Nonviolent Communication and the Autonomic Nervous System

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The purpose of this page is to discuss any relationship between the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) system developed by Dr Marshall Rosenberg and our Autonomic Nervous Sytems. We suggest that the “jackal” state of mind identified in NVC corresponds to an active Parasympathetic Nervous System and the “giraffe” state of mind described in NVC corresponds to an active Ventral Vagal branch of the Parasympathetic Nervous System. We further suggest that transition from the “jackal” state to the “giraffe” state occurs by asking connecting questions as described in the NVC Empathy process.

Our Autonomic Nervous System

The ANS controls body actions (breathing, heart beating, digestion, fighting expressing anger, feeling fear) without much conscious control. According to Stephen Porges, the ANS has three major components, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS). The PSNS has two parts, the Ventral Vagal Branch (VVB) and the Dorsal Vagal Branch (DVB).
The SNS is the nervous system which produces action. When activated by the perceived experience of fear, and danger it goes into a “let’s try to survive” stressed out mode of anger, fight or flee. This is somewhat destructive to our bodies. It is not a nice place to be in.

If however, the action of fighting or fleeing doesn’t work, then the body goes into a freeze state associated with activation of the DVB branch of the PSNS.

We recover from the physical damage done to our bodies by going into the VVB branch of the PSNS system, which is associated with rest, digest, heal, reproduce, connection and all those nice, pleasant things to experience.

This site offers educational information and is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult your physician before taking any action on the ideas expressed in this page to ensure your safety and wellbeing.
All material offered on this page is copyrighted Compassionate Coaching,2021 and may not be used without written permission.