You know that I do my best to explain the connection between our lived experiences and our biological makeup and autonomic responses. In today’s blog, I wanted to dive a little deeper into explaining how your polyvagal response is connected to a larger system that includes your social engagement system as well as coregulation. There are a lot of moving parts, and when one of them is off, it can affect your overall experience and state.

Polyvagal Theory and Social Engagement System Defined

The polyvagal theory is what plays into coregulation and the social engagement system. Polyvagal theory looks at the vagal nerve to understand the in-between space of the sympathetic and parasympathetic activation, being the social engagement system. The vagus nerve runs through your entire body which helps to modulate the Autonomic nervous system. 

The social engagement system can be understood as the need to be safe in order to function optimally in relationships and everyday life. The social engagement system does not take long at all to adjust to your environment but it does require the feeling of safety first in order to function well. 

When we have a perceived sense of safety we can then move towards social engagement that is supportive and healing. All of these systems can be easy to confuse, but just remember that you function most optimally when all of these parts are in harmony and if you are noticing higher levels of distress, your body is trying to communicate with you that a piece of the puzzle is missing. 


Coregulation is essential to our interpersonal process which includes relating and connecting to others. When someone is trying to communicate they are simultaneously working to maintain the connection between the mind and body as well as trying to maintain a regulated state. Our autonomic nervous system is constantly assessing whether or not we are experiencing safety. 

Autonomic nervous system ladder

At the top of the ladder you have your ventral vagal nerve which includes… perception of safety, connection, social engagement, and overall regulation. If any of these things are out of balance, your ventral vagal nerve is not functioning at an optimal level. 

Weak ventral vagal nerve looks like

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Avoiding social interactions 
  • Fight, flight, freeze in confrontation

Healthy ventral vagal nerve looks like

  • Feeling safe in social situations
  • Slow to react and instead respond
  • Low levels of stress and anxiety
  • Health social engagement and co-regulation levels

We want to strive towards a body system that integrates all of the parts of the ventral vagal nerve which includes coregulation, social engagement, and the overall polyvagal system. 

Which one do you lean more towards? If you are struggling with your autonomic nervous system regulation and response, I have a way to support you!

What next?

If you find yourself wanting to go beyond the mindset and behavior change, I have a group that is going to help you tap into your biology through psychology and neuroplasticity. We have monthly calls to address what is coming up for you and ways to get to the root of your struggles. If I have piqued your interest and you want to learn more about it, go here

Remember that your body is a system that has to work in harmony so when one thing is off, it tends to disrupt everything else. As a practitioner, I can help you get to the root of your struggles and find real solutions. As always, thank you for saving room for me and I am rooting for you.

Sending love and wellbeing your way!

Lisa 🧠

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