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Sunday, July 10, 2016

How good is your vagal tone? Do you tend to be reactive or responsive then faced with attack?

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Calming ourselves down when we are anxious and depressed has to do with the part of our nervous system called the smart vagus. This is the part of our brain which an override our sympatheic nervous system or the fight/flight response. The ability to manage our emotional responses well to the interactions with others is referred to by neuroscientists as "good vagal tone." In therapy I make a distinction about being "reactive" and being "responsive." "Reactive" is when the sympathetic nervous system has been triggered with a fight/flight response. "Responsive" is when we can back off, take emotional distance, get things into perspective, calm down, and then decide how to deal with things in a purposeful and deliberate way.

How does one develop good vagal tone? The suggestion in this short video is to imagine what is called "the pin" or the factor which might be motivating the annoying/hurtful person's behavior. In every day words, we shouldn't take what we perceive as annoying or attacking behavior by others "personally." The annoying or attacking behavior of others may be motivated by factors which have nothing to do with us. So we need not fight or flight we can simply observe or perhaps even try to soothe the other who is having a bad day.

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