refers to one of the functions of the autonomic nervous system, specifically, how the autonomic nervous system scans for and responds to sensations, signals and cues of safeness and of threat from both inside the body (the internal environment) and from the external environment (Dana, 2018). This process of how the nervous system “automatically detects and assesses features in the environment and cues from others that indicate degrees of safety, danger, and threat” (Ogden & Fisher, 2015, p. 775) occurs outside of conscious awareness. A detected cue can be interpreted or sensed/neurocepted as indicating threat based on prior experiences and learning even if there isn’t an actual threat in this moment.
Dana, D. (2018). The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation. W.W. Norton & Company: New York.
Ogden, P. & Fisher, J. (2015). Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment. W.W. Norton & Company: New York.