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  • Linda Tremblay, MA

Towards Poly-Nerve-Vana

Are you missing social engagement with others during this COVID-19 Pandemic? Has the pandemic been stressful and isolating for you? My partner termed, "poly-nerve-vana" after reading this blog. We can translate the made-up word, many glistening bundles of fibers moving towards a state of ease.



In social interaction, things are being done and said that are unexpected and each of these triggers the release of stress hormones. The Social Engagement System (SES), termed by Stephen Porges is our face to heart connection. The SES picks up signals from others, facial expression, tone of voice, and body expression. We are calmed and the stress hormone release is overridden, if the SES likes what it hears and sees. It is important to note that the SES engages automatically. We are often unconscious that others are constantly triggering us in our social interactions and our SES responds automatically in determining welcoming (safety) or signals of warning. When our SES, through social gesture, orienting, breathing, vocalization, ingestion, sucking, social gaze, emotional expression and voice is established and on-line, one can send and search for signs of welcome and signals of warning.


When we have a healthy social engagement system that was developed and was nurtured when we were children, this is all unconscious and we are unaware in a healthy way. When we have experienced less than a healthy mirroring, have childhood trauma, were raised by caregivers that suffered from anxiety/trauma/depression or other mental health disorders or experienced physical/emotion/psychological neglect then this SES is not on-line giving us the signal that we are safe. Note this following example, “Think of being in your car with one foot pressing on the accelerator and one foot firmly holding the brake. Though gas is revving up the engine, the car goes nowhere because of the brake. In your body, stress hormones are being released but signals the SES picks up from others, can cause you – in spite of the hormones –to feel calm, using what Porges calls the Vagal Brake. Not only can the SES override stress hormones, it can prevent the release of stress hormones by increasing the level of oxytocin, a hormone that inhibits the amygdala.” Polyvagal Theory in Practice, Counseling Today, June 27, 2016, Dee Wagner.


The SES is the newest response of a three-part nervous system that was identified by Stephen Porges with the Porges Polyvagal theory. This SES is a playful mixture of activation and calming that operates out of the Vagus Nerve. The SES supports us in navigating relationships. The other two parts of our nevous system function to help us manage life-threatening situations.


Come join us in a Spring Circle of Connection that will support our Social Engagement System (SES) eight Thursdays from 6:30-8PM. Beginning March 11 or 18th, 2021. For inquiries, reach out to Linda Tremblay, MA, LCMHC, MLADC, 603-661-7345.


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