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Window of Tolerance

Accepting pain in my body for the past 15 months has taught me so much about myself, the way I move through the world, how I have changed over time and who I am yet to become. Before that acceptance came, for 9 months, I kept asking myself and medical professionals what I needed to do to fix it. I have learned a better question is, what is my body trying to communicate and how can I rewire my nervous system?

It has almost been 6 months now that we have all been in lockdown. Not a huge amount of time but definitely significant enough to develop coping strategies and new patterns of thinking. The current pandemic has been traumatic for many. When we experience trauma, it pushes the activation of the nervous system beyond its ability to self-regulate. When a stressful experience pushes the system beyond its limits, it can become stuck on “on.” When a system is overstimulated like this, we can experience anxiety, panic, anger, hyperactivity, and restlessness. A regulated nervous system experiences a stress and calming response throughout the course of a given day. Dr. Dan Siegel of UCLA coined the term “window of tolerance” to describe this space in which we can regulate ourselves without too much effort.

How can you discharge the traumatic stress and transition back into the window of the regulated nervous system? Understanding the function of how people are responding and what may be needed to effectively shift this emotional state is critical for finding effective strategies to shift arousal that don’t lead to further harm to self or others or leave the individual with a sense of shame. This can be referred to as a false refuge in that it provides the “illusion” that it is helping but in the end the problem is still there and maybe even bigger and now we have layered on shame, guilt, a sense of failure etc, as we have responded in a way that we didn’t want to.

A “true refuge” is something we do for ourselves that effectively allows us to shift towards our optimal arousal zone while building competencies and taking care of ourselves in a manner that feels good. There are some common strategies but the key is finding what works for you. With schools starting back, it is also a time to observe and support our young people in getting to know their emotions and equipping them with helpful tools.  When providing support to others, it is important to recall that trauma is marked by a loss of control, therefore the ability to establish control and experience a sense of safety and empowerment is of priority in the face of real or perceived threat. For more about supporting a young person, check out this article here.

Good Therapy recommends the following tips;

  1. Seek safe relationships. Being with someone who is safe and soothing will help your nervous system settle and create a safe space for you to connect and share your experience. We are social beings and we heal in relationship, so if you find yourself isolating or pulling away from social contact, consider instead seeking out people who feel supportive.
  2. Practice mindful breathing. This trauma response is connected to the brain stem (basic physiological regulation) and the limbic (emotional) brain. Practicing mindful breathing helps connect a basic physiological process (breathing) with your prefrontal cortex (thinking brain), which helps integrate and shift our neurological state. To put that more simply: breathing has a HUGE capacity to calm the brain and regulate the nervous system.

For me, I am happy to share that I had a moment of gratitude this week for the consistent lack of pain. All of the breathing, meditation, homeopathy, nutritional support, writing and talking has gotten me to the other side. I have learned some big lessons and am forever changed, although fully aware the journey is far from over. I also know that I could not have done it alone.

So how can we show up for one another right now? In these times of stress and change, can you be that supportive voice, championing another being back into their window of tolerance? We all know that a small act of listening or kindness can make a big difference and now is the perfect time to be that warm face and warm voice.

#Me too Reflections

-Dani Trudeau

Let’s not call that toxic masculinity. Saying “toxic masculinity” implies that masculinity is the core problem here, and suggests that a tiny bit of masculinity might also be a tiny bit poisonous. Using the word masculinity suggests that all men have a toxic core. I don’t buy that. What we’re seeing in the Sociopathic Baby-Man bestrides the world of ordinary men like a colossus. It’s more important than ever to make this distinction.-by Heather Havrilesky,

Read her full article  -Don’t Call It ‘Toxic Masculinity.’ They’re Sociopathic Baby-Men

The past week or so has been interesting to experience, watch, partake and converse about. From the #Me Too ‘campaign’ (although here is a link to the original campaign which did not come from Alyssa Milano), to the media and public’s reactions to Weinstein, to the conversations around raising our sons and daughters, changing our language away from the victims and put the emphasis on the aggressor or the one abusing their power. If you haven’t been thinking and speaking about it, even just a little, maybe you should.

