The other day someone was angry with me and started to “go off” and cross over the line of my tolerance. I felt myself getting angry and about to walk away (flight) and at the same time words were running through my mind like “piss off” or something worse (fight). I was able to catch myself, step back internally and take a deep breath and re-engage the person angry with me.
For me the goal in these moments is to listen to the part of me that is angry, take the information in a grounded way and advocate for that part without becoming emotional driven by my primitive brain. Easier said than done. On this day it was a win for managing my emotions effectively with a productive outcome and resolution. I have also experienced situations that felt overwhelming where the freeze response kicked in and I felt a little “out of body,” spacey or numb. Fight, Flight or Freeze states are nervous system response to when we feel threated or overwhelmed.
The "Window of Tolerance" is a concept in psychology and trauma therapy coined by Dr. Dan Siegal. This metaphorical window represents the zone where we can function at our best emotionally. When we are inside the Window of Tolerance, we can experience our emotions and feelings without jumping into the emotional dysregulation of the fight, flight or freeze response. It describes the desired emotional state where we can effectively cope with stress, emotions, and daily life challenges. Life lived inside the Window of Tolerance feels centered and good. When we get outside of this window, it is harder to manage our emotions, think clearly and engage in problem-solving and adapt to what life is throwing at us. Life lived within the Window of Tolerance means experiencing a sense of well-being and centeredness.
Traumatic experiences, extreme stress, or other factors can push a person outside of their Window of Tolerance. This can lead to one of two states:
1. Hyperarousal: When a person is in a state of hyperarousal, they are overly activated and may experience intense emotions such as anxiety, anger, or panic. They may be in a constant "fight or flight" mode, making it difficult to think rationally or engage in effective problem-solving.
2. Hypo-arousal: In a state of hypo-arousal, a person becomes emotionally numb, detached, or dissociated. They may feel emotionally shut down, have difficulty connecting with their own feelings, and struggle to engage with the world around them.
In my counseling work, I help clients learn techniques to help manage emotions when they get dysregulated (fight, flight or freeze). My go to tools is tapping on acupoints, Intention Energy Process, listening to brainwave entrainment music, and breath work.
My personal work in this area has resulted in better sleep, feeling more centered in the storms of life and a healthier heart beat (my heart used to skip a beat)
For more information on the helpful concept of The Window of Tolerance, go to NICABM link - click here
I have included a cool visual hand out created by NICABM on the Windor of Tolerance
There you will find some more practical methods for managing you emotions so you can stay inside or get back to the Window of Tolerance. Hope you find this concept and practice helpful.