Window of Tolerance

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Window of Tolerance
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The phrase “Window of Tolerance” was created by world-renowned trauma specialist Dr. Dan Siegel.

When we are within our “Window of Tolerance,” our whole body-mind system feels all right. We can cope well, we can access both emotions and reason and might experience a general feeling of wellbeing. Throughout the day, we fluctuate within this “Window” and might experience times of more or less comfort, but we are always able to regulate ourselves again, put on the breaks before we say something we will regret 5 minutes later or decide to take some time out and have a quick tea break with a colleague to re-establish our balance.

The closer towards the boundaries of our “Window of Tolerance” we come, the more uncomfortable and agitated or switched off and unmotivated we feel.

Those of us with a history of trauma and unmet attachment needs might be experiencing a very narrow “Window of Tolerance” due to a dysregulated nervous system. We can feel overwhelmed very quickly and be catapulted out of our “Window of Tolerance” at a drop of a hat, either into a state of hyperarousal or into a state of hypoarousal.

Quickly escalating feelings of anxiety, panic or fear are a common precursor to being propelled out of our “Window” - our comfort zone. It doesn’t take much to trigger us into a state of hyperarousal where we feel unable to think clearly and might be experiencing a general state of great inner agitation, distress and/or panic. We might feel very angry.

Equally, it doesn’t take much to propel us into a depressed, unmotivated and lethargic state of hypoarousal where we might feel emotionally numb as well as unable to focus.


Counselling can help with so-called affect regulation which means that you learn ways to regulate your own emotions better and widen your “Window of Tolerance.” Developing some self-awareness around signs our systems provides when we are in danger of being catapulted out of our “Window of Tolerance” can be very important. It can be equally important to know what to do when I start heading towards a panic attack and stop it before it gets unmanageable. For those clients who feel they would like to understand their past better and how their personal “Window of Tolerance” developed the way it did, we can explore this as well.


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