significantly impacted our understanding of trauma and we are honored to host this important conversation.
We invite you to listen to the full episode and follow Transforming Trauma in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.
About Dr. Porges:
Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland.
He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He has published more than 400 peer-reviewed papers across several disciplines including anesthesiology, biomedical engineering, critical care medicine, ergonomics, exercise physiology, gerontology, neurology, neuroscience, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, psychometrics, space medicine, and substance abuse. In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders.
He is the author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation (Norton, 2011), The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe, (Norton, 2017), co-editor of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies (Norton, 2018) and author of Polyvagal Safety: Attachment, Communication, Self-Regulation (Norton 2021). Dr. Porges is the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol ™ (SSP), which is used by therapists to improve social engagement, language processing, and state regulation, as well as to reduce hearing sensitivities.