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Window of Tolerance and Affect Regulation; Complex Trauma Disorder; Complex PTSD

Updated: 2 days ago

Well, hello there! (Big, deeply warm hug)

I hope you’re well and you’re giving yourself huge handfuls of grace today. I sometimes wonder how you’re doing emotionally? Are you able to stay emotionally regulated where you live in a healthy range of emotion, or do you go off the deep-end emotionally and end up in a rage or check-out and sleep all day? I’ve wondered this about you because this used to be me. I used to spend most of my day dysregulated, feeling exhausted and emotional. I was easily triggered, having no patience and I often felt abused by others. I have found that when I’m dysregulated it’s easy for me to project old feelings of abuse onto people I’m interacting with. The connection between my dysregulation and old feelings of abuse has brought me so much clarity about why I feel abused while living with and interacting with loving humans.

Once I was diagnosed with Complex Trauma, I learned one of the criteria for having Complex Trauma is having problems with affect regulation. Affect regulation is basically the ability to regulate emotions. You’ve probably heard the more popular term used to describe this which is emotional regulation. Having complex Trauma means that I struggle with emotional regulation.

Through a series of events, I began learning about a concept called window of tolerance (WoT). Understanding my Window of Tolerance with Complex-PTSD has given boundaries to my emotions. The window of tolerance is the space I live in where I stay regulated (healthy range of emotion). I’m able to accomplish the task in front of me, and I can deal with others’ emotions, my own triggers, and a variety of relational needs when I’m regulated and in my WoT. What I’ve learned is when I start to fall out of my window of tolerance, becoming dysregulated, I need to use self-regulating strategies to move me back into my window of tolerance.

Years ago, I recreated 5 self-regulating strategies to help me move back into my window of tolerance when I was dysregulated. I give these strategies away, as a gift, on my website. I’d love to give them to you! You can find the link at the bottom of this blog post.

Having Complex Trauma means I have a smaller window of tolerance than the typical person. Therefore, it doesn’t take much for me to become dysregulated and fall outside my WoT. I used to carry great amounts of shame because I would watch what other people were capable of handling and accomplishing in a day with a loving, gentle attitude in calm, regulated emotional states and I would feel terrible about myself. Sometimes a simple task would send me over the deep-end and the comparison between what I could manage and what someone else could manage would bring shame.

However, understanding my window of tolerance has allowed me to become more aware of my needs, able to name the things I can and can’t handle and explain the types of things that dysregulate me. I’m also able to explain what I need to re-regulate myself when I fall outside my window of tolerance. This knowledge has changed my shame into awareness, giving me control over my dysregulation.

Over the years, I have improved at regulating my emotions and my window of tolerance has increased significantly. The beautiful thing about understanding my WoT and exploring ways to stay regulated is I’m taking better care of myself, recognizing when I’m dysregulated, then, using self-regulating strategies to regulate my emotions.

Managing Complex Trauma is hard, and the healing process is slow, but learning about my WoT is growth and growth is something to celebrate!

Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have life abundantly” (John 10:10b). Jesus wants us in healthy relationship with each other and He wants us to experience a joy-filled life, not a life lived in dysregulation.

Follow this link to get your free gifts.

I hope you have a safe place to sleep tonight and a full belly. Praying for your mental health.



A subway train covered in graffiti, framing a window
What Keeps You In Your Window of Tolerance?

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