top of page

3 Ways Your Brain is Always Listening

By Ben Durchslag, LCSW

Man starting at computer screen with expression of concern. When we're gripped by negative self-talk at work, it can freeze us in our tracks.

Photo by Elvis Ray on Unsplash

Introducing a fun new term: Neuroception!

Have you ever found that you don't really like someone, but you don't know why? Well, I say good job in noticing. That's the first step.

Welcome to Neuroception, a primary organizing principle of polyvagal theory. Neuroception simply put, it's our body's way of listening. More specifically, it's the way that our autonomic nervous system takes in information from micromoment to micromoment.

Here are 3 different ways our bodies are always listening:

1) Body Cues

First, internally, on a visceral, primitive level, our bodies are sensing what's happening in our hearts, in our lungs, and on a gut level.

2) Environmental Cues

Second, in our environment, using our senses to take in smells, sights, and sounds to see if we can allow ourselves to relax and calm, or by detecting a threat in the moment.

3) Relational Cues

Third, my nervous system is listening in the relational space between myself and another human being. Scanning for nonverbal cues such as facial expression, tone of voice, eye gaze, movement to better understand, is this person I'm interacting with, making me feel welcomed, or are they making me feel warmed in some way?

So why is this important?

By bringing our conscious awareness to the cues our nervous system is sending us, we're giving ourselves a chance to gather much more information.

Let's come back to the situation when we don't really like someone and we don't know why. Perhaps it could be the nervous system automatically sending us those cues. When we bring awareness to it, we may actually realize it has nothing to do with this person in front of me.

By being aware and tending to what's happening inside our own nervous systems, we're better able to attune to others and make ourselves more available to create an environment that is welcoming and caring for our friends and families, for our colleagues at work and for our communities at large.

For those wanting to dig in more, neuroception is a primary organizing principle of a psychological concept known as polyvagal theory - do some research and check it out!


Let's talk about the hard stuff.

Artesian Collaborative is a mental health practice based in Chicago. We excel at guiding individuals and teams through tense and difficult topics - and helping them feel good about it.

Our therapists provide mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families. Our team also leads corporate and community trainings in the areas of Stress Management, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, and Relational Leadership.


bottom of page