Understanding the Window of Tolerance












Photo by Pixabay. Written by Madison Pribula.

Window of tolerance is a term created by Dan Siegel which demonstrates the window in which an individual responds and functions most efficiently. It is often within this zone that individuals are able to process information and make rational decisions without any signs of difficulty or struggle.

The window of tolerance exemplifies the ‘optimal arousal level’ at which one operates where they are able to think clearly, whereas when we experience high levels of stress and anxiety a person is generally outside this window of tolerance. Outside this window, a person’s mind and thoughts are foggier and their response can be quite slower, leading to irrational decisions due to the emotional impact these thoughts have on an individual’s usual daily function.

The window of tolerance of an individual help understand how different individuals respond to changes in emotions they encounter and how narrow or wide their tolerance is. It exemplifies the emotional capacity each individual is able to handle and can help therapists, parents and teachers understand our limits. Understanding one’s window also helps therapists target treatment more efficiently as it provides an insight on why an individual may respond a certain way to emotional strains and pressures. Focusing on how to effectively release these emotional releases appropriately in a way that works best with each individuals window of tolerance enables a person to learn how to control and manage stressful situations later on.

Individuals with a wider window generally are able to tolerate these changes of emotions where it does not impact their daily activities at all, whereas those with a narrower tolerance may find it difficult and challenging to manage these emotions and may struggle to function. Each of us have a window of the level of emotional distress we are able to manage, ‘for example, we can only tolerate so much pain, anxiety, fear etc before the brain and body respond and numb us to this excessive energy.’ (Gill, 2017)





Tolerance, W., 2020. Window of Tolerance – Goodtherapy.Org Therapy Blog. [online] GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. Available at: <https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/window-of-tolerance>

Gill, L., 2017. Understanding And Working With The Window Of Tolerance. [online] Attachment and Trauma Treatment Centre for Healing (ATTCH). Available at: <https://www.attachment-and-trauma-treatment-centre-for-healing.com/blogs/understanding-and-working-with-the-window-of-tolerance>

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