Taking Humble Actions

John D Mudie, PhD.


We propose that taking humbling actions (without necessarily feeling humble) can lead to an increased sense of peace, calm, and connection with others and enjoyment of life.


According to Poly Vagal Theory (thank you Dr,.Stephen Porges) the feeling state of a person’s body is controlled by their Autonomic Nervous System. When the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is active a person experiences emotions like anger and fear. Whan a persons Ventral Vagal Branch of their ParaSympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) is active, they experience calm, peace, acceptance (i.e lack of fear) and connection and caring for others. ( I am hoping that Deb Dana 2022 says something that will support these statements but haven’t checked yet)

So if a person wants to experience more peace and calm and joy and less anger in their lives, they need to learn how to (AND DO) activate their VVB of their PSNS.

The “Fake it until you make it” approach of AA, is that if people take actions that are appropriate to a PSNS state, they will eventually activate the PSNS, even if they originally had an over-active SNS. This notion is supported by the findings of Lanzetta et al. (1976) in their early study of the effects of nonverbal dissimulation on emotional experience and autonomic arousal. The Hebbian concept (Munakata et al., 2004) of “Neurons that fire together wire together” most probably underlies this shift. Accordingly, the ‘efficiency’ of a given neuron that is contributing to the firing of another, could increase as that cell is repeatedly involved – in this case, the PSNS is being trained towards a positive emotional response.

So if a person takes actions that are appropriate to being in the VVB of the PSNS state they will eventually land up in that state.

The VVVB state is characterized by humility accepting everything, connecting and supporting others etc. So taking humbling actions should rewire the neurons of the autonomic nervous system (eventually) to remain more in the VVB branch and for the person taking humbling actions to feel more calm , peaceful and connected to others.



Dana, Deb (2022) Anchored


Munakata 2004

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