Opening the Window Of Tolerance

Image courtesy of my grad school post-lecture, whiteboard
photo op days!

“Window of Tolerance” is a trauma-informed Psychological concept created by Dan Siegal that is used to help us understand natural survival responses that get triggered in the brain in everyday life and relationships.

I utilize this concept with clients to support their learning more about their own mind-body connection, so that we may identify these triggers together and subsequently work on expanding their ability to tolerate the outside stimulus through cultivating and strengthening coping tools and resources. *I think it is important to note here that I do not believe that all things should be expected to be “tolerated” (i.e. any “ism”), nor that tolerating something is the be all end all of existing, but I do believe in supporting my clients ability to better manage and cope with that which is out of their control.*

I found an additional layer of explanation helpful in breaking-down what happens when we become hyper or hypo-aroused that I also want to share here: When an individual feels as if they have been “pushed” out of their Window of Tolerance, the prefrontal cortex is going offline, with only subcortical brain regions (limbic system-emotional brain, and brain stem) staying active, removing one’s ability to think through actions and consequences. Before any type of talking or making sense of a situation can occur, individuals need to find a way back into their Window of Tolerace, through self-soothing and self-regulating behaviors, which will allow all regions of the brain to get back online, and one’s processing system to function appropriately.  

Utilized in session and out, I have found this to be a supportive model for clients, especially when in survival mode. It is one that we are also able to get creative around, imagining our own windows and allowing for the exploration of language around the term “tolerance.”

If this is a concept you are curious to learn more about, please don’t hesitate to reach-out via email ( or directly message me here on my site!

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