Increasing Our Capacity to Feel Is Essential to Living Our Best Life and Connecting with Our Kids. Here's How.

By Eric Bowers /
Jan 7, 2019
Increasing Our Capacity to Feel Is Essential to Living Our Best Life and Connecting with Our Kids. Here's How.
Widen the Window

Two of the most supportive things parents can do for their children are healing their own attachment trauma (thereby further developing their own neural pathways for emotional regulation and secure attachment) and reclaiming disowned parts.

The more that parents do these two things, the wider their windows of tolerance will be for big emotions, intense experiences, and difficult situations, and the more they will be able to be present, attuned, and responsive to and differentiated from their children. They will use both hemispheres of their brains more and more effectively and thus support their children to do the same.

No communication or relationship model or technique will be effective if parents relate to their children when activated by their own implicit memories. Their unconscious memories need to be integrated in a healthy way—that is, the attachment trauma needs to be healed—for the parents to effectively attune to their children. This is not only true for parents; healing attachment trauma and widening your window of tolerance is very beneficial for all relationships, be they familial, romantic, platonic, or professional.

I teach and practice Nonviolent Communication (NVC) because it has particular communication tools and processes that can support the development of secure or earned secure attachment. However, the NVC tools and processes for interpersonal communication are not very effective if they are expressed when your own amygdala has taken over and you are well into fight/flight or freeze. NVC has other tools and processes to use for your inner work of integrating painful implicit memories that become triggered in relationships. When those who use NVC do not first attend to the inner work of integrating their own attachment trauma and painful implicit memories, it will be very difficult for them to hold the NVC intention of connection when communicating with others. (More about NVC in Chapter 5.)

Window of tolerance is a term that refers to how much intensity the amygdala can tolerate before sounding the alarm bell. Once you leave your window of tolerance, you leave your regulated state and move into fight/flight or freeze. You also lose your connection to your middle prefrontal cortex. Without a strong connection to your middle prefrontal cortex, you lose the ability to regulate your emotions, to attune with others, and to offer resonant empathy to others. Resonant empathy is a powerful tool for connecting with and helping others, but you are not able give it to others if you need it for yourself and are not able to access it.

What you need when you have left your window of tolerance is someone else’s regulated brain and middle prefrontal cortex to lean on. You may also require a pause to self-regulate. When you have shifted into fight/flight or freeze and have lost connection to your middle prefrontal cortex, someone else can help you come back to your window of tolerance by giving you resonant empathy or some other kind of resonant support. This can only happen if they can remain regulated and within their own window of tolerance while helping you. 

The practice of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) includes a powerful process for offering empathy to ourselves and to others. When NVC empathy is done well it can be particularly effective at supporting emotional regulation in the right hemisphere of the brain, because it focuses on feelings and needs. It is a simple approach in theory, but sometimes quite difficult in practice. It can be challenging to implement because most of us did not grow up with support for expressing feelings and needs (many of us did not even learn a vocabulary for feelings and needs), nor did we learn how to offer empathy to others. Most of us are familiar with left-hemisphere processes for helping, such as giving advice, analyzing, and educating. We are also more accustomed to judging, blaming, labelling and other left-hemisphere means of making sense of and responding to conflict.  

NVC is a process that teaches you to integrate and regulate difficult experiences. It assists the left hemisphere to make clear observations free of judgments, labels and evaluations. It helps the right hemisphere to regulate feelings and needs. NVC then allows the left hemisphere to solve problems and find strategies to meet all needs. Furthermore, because regulating feelings and needs keeps the middle prefrontal cortex activated, we can empathize with others and maximize connection before problem solving. Solutions that are found after the amygdala is calmed and connection is established are much more likely to be implemented effectively and willingly than solutions that are implemented or imposed without connection.



This was an excerpt from Eric Bower's book Meet Me In Hard-to-Love Places: The Heart and Science of Relationship Success.


Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Eric Bowers is a CNVC Certified Nonviolent Communication Trainer with extensive training in Interpersonal Neurobiology and Attachment Theory. For over ten years Eric has shared his passion for helping people create successful relationships through his experiential and playful workshops, retreats, courses, and speaking engagements. Eric combines Nonviolent Communication, Interpersonal Neurobiology and Attachment Theory in order to give comprehensive information and skills for building great relationships. Eric offers workshops and keynotes for organizations and conferences.

Find Eric’s blog–Where the Heart Meets the Road–and more about his work at or

Eric is the author of Meet Me in Hard-to-Love Places: The Heart and Science of Relationship Success.

Trending Videos
The Great Disconnect (2020) ($5)
60 min - We are living in a time that has been described as the age of loneliness. Despite Western advances in technology, living conditions, education and healthcare, we, as a society, are isolating...
How Your Attention is Stolen
28 min - This video is a masterpiece.  Created by Then & Now.
Briahna Joy Gray Examines the Role of Race and Authoritarianism in Police Violence
19 min - Every minute of this is fantastic commentary, from CRT in schools, to why police violence should be framed more often as authoritarian, to the censorship and school defunding campaign being led by...
PBS FRONTLINE: The Persuaders (2005)
87 min - Frontline examines the "persuasion industries" -- advertising and public relations. To cut through consumers' growing resistance to their pitches, marketers have developed new ways of integrating...
Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy and the Promise of a Million Utopias
Hope is a Verb
There Is No One Right Way to Live | The Ideas of Daniel Quinn

Films For Action hosts a subscription service that currently offers 55 highly-curated, solutions-oriented films to Patron subscribers donating $5 per month. 

Subscribe here. Your support helps grow our 5000+ video library, which is 99% free and contains no ads thanks to our patrons.

Cancel any time via your settings page.


How to Use and Contribute to this Library

  • Use the Explore menu to filter content by type and topic. Selections stack, so you can view Film Types about Specific Topics.

  • Submit videos directly to our library! Just sign up and click +Add Video at the top of the site and paste the video URL to get started. 

  • Create an account to save videos and articles for later and rate content for others

  • Filmmakers: Interested in our TVOD or SVOD services? Films For Action is one of the best homes for paradigm-shifting documentaries.

  • Contact us if you have a site or film suggestion, question, want to volunteer, or you're a filmmaker looking to collaborate. 

    Let's be the media!