Opening the Window of Tolerance for Calm – Part II

In this second part of Opening the Window of Tolerance for Calm, I am going to discuss a few tools.

Here’s the first new tool.  The technique is called Pendulation and it is often used to help people who have experienced trauma.  The purpose of this particular exercise is to help learn to shift our attention, giving us some control over our focus of attention.  This is a technique that asks people to shift their attention from a slightly uncomfortable situation, to a calming relaxing one.  Shifting their attention back and forth.  It is a little like working a muscle.

An example of this technique might be, when I hear the phone ring, or car horns, or a dog bark, I tense up.  Choose one tension causing situation, I choose the phone ringing.   I move my attention to the phone ringing that mildly bothers me, feeling my body and just recognizing how it feels.  Then I shift my attention to something that makes me feel relaxed, it might be the sound of a stream, or the ocean.  In my case I think about being outside on a beautiful warm comfortable day, looking up through trees.  I can see the sun twinkling between the leaves.  I really allow myself to be in this comfortable space.  Then I shift my attention back to the phone ringing.  Doing this pendulation, back and forth, between what annoys me and what relaxes me and practicing it for a few minutes.

The reason we start slow with a mild irritation is that we will do this often over time.  The goal is to build the muscle of our brain, flexing the wiring of our brain and increasing our tolerance for calm.  Several of my clients call it Brain Exercise.  Empowering us to know we can shift our minds, attention, and emotions from a tense situation to a calm one.  In this step, we have started the process of managing our emotional states.  And, in the example I just gave, moving from the emotional tension of the phone to the calm trees, the goal is to increase my ability to be in a calm space.  Some trauma is too great for us to tackle alone, and you may need to seek professional help.  But, for many people this technique can help them begin to manage their reactions.  I will be putting this technique into one of my podcast’s, so you may want to listen to it.