A lot of us have found ourselves in a situation where we suddenly start feeling so uncertain about our environment. Sometimes, it may be a feeling of danger with no clear definition of why you’re getting such feelings. Even when you look around and monitor your environment, you don’t see anything but still, it feels as though something is trailing behind you.

Maybe you’re yet to realize the fact that you walk every day picking social cues from your immediate environment. Some of these may include tone of voice, facial expressions, bodily movement, and several others. The more you see and interact with people, the more your sense of self unintentionally gets shaped and your body processes whatever it comes in contact with. In this read, we will go through the basic things you need to know about the polyvagal theory.

The surveillance system of the body

The nervous system can be described as a complex structure that tends to gather every piece of information from the parts of the body and organizes activities. The central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system are the two major parts of the nervous system.

The central nervous system: this is made up of the:

  • Brain
  • Spinal cord

Peripheral Nervous System

This consists of the nerves that are located outside your brain and spinal cord. It’s in two categories which include:

  • Somatic nervous system
  • Autonomic nervous system

The autonomic nervous system tends to control the glands as well as the internal organs which include the lungs, heart, and digestive system. They run our body without us instructing it to do so.

Reading Danger Cues

The autonomic nervous system is always busy and this makes it complex. Asides from helping the body to pump blood, breathe, and digest food, it also helps us to scan, translates, and respond to certain cues of danger. Two major systems that work in the autonomic nervous systems when we read and translate danger cues include:

  • The sympathetic nervous system:  this arouses the body and helps it move away each time it senses danger in any situation. A lot of people call it “prompting of fight or flight”. It also activates the adrenaline rush.
  • The parasympathetic nervous system: this helps our body to remain calm and also co serve lots of energy. Many call this system the “rest and digest system”. This system comes into action whenever our body finally realized that a certain cue isn’t dangerous after all.

The vagus nerve

The tenth cranial nerve is the vagus nerve. It starts in the medulla oblongata and it’s a long nerve that wanders. The medulla oblongata is situated at the lower part of the brain just above the connection between the brain and the spinal cord. The two sides of the vagus nerve are the al and the ventral.

Vagus nerve and the polyvagal theory

The vagus nerve is connected to different parts of the body. It’s also capable of Influencing the cranial nerves that regulated the social engagement we do through vocalization and facial expressions.


In summary, we always yearn to have only feelings of safety, comfort, and trust when we are with other people. This is why when there’s any cue telling us that we aren’t safe, we react to it as quickly as we can.