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The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  514 ratings  ·  42 reviews
This book compiles, for the first time, Stephen W. Porges’s decades of research. A leading expert in developmental psychophysiology and developmental behavioral neuroscience, Porges is the mind behind the groundbreaking Polyvagal Theory, which has startling implications for the treatment of anxiety, depression, trauma, and autism. Adopted by clinicians around the world, th ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 25th 2011 by W. W. Norton Company
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Michael
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm giving this book 4 stars because of the importance of the research and theory that Porges presents here.
The book itself is however very difficult to read. Many of the chapters repeat the previous chapters at length which is very frustrating.
That all being said Porges contributions to the fields of medicine and psychology are seminal and paradigm changing. His formulation of the hierarchical organization of the autonomic system in humans and its evolution explains human development and psycho
...more
Kevin
Feb 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is an important contribution. But it is also frustratingly repetitive. For a more comprehensive view, this book is best paired with Panksepp & Biven (2012). Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions.

I present Porges' main thesis here: https://kevinbinz.com/2019/02/05/the-...

Why is this book need to be complemented by another? A metaphor may help motivate my recommendation.

The brain is a vehicle, with many interlocking subsystems contributing to overall driving
...more
Carolyn
Jun 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Polyvagal Theory offers a paradigm shift in neuropsychiatric approaches to treatment. Porges explains why medicine, psychology and social behavior hinges on neurophysiological underpinnings, and how current practices need to change to become more effective. Everyone with a brain should read this book! Here is a podcast interview with Stephen Porges of the Brain-Body Center at University of Illinois at Chicago, in which he discusses the principles of polyvagal theory: .
Harrison
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This one was pretty dry and repetitive, but the information is so valuable, it was worth it. Porges integrates emotion, visceral states, brain regulation, evolution, and a bunch of other cool stuff into a framework that makes everything make sense. Thank you, nature, for my myelinated vagus.
Morgan Blackledge
Dec 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Polyvagal Theory (PT) is an evolutionarily grounded, neuroscientific and psychological construct that explains the role of the vagus nerve in mammalian threat response and emotion regulation via social connection (co-regulation) initially introduced by Stephen Porges in 1994.

This book is ridiculously dense.

And notoriously unrelatable.

But kind of a must-read if you’re interested in PT.

That being said, don’t start with this one.

I know I sure didn’t.

Start with:

The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal The
...more
Lorilee
Dec 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
I am now complete with this book. It is a heady read. Took me three years to slog through it. Whew! Sure am glad that's over! Sorry, Stephen Porges, I think overall I must be honest...your writing is - well - beyond me . . . in all ways . . . finally. ...more
Alexis
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: trauma
The theory is excellent and extremely valuable in informing case conceptualization and treatment for a variety of emotional, social, and mental health challenges. However, the text is a hard read for non-neuroscience clinicians (at least, it was for me). I read the book hoping to better understand how the Polyvagal Theory applied to individuals who had experienced psychological trauma; this book met this goal, but I often got lost in the technical terminology. If this is your goal, I would recom ...more
Karen
Aug 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting stuff, but the book comes across as a collection of essays that the author has only invested minimal time to integrate. As a result, for example, the basics of the Polyvagal Theory are reiterated over and over again throughout the book.
Nate Bate
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
Stephen Porges extensively details the physiological reality of safety. In other words, what happens in our nervous system for our bodies to feel safe. I think most of us would acknowledge there is interplay between body and soul, but it seems that most of us (at least the people I run with and including myself) have not given thought to what our bodies are communicating to us.

My largest take-away for the book was explanation on how nervous system can respond beyond the fight or flight reaction.
...more
Alex Zoloto
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it
This text contains incredibly important and enlightening information about how the human body reacts to stress and social interaction. Unfortunately, it is written in a very dry, scientific voice that can be difficult to comprehend. I think the book could be much improved, and the information made more accessible, by giving more background on physiology (I had to look up and research a lot to keep up with everything) and by explaining the concepts with examples and more layman terminology.
Rick Wilson
It’s a fascinating theory. Very technical at times. “This nerve connects to that process” type writing. The writing is not very engaging or particularly well presented, but I think this is a really important theory if proved out a bit.

