Being Well Podcast: The Polyvagal Theory and Recovering from Trauma with Dr. Stephen Porges
November 6, 2023

Dr. Stephen Porges, the creator of the polyvagal theory, joins us on this episode of the Being Well Podcast to walk us through how its lessons can be applied to recovering from traumatic experiences.

We start by simplifying the polyvagal theory, discussing the three key states our body can rest in, and exploring some of polyvagal’s key takeaways. Dr. Stephen Porges then explains why there are common responses to traumatic events, and finishes by sharing some polyvagal-informed practices we can use to to heal old wounds and feel safer. 

About our Guest: Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He’s published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers and is the author of a number of books, including his recently released Our Polyvagal World: How Safety and Trauma Change Us.

Key Topics:

  • 0:00: Introduction with Stephen Porges
  • 1:10: A brief overview of Polyvagal Theory (PVT)
  • 5:20: Ventral, sympathetic, and dorsal vagal states
  • 12:05: Relating PVT to trauma, and processing cognitively vs. in the body
  • 19:30: Creating enough safety and co-regulation for healing work
  • 23:30: What helps people gain awareness, safety, and regulation
  • 27:15: Contextualizing a freeze response both psychologically and medically
  • 30:45: Distinguishing feeling safe vs. being safe
  • 34:10: Where to start when you don’t have a secure base in another person
  • 37:20: How our physiology has evolved to detect psychosocial cues
  • 39:20: How healing practices change our perception of the world
  • 41:35: The calming effect of slow exhalation and top-down visualization
  • 43:05: Other tools to calm the nervous system, and the need for social nourishment
  • 47:05: Recap

You can watch this episode on YouTube.

Share this episode on:

Support the Podcast

Special Offers from Our Sponsors


Finally get that project off the ground with Squarespace! Head to squarespace.com/beingwell for a free trial, and when you’re ready to launch use coupon code BEINGWELL to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.


Want to sleep better? Try the Calm app! 

Visit calm.com/beingwell for 40% off a premium subscription.

Join Dr. Rick and Forrest Hanson every week on the Being Well Podcast for lively and thought-provoking conversation and practical tips for being happier, building inner strengths, and getting the most out of life.

Get Rick’s Free Weekly Newsletter

Get a weekly practice and the latest Being Well Podcast delivered right to your inbox.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Ask Rick and Forrest a Question!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Episodes