Expand your window of welcome

We get irritated, angry, offended. We lose focus, get bored, withdraw, or intervene.
Do you recognize how other peoples’ behaviors sometimes trigger reactions in you?
Many of us have low tolerance for certain emotions: when someone – could be our child, partner, parent, colleague, or client – expresses this emotion verbally or through tone of voice and facial expression, our nervous system gets aroused.

Emotions that can be hard to tolerate include hopelessness, fear, anger, loneliness, sadness, disorientation, and enthusiasm. Are you thinking ‘that doesn’t count for me?’ Well, you may either have a huge window of welcome for emotions, or you may not be aware.

Get the message!

As an NVC pratitioner and coach, I know that emotions are messengers. They message us about our internal state, lead us to notice our needs, and prompt us to take action.
Accompanying emotions and allowing them to be felt and held not only supports connection between the one who experiences the emotion and the one who supports, it also clarifies the mind and leads to life-serving solutions is. If, on the other hand, the emotional message is not received, it will either turn up its volume or it will transform to something else (worse) or lead to body symptoms.

So, it’s helpful if we allow our own emotions to surface so we get to consider what to do about the situation, and it is equally helpful if we can allow emotional expression from those we care about. If we get irritated when someone expresses hopelessness, none of us are supported.

How we attempt to stop or reduce emotions

It happens all the time, it can be very subtle, automatic and often under our own radar: That we don’t enjoy others’ emotional expressions. Automatic reactions to regulate the other person’s emotions include:

  • Reassuring (“It will be ok. Trust me.”)
  • Advice giving (“I think you should …”)
  • Arguing (“That was not what happened. See it this way…”)
  • Sharing own stories (“That’s just like when I ….”)
  • One-upping (“Oh that’s nothing. Think about those in the refugee camps.”)
  • Eagerly suggesting unmet needs, so that the intensity gets reduced, before receiving the enormity of impact (“Of course you need safety!”)
  • Withdrawing from or dismissing the other (“Gosh, when do you get over this?”)
  • Shaming the other (“Look at yourself!”)
  • Referencing (“Don’t you think you need to see a therapist?”)

These examples all spring from a positive intention, the wish to reduce the suffering of the other. This also counts for positive emotions like having fallen in love or in other ways being enthusiastic as we may foresee and want to prevent suffering caused by disappointment.
But it’s rarely helpful to bypass emotions, and if we dig a bit deeper, we’ll often find that responding to the person we support with expressions like those listed above is about our discomfort as listeners and our capacity to stay present when the other person is in emotional intensity.

Once we notice there are certain emotions we feel uncomfortable with, we can decide to work on expanding our window of welcome for these emotions in ourself – which will expand our tolerance for the same emotion expressed by others.

Expand your window now

A decision is not enough as our nervous system has its reasons for being alerted by certain emotions. For a lasting expansion of our tolerance, we need to understand why we are alarmed.
When we notice contraction triggered by an emotional expression, we can ask ourselves:

  1. What happens in my body now as I think about what happened?
  2. If this tension/ numbness/ something, was an emotion, what might it be?
  3. Am I willing to allow this emotion, right now as I sit here?
  4. How old am I in this emotion?
  5. What support would I really love this younger one in me to have, if anything was possible?

The answer to the last question could be deep, sincere acknowledgement of what has happened. Or imaginary  support from a beloved relative or superhero. Or that a burden is lifted. Or just that you, your present self, is present with your younger self as a remedy for their loneliness.
(Deep gratitude to Sarah Peyton for this process, the above in an abbreviated version).
It takes discipline to take yourself through this process. I recommend journaling so that you can shift between your younger self and your present, accompanying self  without losing orientation.

Another option is to be guided by someone who knows the process.

I recommend the practitioners listed on Resonant Language Institute Europe’s page – including your humble undersigned.