Essentially, we look at the nervous system as a series of layers that react to external stimuli/threats. Our ultimate goal is survival. So Porgess examines these responses and their neurological basis. Which results in a lot of dry talk. But the ultimate gist I go
...more
Cassy Schraft
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: disappointed
While the information presented throughout the book was incredibly informative, it seemed more like a messy compilation of research journal articles than a well thought-out and put together book. This book is definitely geared towards those practicing in a medical or research setting, and while the information can be useful background knowledge for those working with clients with trauma backgrounds and attachment disorders in other settings and in a variety of other roles, there is very little i ...more
Lynelle L
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
The subject matter is intriguing and important, and deserves a higher rating. However, the book is hindered overall by repetition and medical language. No doubt this is due to the book being a compilation of essays, papers and research that, to doctors, therapists and others in the medical field the medical jargon, is essential. To the everyday reader, however, the repetitive segments and research procedures take away from the wonderful connections made.
Sasha
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grad-school
Written mostly for an audience fluent in neuroscience, this book was nonetheless a fascinating compilation of papers exploring the importance of the vagus in regulating emotional states and the benefits of vagal studies. With implications in physical and mental disorders, human behavior, and therapy, Porges' polyvagal theory makes for insightful reading. ...more
Michael Maloney
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Not an easy read, but very informative and worth the effort in helping understand our responses to traumatic events and mange our emotions. It also looks at these things from a scientific lens, specifically evolution based. I'd love to read more on this topic. A great book for clinicians in understanding anxiety, trauma, and attachment. ...more
Julian
A highly detailed and somewhat repetitive tome on the polyvagal theory and neuroception. However, the pervasively interesting message that we can only connext creatively and intimately with each other under conditions of unconsciously perceived conditions of safety, is a compelling one.
Vanessa
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not quite as informative from a scientific perspective as I had hoped for, as far as application goes, but very good and I think still pretty groundbreaking.
Hidy Kong
Jul 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Introduction to/definition of Polyvagal theory appeared at the beginning of every chapter, which seemed too repetitive.
The idea itself was interesting.
Christopher Johnson
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
One of the best on what distinguishes humans from other mammals, and about the vagal system that can override the autonomic nervous system if properly developed.
Pamela
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Scientific. Interesting and helpful for therapist.
Tomás Narvaja
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Really poorly put together book with solid information, although definitely some very problematic aspects, particularly in his discussions on gender/sex.
Beth
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is not for light reading.  It is better understood by professionals in the medical and mental health field. Even for a mental health professional, such as myself, it is still very heavy on medical terminology which is complicated and difficult to understand in much of the book.  Reading this book made me feel like a medical student, and maybe not even that, because of how difficult it was to make it through some of the reading. It’s an in depth understanding of affect regulation ...more
Gry Ranfelt
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book has some interesting ideas, but I have a few gripes with it.

1) Structure
The book has an interview form, which in the beginning is nice, but which, by the end, becomes repetitive. He keeps explaining the same things over and over again, and it becomes frustrating as a reader, because you keep on reading this stuff you already got because you want to see if there's something new.

2) No ambitious solutions
Several times Porges states that if your neurosystem is overactive, you need to tend
...more
Sarah Mohr
May 31, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This book presents a complicated picture of the important and cutting edge polyvagal theory that has begun to inform trauma based care in psychology. While it was highly technical and beyond my ability to understand in places, the overall understandings that I gleaned from the text will help me in my work as a social worker, as well as my life as a mom and wife. Excellent research, thought provoking and informative. Highly recommend to anyone interested in psychology who is willing to plow throu ...more
Toni
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychotherapy
Extremely dense and close to the primary research. Probably mostly relevant for the nerds. It's almost like reading peer-reviewed articles, so don't believe you're going to surf through this stuff. Porges has fortunately started working with practitioners that seem more capable of articulating the theory in more accessible ways. If you're just getting into polyvagal theory, I would strongly recommend you just find one overview article by the author, read through the wikipedia article on the topi ...more
Alyssa Zimmerman
Jan 29, 2022 rated it liked it
Porges' theory is incredible, but this book is not for the faint of heart. I guess it isn't fair to give it three stars based on the fact that I could hardly follow or understand it due to the mere reality that I'm not smart enough or educated enough, but I can only work with what I have. I'm hoping his book about the polyvagal theory in practice might be more accessible. If you don't have an advanced understanding of technical terms and neuroscience, this may be difficult for you, too. ...more
Wendy
Feb 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is so dense and highly technical. I recommend reading a summary or other clinical texts that you can more readily use in practice. It reads like a medical school gross anatomy and / or physiology text.
Bailey
Nov 07, 2019 added it
Shelves: read-for-school
Woah I'm not going to give this any stars because it all went way over my head so I don't think it would be appropriate for me to judge the quality. Hahahaha yikes ...more
Letecia
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I actually listened to the unabridged audio version of the book.
Frankie Paige
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Would have given it 5 stars if it was actually edited, not a repetitive compilation of stand-alone articles on loosely related applications of the theory.
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