The Growth Zones – Dancing at The Wild EdgesSep 10, 2023
Not many people take the time to look under the hood of their nervous system and empower themselves to be aware of and regulate their arousal states.
But having done so, and gained some practice in somatic resourcing, you’re now ready to explore the more advanced practices of somatic empowerment.
Let’s dive into the growth zones!
Straddling the window
Returning to the diagram of the window of tolerance, notice the two green areas at the edges of the optimal activation zone.
These are the growth zones, areas where we encounter triggers, past traumas, or overwhelming emotions, and where we have the opportunity to shift deep patterns.
Here we are at the edge of our window of tolerance, about to tip over into an activated state…
We have one foot inside the window and one foot outside…
We’re almost losing it, almost falling into one survival strategy or another…
But we have just enough of a sense of safety to stay grounded, and enough of our cognitive capacity left online to retain an awareness of what’s going on and to use our power of choice.
It’s here that we can do the deep work of transforming our procedural memories, by noticing what our automatic reaction would be to a triggering situation, and then choosing to respond differently.
As we’ve said already, triggered states are opportunities for growth.
The growth zones are especially so, because we still have one foot in safety.
Opportunities for growth
The more familiar we are with tracking our arousal states, and the more skilled we become at regulating our nervous system – at bringing ourselves back inside the window and into the somatic sense of safety – the more confident we become at occupying these wild edges.
With such confidence, we can start to intentionally take ourselves to these zones, to play at the edges.
Doing so not only helps us transform the learned patterns that are no longer serving us, but further expands our window of tolerance, building our capacity to be with the intense emotions and stress responses associated with triggers and past traumas.
HYPER arousal Growth Zone:
The hyperarousal growth zone lies just above the upper threshold of the Window of Tolerance.
In this zone, we may experience heightened states of arousal, such as anxiety, agitation, or anger.
We may experience a range of the trigger symptoms associated with fight or flight, including the movement impulses to lash out or run away.
And we may experience our own particular procedural responses rising up to try to keep us safe in their habitual way.
It can be challenging to dance in this zone, to experience the arousal, the symptoms, the habitual patterns of response, and not to get carried away by them into full activation.
But by using our somatic resources, applying the soothing and calming techniques to increase the sense of safety, it’s possible to regulate the intense emotions and stress responses to tolerable levels.
Then we can feel the activation but also retain access to a wider range of possibilities, and can choose how we want to respond to the trigger.
HYPO arousal Growth Zone:
The hypoarousal growth zone lies just below the lower threshold of the Window of Tolerance.
In this zone, we may experience feelings of numbness, dissociation, or shutdown.
We may experience a range of the trigger symptoms associated with freeze or collapse, including the movement impulses to shrink in on ourselves or hide away.
Again, we may experience our own particular procedural responses rising up to try to keep us safe in their habitual way.
And again, by using our somatic resources, applying the activating techniques to increase the sense of safety, it’s possible to regulate the intense emotions and stress responses to tolerable levels.
How to approach the growth zones
Initially, you won’t need to make any effort to approach the growth zones – we pass through them every time we’re triggered!
So the first step in learning to use these spaces is just to get good at noticing when you’re moving into the zone on the way to activation.
Learn what it feels like to straddle the window, to have one foot inside and the other outside in a HYPER or HYPO state.
The more awareness you can bring to these moments, the more familiar you will become with your particular palette of trigger symptoms, and the more able you will be to have that initial moment of mindfulness which allows you to choose then to drop into your body and start somatic resourcing.
Only when you’re getting ninja at doing this is it time to start intentionally seeking out situations that push your envelope, encounters that reliably take you to the edge of your window.
Then the growth zones can become your playground.
There is one more essential element to the practice of exploring growth zones:
Ideally these are people who are also awake to the things we’ve been exploring in this series, and who are themselves actively practising somatic resourcing.
This brings us to the topic of co-regulation, which you can read about through here →
Want to take it deeper?
If you’d like a lot more guidance and support around applying your somatic resource in a relational context and becoming skilled at working in the growth zones, our 6-week online training ReSource not only gives a wealth of teachings and practices on this subject, but also a supportive community of fellow somatic adventurers to play in.
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