I have struggled with the phrases; boys will be boys and extreme male to define some ‘masculine’ behaviours. I don’t want the males I know and love to be put in the category of masculine if they have to stand next to the power-hungry, human-destroying, women-fearing, pussy-grabbing, consume-at-all costs, kind of men. Maybe the best term for them is sociopathic baby-men-I am not quite convinced but I get what she is saying. We definitely need to stop calling it masculinity. I for one want to raise a strong, empathetic, human loving son. I want him to be able to cry, love and feel deeply for all living things. I don’t want him to have to imagine an unfamiliar women is me or his sister when he is older and partying at a club to be able to not mistreat her. I want his deep respect for all humans lead his decision making. This sounds so basic but it seems not to be our current norm. Culturally we live in a world where we normalise abuse, we accept world leaders who brag of the dominance over women, we use language which puts all of the burden on the victims. (I recommend reading this, Don’t Talk to Your Sons About Sex – Talk About This Instead).

So why is it so hard to stand up to these types of people and why do people silently watch these men abuse their power? Better question, why have I let several men abuse their power over me? This is obviously complicated and highly personal but I bet the story is very, very common. The world tells us to be quiet, to not make a big deal of things, to get over it, move on. This is part of the problem. From older kids, teachers, ‘friends’, bosses, ex partners, strangers; I can actually think of endless examples of men thrusting their attempts of power over me. Some of these attempts have landed with serious actions and have been followed by life changing views of myself. This is powerful stuff. We need to reset our baseline of acceptability. All of us. This is the time to believe victims- it is not easy to come forward.

There are so many little ways the balance of power is played out in what some might consider small incidents.
I can actually give an example which happened just last week.  I received a creepy, unsolicited instagram message from someone I do not really know. I met him once at a café a few years ago. The text was about a dream he had and was extremely creepy, ended with I love you and was totally out of the blue. I ignored it at first, thinking that it must have been sent by mistake. Then I remembered my friend saying she thought he was shady so shared it with her. Instantly she was angry and wanted to take action. This happens when you doubt yourself a bit. My friend doubted herself enough not to confront him at the time. She just avoided him and moved on. When someone does something a little off but does it in such a way that you question yourself. These are skilful predators. This is one reason why we must not respond to ourselves or to others with anything but support in the first instance. But we don’t. Even as I wrote this paragraph, there were doubting thoughts about what others might think. Will some folk think that there must be more to the story; that I must have done something to warrant such message. Nope. I did nothing, absolutely nothing.

My friend immediately rallied trusted troops (men actually) and instantly they all had my back. After a few ideas of how to best handle this, one friend wrote a suggested response. It was perfect. It was strong, confident, took-no-blame- perfect. This made me feel loved, protected, justified and in power.
It also made me think of all of the times when people didn’t respond this way. Feeling false guilt, shame, blame and deeply damaged is exacerbated when people don’t believe your pain or your truths. Sadly, I think the majority of people respond badly, if at all, to these types of situations.  Let’s change this. Let’s not make it a female/male thing. Let’s look at all of us in the confusion as humans. How do we treat fellow humans? We should want better for ourselves and for our fellow humans. The time is way past now to make it all of our responsibility.

For me, I am making more of an effort to think of all of us as humans too. I am trying to stop saying ‘all men…’ After all, we all have different experiences and although I have been hurt more often and deeper by men in my past, I have also loved many men.  I too need to see past the gender and look at the person.
Here is an excellent blog post by columnist, Courtney E. Martin, For Guys Reading #MeToo Testimonies. “A world this riddled with sexual harassment and abuse will never be healed by a hashtag, that’s for sure. Yet, this moment could be the first one that you choose to do something different, to lay the first brick in a world that is built differently, a world safe for women’s bodies and men’s feelings, a world worthy of everyone’s wholeness”.

And to the creep sending messages to women you don’t know, I am really not sure how to help you and more importantly, how to stop you from deceiving and preying on women. For a start, read the article at the top and understand the part you play in it all. Secondly, I believe this is really about fear and violence.  It sadly makes up the fabric of our world and nothing less than the dismantling of our current systems, a complete discrediting of what we now consider power, will compel the sweeping change we so badly need to see.

And to my friends, you rock. I wish everyone out there had you guys behind them.

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