We all have a certain amount of energy each day. When our energy is just right we feel well and as if we can take on any challenges. This is because we are within our optimal state of arousal or what is known as the “Window of Tolerance”. We are safe enough and okay enough. #HealingTrauma
However, we are not always in this window. Sometimes we experience too much arousal or not enough. The good news is there are only two directions we can go: up or down. So we are either in our 👌🏼 Window of Tolerance (optimally aroused), ☝🏼 in the Attic (hyper aroused) or in the 👇🏼 Basement (hypo aroused).
The ☝🏼 Attic is too much energy, or arousal, and can be experienced as: anger, anxiety, overwhelm, terror, or even mania. The 👇🏼 Basement is not enough energy, or arousal, and can be experienced as: tired, sad, numb, flat, empty, or depressed. So we can learn to ask ourselves: Where am I?
Knowing this is valuable because we can check: Am I in my 👌🏼 Window? Am I in the ☝🏼 Attic? Or am I in the 👇🏼 Basement? The answer is like a compass that gives us direction what to do and where to go. It also eliminates confusion which is good because uncertainty can exacerbate distress.
All babies needs certain ingredients to remain in their Window of Tolerance: warmth, touch, soft vocalisation, milk and sleep. With these ingredients, they become safe enough and okay enough. Without them they will cry. They may need more or less to return to their window.
Adults are like big babies. We need warmth, touch, soft vocalisation, food and sleep. However, we do not need our parents to regulate. This may confuse what is helpful or harmful ingredients: Is it food, sleep, movement, partner, friend, counsellor, sex, drugs, gaming, gambling, porn?
Some ingredients make us feel good instantly (e.g. sugar) with short lasting effects. Others are more challenging (e.g. exercise) with longer lasting benefits. Addiction has a rebound effect whereby the substance (or object) gives instant relief but then we feel even worse after.
When we are in the ☝🏼 Attic (too much), we need self care tools to help us to 👇🏼 calm down. When we are in the 👇🏼 Basement (not enough) we need ways to help us ☝🏼recharge. Since what we need might be different it’s important to ask ourselves where are we. What makes you 👇🏼 calm down (attic)? What makes you ☝🏼 recharge (basement)?
Check your 👌🏼 protectors – Body: safety and stabilisation via shelter, food, water, movement, rest. Mind: clarity via checking danger vs safety, imagination vs reality, intimacy vs play, being “Thankful (i.e. gratitude) to feel (i.e. empathy), right here, right now (i.e. mindfulness).”
Social Connection: family, friends, community. Country: nature, walking, camping, fishing, star gazing. Culture: the colours of life via cooking, music, arts, poetry, science, technology, travel. Spirituality: Existence via atheism, theism, agnosticism.
Remember it is easier to make sensible decisions in our 👌🏼 Window of Tolerance: Safe enough and okay enough. We might make decisions we regret in the ☝🏼 attic, like getting angry or running through the streets naked! We might feel hopeless or like we cannot cope in the 👇🏼 basement.
Research demonstrates the Window of Tolerance can be smaller for people who have experienced trauma. In other words, they might not be able to tolerate as much as others. They might spend more time in the ☝🏼 attic or in the 👇🏼 basement: not feeling safe enough or okay enough.
The good news is we can learn to regulate our arousal and this will help to increase our Window of Tolerance. How? By regularly checking in: Am I in my 👌🏼 Window? ☝🏼 Attic? 👇🏼 Basement? Have I drawn on my protectors (see above): body, mind, social connection, culture, country and spirituality?
Life is like a wave. Always up and down. We use ingredients everyday, consciously or not, through each decision we make that impacts our arousal. With a little more awareness, and more helpful ingredients, we can regulate ourselves. This makes the wave of life become less turbulent.
Source: Window of Tolerance was developed by Dan Siegel, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry. https://drdansiegel.com
Now you know the power of Trauma Informed Care. Let’s turn this framework into a mindset for personal, social and political change. If you are unable to, you might need help first, to get safe or become ‘unstuck’ from trauma. Reach out for trauma informed care. #YouBelong
Dr Louise Hansen
PhD in Psychology
Human Rights Activist
#HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #YouBelong
Trauma Informed World was inspired by Kopika and Tharnicaa; two faces that remind us everyday of Australia’s cruel refugee system. One of many systems in Australia that remind us of the negative operation of power. #HomeToBilo
You can listen my talk with Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, the President of Blue Knot Foundation on my own healing journey, training and study and how it has informed my work and advocacy for a trauma informed world here:
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