The human brain is hard-wired for connection. Our autonomic nervous system has more in common with its mammalian and amphibian evolutionary ancestors than the relatively new prefrontal cortex that gives us the much-hyped executive function.
What does it mean to be hard wired for connection? It means that our nervous systems regulate together, or co-regulate with others, that we are designed to feel safe, abundant, joyful and expansive when we are in connection, not in isolation.
The historical evolution of our nervous system is important as it maps out the developmental functions from our emergence from water onto land to mammalian development where the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous systems ruled our survival. It also signals the coping mechanisms and strategies that emerged to keep us safe in sympathetic fight, flight, or freeze and re-regulate for the parasympathetic activities of rest, digest, and reproduce.
Dr Peter Levine, across his body of research and clinical therapy, has written a lot about the greater connection we have to our ancestral nervous systems than our current human condition. Levine is an expert in trauma, and his observations for many decades have been focussed on how the chemical residues of trauma become trapped in our bodies. If they are unable to be released when there is a rupture to feeling safe, the potential for the nervous system to become traumatised can occur, and with many ruptures, can build over time into complex PTSD and a range of other presentations.
Levine’s answer is a practice called Somatic Experiencing, where the client is guided into a a sympathetic nervous system arousal to get the body into a state where it can release these traumas somatically. Breathwork works in a similar way, using conscious connected breathing to stimulate the autonomic nervous system to a release and a reset.
Our autonomic nervous systems are in constant dialogue across our internal worlds – with our viscera, our internal organs and our neural highways to the brain; externally with our surrounds; and between each other.
Much of this process is neuroception, where the communication and frequency is beneath our conscious awareness. We are literally communicating with each other and our surrounds via our nervous system in a subtle sensory way. It’s that feeling you get when you are in proximity to others, the unspoken knowings, a sense of safety, or a sense of danger, and everything in between.
This is the hard wiring of our bodies, constantly transmitting to our brains which return the signal back down through the neural superhighways of the vagus nerve and the sympathetic nervous system. A whole system created in service to our safety. Constantly looking for that connection with others, to the safety and co-regulation of a protective pack.
Please don’t hesitate get in touch if the above resonates with you in light of your own situation.