The Window of Tolerance is a concept coined by Dr.Dan Seigel, MD, to describe the optimum zone of “arousal” for a person to effectively manage and cope with their emotions.
When in the Window of Tolerance, we
feel balanced, calm, confident, and secure in facing day-to-day experiences
are capable of handling pressure or stress
are settled and with full awareness of the present moment
are open and curious as opposed to feeling judgmental and defensive
are aware of boundaries and how to set them
experience empathy not only for others but also self-empathy
we have the ability to self-soothe
we experience a full range of emotions and can regulate the ebb and flow of emotions
state of mind is calm, alert, flexible, and adaptable
can take in new learning
feel relaxed and in control
Our work is to broaden our Window of Tolerance.
When we are in our Window of Tolerance, we are able to learn effectively, engage, and relate well to ourselves and others. Each one of us has different ‘windows’, based on our childhood experiences, our neurobiology, social support, environment, and coping skills. The size of our window can change from day to day but the wider we can make the window, the less likely we are to experience anger, frustration, or feel low, and lacking energy.
Dysregulation occurs when we start to deviate outside of our window of tolerance. We start to feel agitated, and uncomfortable but we're not out of control yet. However, if we move outside of our window we can become hyper-aroused or hypo-aroused.
We need to increase our capacity to experience emotions (including intense ones) without becoming dysregulated by recognizing and being aware of our window of tolerance. We also need to learn techniques on how to regulate ourselves when we are in hypo-arousal or hyper-arousal state. It is also important to give ourselves compassion and not fall into guilt or shame that may arise after feeling dysregulated.