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  • Fe Robinson

Tuning into your neuroception

“Listen to the wind, it talks. Listen to the silence, it speaks. Listen to your heart, it knows.”

Native American Proverb, quoted by Deb Dana in Polyvagal exercises for safety and connection.

I happened on this wonderful quote when I was reviewing Deb Dana’s work on neuroception, and it spoke to my heart. Neuroception is your autonomic nervous system’s capacity to listen internally to what is happening in your organs, externally by scanning your environment, and between to sense connections to other nervous systems you are close to. It is this innate capacity that determines when we are in our relaxed state, able to socially engage, when we move into sympathetic arousal of our fight/flight responses, and when we go into dorsal vagal immobilisation and collapse.

Neuroception is really powerful, as Dana puts it, “it sets off a cascade of embodied events that become a story.” It’s that story that people often come into the therapy room with, as they search to make sense of what on earth is going on that means that they respond to events in the way that they do.

I love Dana’s invitation that when we hear ourselves caught up in our story, and the behaviours and feelings that led us to it, we need to move back upstream to the state, perceptions and neuroception that are really the source of what is going on. She likens this chain (neuroception - perception - state - feelings - behaviour - story) to a river, and suggests that more and more awareness of what is going on deep in our bodies enables us to become a better and better story editor, making a big difference to our well-being.

The body keeps the score, really, it plays out the sum of our life experiences in the here and now, often way beyond our conscious awareness. Learning it’s language and listening to its cues is a deep journey of self-discovery, and a path to choice and possibility of difference.

If you find yourself stuck in habitual responses that puzzle or frustrate you, perhaps developing your understanding of your own neuroception may be a useful starting point. To learn more, get in touch.


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