Beyond the Window of Tolerance

Posted in Transformative JusticeTagged , , , , ,

Ecstasy can be a key resource for social change. To push against what is socially valued, and ordinary, we need to expand our nervous system capacities. Instead of seeking safety, we need to build capacity to respond to danger with courageous commitment to one another, and to our values. With ecstatic practice, we start to inhabit the full spectrum of our nervous systems. We become resourced to build a counternormative relational world.

The “Window of Tolerance” is a key way we can understand our nervous systems (originating with Dan Siegel). I have been inspired by Kai Cheng Thom‘s “Window of Transformation” and our discussions of transformative vs restorative justice in making this new video describing how we can reach beyond the Window of Tolerance.

The Window of Tolerance is a really useful concept. It makes a dandy two-dimensional graphic. And it describes something real. We can recognize moments of relative safety, when we feel tolerant. We feel that we are tolerated. And we can learn to notice, when we sense danger, and we exit that feeling of tolerance, and go into reactive responses. We can learn to stay inside our window of tolerance by keeping ourselves safe.

But it’s time to reach for a new understanding of our nervous systems. We can include the Window of Tolerance, but also encourage growth outside the window, and beyond it.

Under the regime of capitalism and colonialism, our sense of safety is always going to be precarious and provisional. We only are tolerated when we conform to socially-valued norms. If somehow seen as unimportant, bad or wrong, we don’t belong. As global capitalism expands its grip, and climate change threatens the whole biosphere, no one feels very safe, for very long!

To fight against this punishing norm, we need to eschew tolerance. We need to push against what is socially valued, and ordinary. We need to expand our nervous system capacities, so we become capable of way more than tolerance. We need courageous resistance, and transformational change.

It takes courage, support and practice to expand beyond the window of tolerance. But yes, we can learn. We can breathe into our agitation and indignation. We can remember our desires, and find our courage – so our response to a dangerous world is not confined to fight and flight, or freeze and fawn. We build capacities, to respond with dignity and solidarity – and commitment to one another, and to our values. Through practices including somatic abolitionism, generative somatics, and somatic sex education, we start to inhabit a counternormative relational world.

In imagining what’s beyond the Window of Tolerance, I find it useful to remember that the nervous system is not actually 2-dimensional. Electromagnetic energy flows through us in a torus. Each individual being lives inside a torus of electromagnetic energy – it can be measured, imaged, and felt.

And yes, there is a “Window of Tolerance,” where we tolerate what is. Between hope for something better, and despair of any change, there are moments that feel good enough. But all this exists in the most contracted parts of our nervous system.

It’s in the more spacious part of our nervous system that we can actually start to feel capacities beyond tolerance. If we stay centered as we expand, we start to feel empowered by a sense of inner resonance. We can hear it, as it emerges, in the prosody of people’s voices. We can feel resonance, within and between us.

Resonance is an energy-generating system. It attracts what builds more resonance, and filters out noise that distracts and diminishes. We are literally empowered, when we feel resonance.

At the outer edges of our nervous systems, we can enter extraordinary ecstatic states, where we exceed all sense of being a separate self. With ecstatic practices, we can spend time feeling our unity with the electromagnetic field of the whole planet.

Let’s courageously reach for transformative change by growing expanded nervous system capacities – so we can welcome courageous love, fight for profound social change, and celebrate and savour our inter-being, with the whole biosphere.

We need more than tolerance. We need resonance, love and ecstasy. We need capacity for courageous resistance. We need ways of being and belonging that can welcome evermore differentiation within evermore unity. Moreover, we have the tools and somatic practices to grow what we need, in our personal and interpersonal neuroendocrine systems.

Let’s go way beyond the Window of Tolerance.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Subscribe to Caffyn’s Newsletter


Recent Posts

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x