Polyvagal Theory in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Polyvagal Theory in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

“We all come from dysfunctional families. The issue is not whether our family was dysfunctional but whether we can put meaning to the experience of our lives.” ~ Stephen Porges, author of the Polyvagal Theory

I had a narcissistic abuse recovery counseling client who was really struggling with deep childhood trauma combined with a psychopathic ex who had horribly abused her since she was a teen. Now that she was free, she was feeling anything BUT. In fact, she felt frozen in fear, nearly all the time.

Are you living in a constant state of fear? 

Can you relate to living in a constant state of fight or flight, or worse, freeze? That was this woman’s reality. She had tried traditional therapy and spent thousands of dollars on various doctors, practitioners, and even alternative medicine. Yet, she was still at a complete standstill in her recovery and she still felt fearful and miserable every day. I deeply felt for her, and I really wanted to help. So, I started digging to help her find a solution to overcome her C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms so she could heal.

That is what led me to Dr. Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory. My client found significant relief, and I learned new ways to help people in narcissistic abuse recovery.

What is Polyvagal Theory?

According to Porges, “The polyvagal theory describes an autonomic nervous system that is influenced by the central nervous system, sensitive to afferent influences, characterized by an adaptive reactivity dependent on the phylogeny of the neural circuits, and interactive with source nuclei in the brainstem regulating the striated muscles of the face and head.” Read more about Polyvagal Theory in Porges’ 2009 paper, here. 

In this brief video, Dr. Stephen Porges explains offers an explanation of his Polyvagal Theory and how it works.

How can we use Polyvagal Theory and vagus nerve stimulation to help us heal from narcissistic abuse and trauma? 

Going through a toxic relationship often leaves victims feeling fearful to a debilitating level. For most of us, it affects our nervous system in profound ways. In some cases, survivors find themselves living in a constant state of anxiety based on the feeling that they need to be constantly on guard – hypervigilance. This makes it almost impossible for them to relax or even to feel “normal.” They feel FROZEN or STUCK.

Through the use of vagus nerve stimulation as described by Dr. Porges in Polyvagal Theory, many survivors find relief of their C-PTSD symptoms. Even better, these exercises can be done by almost anyone from the comfort of their own home – or anywhere they happen to be.

Self-Help Exercises for CPTSD Symptoms Based on Polyvagal Theory

In THIS VIDEO, I talk about a theory developed by Dr. Stephen Porges that could change the way we heal trauma, and once I’ve given you a brief overview of the theory, I’m going to share some self-help exercises that you can do at home to help you get through the hard times.

As I mentioned, one of my clients found herself stuck, afraid and feeling frozen, and she had tried everything but struggled to find relief. After discovering what I’m going to show you today, she began to find some relief. As I learned more about the theory, I shared some of its ideas with other clients in similar situations.

In the majority of these cases, they were able to find some relief all on their own by doing surprisingly simple at-home exercises. Several reported that they felt these simple exercises made a significant difference in their ability to feel safe enough to recover.

The Role of the Vagus Nerve in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Porges proposes in his polyvagal theory that the vagus nerve has more function than previously thought and that the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems are only part of the equation in how people react to the environment and trauma. Because the theory is very complicated, I’m only providing a very high-level overview and focus on the parts that will specifically help us as survivors. The Polyvagal Theory says that the parasympathetic nervous system is not only associated with relaxation but also symptoms of PTSD.

Porges developed the theory to help us understand this dual function of the parasympathetic nervous system. It points to a human survival mechanism in which the parasympathetic nervous system leads us to FREEZE or “faint” in the face of a life-threatening event. Most importantly, the polyvagal theory teaches you to engage your social nervous system to consciously slow down your defensive system.

This allows you to finally find freedom from CPTSD symptoms and to feel safe. In other words, Porges’s theory makes us look beyond the effects of fight or flight and put social relationships in the forefront so we can understand our symptoms better.

Additional Resources for Learning About Polyvagal Theory

Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support

Related Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Bliss Tips: 12 Ways to Heal After an Emotional Trauma

Bliss Tips: 12 Ways to Heal After an Emotional Trauma

EmotionFrom time to time, we all experience unfortunate events, situations, and traumas. Although traumas might involve physical injuries and damage, they can also be emotional. If unaddressed, the results of these emotional experiences can last for years.

Today, we’re focusing on the emotional aspects of trauma and what you can do to expedite your recovery. Do you have old hurts that could use your attention? You can also use this as a guide the next time you experience an intense situation that leaves you emotionally smarting for a while.

These trauma coping strategies will help you heal.

  •  Compliment yourself on making it through. You’re here and you’re alive. Whether your trauma involved only emotions or physical injury as well, the fact is that you’re strong enough to have survived.
  • Allow time to recuperate. You may not be completely recovered by next week. Healing from emotional trauma takes time and rest. In the evenings after work, allow yourself some time to relax.
  • Take it easy on yourself. Depending on your emotional trauma, you may still be going to work and carrying out your everyday life while you’re healing. Maybe you didn’t finish every task you wanted to complete while at work. Remind yourself that you’re doing what you can to get better and will soon be as efficient as ever.
  • Think positive. Long known to conquer many afflictions, thinking positive thoughts will help you speed up your healing. When you’re thinking troubling thoughts like, “I feel so sad today,” remind yourself, “I’m taking important steps each day to feel better.”
  • Find moments in each day to do what you like to do. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day, sit outdoors and watch the birds, work on the bookshelf you’re building, or check out your social media websites. Staying in touch with the things you love will speed your recovery.
  • Let yourself cry. If you feel emotions building up inside you, it’s quite natural to want to release them by having a good cry. Crying will provide some relief and help you leave some of your pain behind you. Go ahead and cry.
  • Listen to the music you love. Nothing brings joy to the soul in quite the same manner as music. Your prescription is: listen to music each day for at least 15 minutes. Some days you’ll find yourself extending that time a bit and maybe even singing along. Music will help you heal.
  • Pamper yourself. If ever there’s a time to indulge in the creature comforts you love, it’s whenever you’re healing from trauma. On your day off, lie on the couch and read a book. Play games all day with your kids. Take a nice long walk with your best friend.
  • Watch situation comedies on television. Laughing is good for your emotional healing process. You’ve probably seen a few comedies that you find humorous and entertaining. Now’s the time to ensure you watch a few every week. This is a bit of healthy escapism.
  • Incorporate physical movement into your day. Provided the doctor says it’s okay, engage in some physical activity each day. Go for a swim. Lift weights, or get on the treadmill. Physical exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormones.
  • Surround yourself with the people you love. Play with your kids. Talk to your partner. Call your best friend. Invite your brother over for a visit. Remind yourself of all the positive people you have in your life and take advantage of their loving care and support.
  • Recognize when you need professional help. Allowing your emotional injuries to prevent you from living a full life is unproductive, at least after the initial few weeks or months. Instead, call a local mental health professional to help you sort through your challenging times.

Healing emotionally after a trauma takes time, patience, and effort. Put the above strategies into action to speed your emotional recovery. Trust that you’ll be better soon and discover the rich, full life that’s waiting for you.

 

Pin It on Pinterest