In order to understand our amazing biological survival systems, we need to study some aspects of the development of man. In simple terms we can say, that human reactions to impact can be sorted in different stages, that are inherently connected to the development of life and originate at different states of said development. As already mentioned also humans can become threatened and feel the need to use the reptilian approach to problems: Eat or get eaten! Fight or flight driven by the hormones from the adrenal glands. This is all about stress and will not be dealt with in this volume.
If neither fight nor flight helps out, next comes the oldest of all defence measures: Paralysis. Shut down like a plant in winter, wait and see, if you are still alive, when you wake up! This is the ultimate state of defeat. This is the most basic traumatization.
A handful of the cranial nerves are essential in this. The one most spoken of is the tenth or them, the vagus nerve. Which by the way has more branches. Basically it is known, that it has a new mammal one, that takes part in the social abilities of higher mammals as part of our social skills. It is called the ventral vagus. It is myelinated and opens social abilities, when we feel safe and comforted.
Furthermore it has an old, not myelinated branch called the dorsal vagus, which comes into play at the lowest level, with the Paralysis.
Escape is no more possible: Paralysis
If you tried to fight a danger off in vein, if running did not help, if your body realizes – or somehow believes – that there is no hope, it pushes the final button and the curtain closes. This is a very old defence system, predating the reptiles. Many insects will use this technique of shutting down physiological processes regularly, when the surroundings do not support them. In some respect we can say the same about plants too! If it gets too cold, too warm, too dry or whatever, the plants shut down and wait, hoping for better times to come.
One might wonder, why this ancient defence system is allowed to overrule the higher systems like the supreme thinking capabilities of modern man?
Well, as intriguing as this question is, man has his limits too. When pushed to the limits some senses may become confused, leaving the calculating brain with possibly fatal conclusions. Actually some may find themselves, in their conscious mind, capable of negotiating with a tiger, or to veeeeery soon find an oasis in the never ending desert, where as some subconscious part decides to stop the game and shuts down.
This deep consciousness has a “one fit for all situations” solution. Its action is submitted through the reptile part of the vagus nerve, the dorsal vagus. It reveals its ancient nature in the fact, that it is crude and unmyelinated; that is not insulated. Like in short circuiting. In contrast to the highly developed mammal/social brain structures, it is imprecise. Which does its job just fine, in that it paralyses everything with one stroke. It literally pulls the plug, and initiates an immediate black out. Like the one Ronny experienced, as he was shot by the police officer. Well, experience turned out to be an overstatement.