Monday, November 30, 2009

90 Seconds

Jill Bolte Taylor, MD, coined the phrase the " 90 second emotion rule." The idea is that it takes 90 seconds or less for each emotion to be automatically triggered, surge through the body, and dissipated. Once the emotion (chemical component) is gone physiologically, it then becomes a choice to continue as she puts it the " neurocircuitry" to run or not. In this sense, we become more attuned to the emotion in the current moment versus continuously cruising on autopilot. We become aware to what we are feeling, learning to yes, choose whether to take it, leave it , or change it. (Source:

How you choose to feel is up to you.

What an empowering and scary thought.

I spent some time today thinking about this, after my boss, co-worker and I discussed it. And I realized that while I do not know about the scientific validity of her statement, on a base level I believe it to be true. And I think the message is important too, in that it reminds us that we can choose to react how we want, and we have control over our emotions and our responses to them.

And let me tell you, in MY house, this is where 'sitting on the steps' comes in handy. It isn't a parenting tool I use her age it's more 'go sit on the steps and calm down' time, and it's usually done in response to a tantrum which follows being reprimanded for something. Ocassionally, it follows really bad behavior on her part, like hitting or kicking or pushing her brother. And in her case, it typically takes more than 90 seconds for her to get a grasp on her emotions once again, but for her age that's pretty normal. But...those 2 minutes (or thereabouts) she's sitting on her steps give US the chance to recover from our emotional response. I've found I'm a better parent when I have the time and mental space to get over that initial emotion (frustration...anger...frustration...sadness...frustration) so that I can deal with the behavior she exhibited without my own frustration or hurt feelings or whatever else I feel getting in the way.

What I think is especially interesting about this 90-second 'rule' is this: what is your default emotion when your 90 seconds are up? Is it anger? Happiness? Fear? Ambivalence? Something else? I think THAT is what matters most...not what emotion you feel in a surge through your neocortex (or something like that...) but what emotion your default back to when the 90 seconds are done and gone.


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