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Widen the Window  By  cover art

Widen the Window

By: Elizabeth A. Stanley,Bessel van der Kolk
Narrated by: Elizabeth A. Stanley,Fred Sanders
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Publisher's Summary

A pioneering researcher gives us a new understanding of stress and trauma, as well as the tools to heal and thrive.

This groundbreaking book examines the cultural norms that impede resilience in America, especially our collective tendency to disconnect stress from its potentially extreme consequences and override our need to recover. It explains the science of how to direct our attention to perform under stress and recover from trauma.

By directing our attention in particular ways, we can widen the window within which our thinking brain and survival brain work together cooperatively. When we use awareness to regulate our biology this way, we can access our best, uniquely human qualities: our compassion, courage, curiosity, creativity, and connection with others. By building our resilience, we can train ourselves to make wise decisions and access choice - even during times of incredible stress, uncertainty and change.

With stories from men and women Dr Stanley has trained in settings as varied as military bases, healthcare facilities, as well as her own striking experiences with stress and trauma, she gives listeners hands-on strategies they can use themselves, whether they want to perform under pressure or heal from traumatic experience, while at the same time pointing our understanding in a new direction.

Foreword by Bessel Van Der Kolk, best-selling author of The Body Keeps the Score.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our desktop site.

©2019 Elizabeth A. Stanley (P)2019 Penguin Random House Audio

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  • Chris Townsend
  • 10-02-21

Understand our Window of Tolerance

Excellent book and thoroughly well researched with good scientific evidential foundations.
This book helped me to understand the extremely helpful concept of my ‘window of tolerance’ - the zone in which I am cool, calm, collected and connected within myself and with others, and able to compassionately and courageously engage with life’s stressors.
It explains the “dysregulation” that happens when we operate outside our window. This can either be hyper arousal of stress (e.g. anxiety, racing thoughts) or hypo arousal (e.g. giving up, “feigning death”).

It convincingly helped me to understand why our window can get narrowed over time, looking at the impact of childhood adversity, shock traumas, and daily stresses.

It also helped me understand how much of our reaction to stress is controlled by our “survival brain”, which often hijacks our “thinking brain”. When our survival brain “neurocepts” danger, our bodies physiologically respond to these perceived threats. For example, our heart rate can increase, breathing gets more difficult.
Then our “thinking brain” can override our “survival brain” and increase our survival brains awareness of threat by shaming, blaming, compartmentalising, criticism, comparing etc.

Elizabeth helps us to chart a way forward by developing a more helpful, “allied” relationship between our “survival brain” and “thinking brain”.
It does so with a good blend of scientific evidence, clearly explained as well as helpful personal and life time experiences. In fact, this is one of the books greatest strengths.

In the last part of the book, we get some helpful insights into some practical embodied practices and habits that can help “widen” our window of tolerance. What I think is a great strength if the book is a philosophical and ontological presupposition that we are holistic creatures- mind and body - physical, emotional, spiritual beings. And her suggestions take this into account. Particularly with an emphasis on both top down cognitive as well as bottom up survival brain work.
There’s some wise input on window widening activities including insights on diet, exercise, sleep, awareness & reflection, social connection.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I appreciate how the wisdom in this book can connect well with the concept of Christian virtue ethics. Wisdom and courage as well as the classic Christian virtues of faith, love and hope. Operating within our windows of tolerance as a believer and follower of Jesus is to operate out of my values with calmness, wisdom and courage.

I also particularly enjoyed Elizabeth’s insights into the notion of stress and emotion contagion and how the width of our windows have a profound impact on those around us. Particularly, the idea of resonance is something I’d like to explore more. It seemed to connect with the critical theory of Hartmut Rosa, whose work on the “social acceleration” of our late modern age (everything speeding up, making us feel more stressed and hurried despite technological time saving advances) has led to his developing the idea of resonance. It seems like awareness and reflection is another way of explaining cultivating a deeper “resonance” with our external environments, our inner selves and in meaningful relationships.

In a world marked by stress, rush and hurry, these are vital themes to reflect well on if we are to enter into the fullness of sincere, authentic humanity both individually and collectively.
I hope to put some of the practical suggestions into practice going forward, accepting that these new habits will take tome, courage and persistence. Thanks to the author for warning us that there are no silver bullets in this process.
And thanks for writing a very helpful book. I feel it gives me a very valuable model to peg my experiences to.

Highly recommend this book for people who want to work on more healthy ways of managing their stress.















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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-24-21

An eye-opening publication

A great book that dispels myths and de-stigmatises trauma-based mental illnesses, while connecting their impact to emotional and physical disease.

Explains the vast incidence of trauma- and stress-based disease and emotional dis-regulation, demonstrates with simple examples, then moves on to intervention and self-management.

You will come away with changed perspectives on people, yourself and the ways our world works.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-23-21

Written with such intent

There was so much about the content of this book which gives hope to a shift of how to work together as communities and heal from trauma. Thank you.