The ventral system is the primary mechanism governing health and homeostasis in the body. Consider your response internally when someone looks at you with welcoming eyes, uses a soft tone, or makes a gesture of connection? This is the ventral system action. Messages of safety keep us in balance so we can move with ease in and out of sympathetic states as we need to throughout the day.
Stress or difficult life events (past or present) – basically anything that is too big, too fast, or too much to process can leave a lasting impression on the nervous system. We can become stuck in either sympathetic states of high activation or in dorsal states of shutdown. Today we know that the body holds our experiences of stress whether that stress is from individual pain or collective pain. And, in today’s modern world, the culmination of stress can really add up, leaving us in states of high sympathetic activation (stress) or low activation (shut down). And, if our ventral system (system of relationship) has been compromised due internal or external limitations in our environment, we can end up using our survival states (fight, flight, freeze) to manage our daily functioning.
To sum up, when we feel safe in the world, we feel calm, alert, and our heart rate is regulated, and we have what is called “good vagal tone”. This is known as high vagal tone and is affiliated with the optimal functioning of many of our bodily systems including cardiac health, mood, and digestion. When we do not feel safe in the world, we are tense, stressed, agitated, numb, spacey, and sleepy. This is known as low vagal tone which is associated with inflammatory conditions, low mood, and poor digestion.