The 7 neural platforms of behavior (4 pure, 3 hybrid) shape our physiological state (heart rate, breathing, arousal), how we experience ourselves, what we feel and think, how we interpret the world, and the behaviors available to us. Neural platforms represent different physiological states that filter and shape our reality by influencing and at times distorting our experiences, perceptions, and how we act. When we experience safety, we see, hear, and feel different things than when we experience threat. In this way, the neural platforms shape our experience of reality. They are somewhat like glasses that we cannot take off.
THE 7 NEURAL PLATFORMS* ARE: Pure platforms: Social engagement (ventral vagal), fight & flight (sympathetic), shutdown (dorsal vagal) Hybrid platforms: Play (ventral vagal and sympathetic), Intimacy (ventral vagal and dorsal vagal) , Freeze (Sympathetic and Dorsal Vagal)
*There is another threat response that is not part of the Polyvagal Map (perhaps we may be so bold as to say yet). In our research it is common, though more common in women than in men. It is variously known as fawn, appease, or tend-and-befriend. This is a hybrid defensive platform (sympathetic and ventral vagal). The most extensive academic writing about this platform has been done by Dr. Shelley Taylor at UCLA. In our research we have see it most closely associated with dis-eases such as auto-immune disorders, fibromyalgia, and migraine. The platform is a defensive platform that recruits social engagement physiology to diffuse threats. Dr. Taylor posits that for women, ancestrally, who were dealing with strong and violent male partners, fight, flight, and shutdown were not options available on the behavioral repertoire, because they endangered a woman's children (if the women flees, she can't physically run away with children in tow, if she fights she could be over-powered and the children could be harmed, if she shuts down, she can't take care of the children). It was therefore adaptational to turn towards the threat and diffuse it. The cost of this hybrid threat response is that it locates attention externally, on diffusing a threat outside of you. When it becomes a habit, it leads to lack of interoceptive awareness about the internal state (which could be fight, flight, or shutdown).
People who habitually experience this defensive response don't know what they are feeling internally. They have down-regulated their interoceptive capabilities by training their attention to move outward during threats. This lack of interoceptive contact contributes to boundary confusion, even to the point of existential lack of boundary clarity. At the deepest level, the immune system is tasked with identifying what is part of us, and what is not. Habitual fawn responses, we postulate, confuse this distinction to a degree that becomes physiological, such that sometimes the body can no longer tell what is part of it and what is not (this can lead to the development of ideopathic auto-immune issues of various kinds). Although in this course we do not attend to the fawn response, we are developing a short film about it. That will live here on the platform ultimately. Although this response is more common in women and in oppressed social locations than in men, it is a result of dangerous and violent men (often white men). It is connected to both Patriarchy (and male violence and domination) and White Supremacy. Like White Supremacy, we often see differential symptoms in the victims and the oppressors. The fawn response is often a response to victimization. While we need to address it physiologically in those who experience it, we also need to hold accountable those whose perpetration requires victims to develop this adaptational response. Like all defensive responses it is adaptational. Our goal is simply to make sure that it is not a habitual response. It's fine to have it on the menu. We just want other things on the menu as well.
White people's lack of interoceptive awareness during threat responses (we've studied this more closely in white women than in white men) is what often leads to white women responding inappropriately in ambiguous situations with People of Color. The archetype of this pattern is the white woman who reaches out to touch the Person of Color giving off very clear distancing cues. Through the lens of the fawn response, this is a white women feeling a threat response, and rather than being in Command of Self, and having interoceptive contact to know she is getting anxious, trying to control the perceived source of threat and down-regulate it. This generally back-fires. When it does, white people often call the police. The societal failure to understand this response endangers People of Color every day. This is a facet of white fragility and buttresses White Supremacy.