✨VAGUS NERVE✨, AKA cranial nerve 🔟, "the wandering nerve"
This special nerve runs from the brain🧠 > chest > abdomen carrying parasympathetic fibers to all your organs. It's one of the largest and most complex nerves - we've just begun to understand its role and importance in the human body.
New research has uncovered that the vagus nerve actually acts as a 3-part hierarchical system. The first part is newly evolved and only seen in mammals. It's call the "ventral vagal" branch and it's all about SAFETY and SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT. The second part is called "activation" and really represents our sympathetic, or fight-or-flight, nervous system. The last part and most primitive is the "dorsal vagal" branch. It's seen in our reptilian ancestors and is characterized by IMMOBILIZATION.
When we encounter stress/anything that the brain interprets as a threat, the sympathetic nervous system begins to turn on. The body tries to deal with the stress by activating its ventral vagal/social engagement system. If the doesn't work, the sympathetic system will fully employ. If we still can't find a way out of the threat/stress, or it continues or worsens, the dorsal vagal may eventually take over. This process can happen very quickly or over time. Dorsal vagal is essentially like playing dead, we shut down in an effort to protect the body-mind from the stressor. It is characterized by apathy, little energy, and detachment.
With today's world being as hectic as it is, this is important to discuss. Your brain can't tell the difference between perceived and real threats. Many people perceive a high degree of chronic stress in their life (home life, work, finances, etc.). The body reacts the same way to these as it would to a real predator. If you cannot activate the ventral vagal or have no strategies of dealing with high stress, odds are you are living in a state of fight-or-flight or frozen, dissociated state of dorsal vagal!