Explaining the Window of Tolerance

The window of tolerance is a phrase first used by Dr. Dan Siegel to describe the arousal state in which a person can best function and feel they can manage life.

As we live our life, we experience what I like to call mini traumas, hurts, fears, and triggers, that take us out of our window of tolerance. Generally, we can bring ourselves back into the window of tolerance in a relatively short time.

This fluctuation within the window of tolerance is shown in the diagram with a wavy line. It is usual for us to move up and down within the window of tolerance. 

When we have experienced trauma and have developed insecure attachment styles, our nervous system is disrupted, our reactions to life’s mini traumas are heightened, and we can become overwhelmed. When we become overwhelmed, we move into either HYPERAROUSAL (fight or flight) or HYPOAROUSAL (freeze).

The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for cognitive processing and language, shuts down and we become dysregulated.

Everyone’s window of tolerance is different. People with a narrow tolerance window will often think of themselves as difficult people who struggle with their emotions and moods. 

A trauma might push someone outside their tolerance window and into hypo or hyper arousal, which can, over time, lead to depression or anxiety.

Over the next few days, we will be exploring more about hypo and hyperarousal, so you can recognise these states and discover things you can practice to expand your window of tolerance.

If you would like to see this series, go to the top right of this post and click on the ‘turn on post notifications’ tab. Then you will catch everything.

Love Jen