Polyvagal Theory


Programs at CSES place very high value on a new understanding of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), recognizing that the ANS is the under-appreciated base of health and wellness. The research of Stephen Porges, PhD, has made the conventional wisdom about the ANS (“fight/flight” vs. “rest/rebuild”) obsolete, and replaced it with a new concept, the “Polyvagal Theory.” This new understanding has been thoroughly tested and proven and has profound implications for healthcare. Studying this concept and its applications within the context of somatic therapies is a cornerstone of all CSES trainings.

The main points to be learned include:

  1. The autonomic nervous system is the foundation of health and wellness, regulating neurochemistry, the immune system and most behavior. As osteopathic teacher Dr. James Jealous has stated, “80% or more of all medical conditions are ANS events.”

  2. Unlike the 100-year-old model that is taught in today’s textbooks and classrooms, the ANS has three branches instead of two, and the branches are sequential instead of purely reciprocal. Today’s prevailing idea also perpetuates a significant logic/differentiation error that negatively affects therapeutic theories and applications.

  3. The newly-discovered third branch is the Social Nervous System, which regulates the evolutionarily older Sympathetic (properly called “Orthosympathetic”) and oldest Parasympathetic branches. The Social branch meets the technical criteria for inclusion in the ANS.

  4. Understanding the ANS fully is a true revolution in health care, with enormous implications for medicine, psychology, birthing practices, early childhood care and education of all ages. In addition, the Polyvagal Theory provides important anatomical and physiological information for much more effective treatment of trauma.

To support our own programs and also to contribute to the advancement of this idea generally, we have produced numerous educational materials, available on this site. We invite you to dig in to this new idea and understand it thoroughly, then become an agent for change to a much more effective health care of the future! Use these materials to educate your colleagues and clients.

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18″x24″ Polyvagal Summary Poster for $24 + shipping. 40% discount for orders of 10 or more.

CSES Polyvagal Theory Learning Materials



Our color poster combines the 7 most significant diagrams from DWYY Chapter 6 in one view, for use in an office or classroom. The poster format may be easier to assimilate over time, compared to a one-pass reading or viewing experience.

Posters can be purchased in the CSES Bookstore.