Building a Window of Tolerance

You may have heard the word tolerance used to describe a symptom of alcoholism or drug addiction. That is, your body builds up a tolerance for the substance—you need more of it to attain the same high. What is referenced in building a window of tolerance, is the emotional or physical ability to withstand something that is otherwise unbearable or significantly objectionable. Some people can’t tolerate intimacy, conflict, noise or a hug to name a few examples. Building a window of tolerance doesn’t mean learning to tolerate bad things like an unwanted sexual advance, your mother’s vitriol or a teacher’s poor class preparation week after week.

Building a window of tolerance is a path towards self-understanding, change and growth. You and your therapist can look into what you find intolerable. The next work will be to uncover and identify the reason you find, say, that woman at work, or hugging intolerable. The process may take considerable time because of blocks and barriers. These were built to prevent the intolerable feelings from being felt or experienced.

The window of tolerance, a concept first introduced by Daniel J. Siegel, describes the balance our systems and or parts need in order to heal from trauma. When we have unhealed traumas, our parts may be unavailable or not fully present. Our everyday system may not realize the danger has passed, and we are stuck in hypoarousal and hyperarousal states (under or overly  aroused) or, we may fluctuate between the two.

Being stuck in these under and over states of arousal, prohibits us from fully healing the original trauma. When we are outside our window of tolerance we can be in a dissociative, or lackluster state where connection between the part that holds the memory of the traumatic event doesn’t have access to the part who exists in the present. Thus, the cycle of trauma spins.

When we are able to access the space between the two states of arousal, we are within the window of tolerance. This is where healing can occur. When a traumatic memory surfaces, we may feel overwhelmed with an array of emotions. Feeling what was once intolerable can be like living it all over again. The difference is, the past and present have connected but we are in the present. Feel your feet on the floor, look at the pictures on your therapist’s wall—nothing bad is happening. Being in the present with the realization that the trauma is over is a necessary component of healing. Be gentle with yourself. You are beautiful.

Treatment can be a transformative process when you find a program that works for you as well as with you. At Infinity Treatment Centers, lasting recovery is attainable at last. Our luxury residences offer the highest privacy and comfort while our clinical program provides the personalized approach necessary for infinite change. Call us today for information: (855) 544-0611

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