Managing Your Emotions: The 90-Second Rule



Have you ever heard of the "90-second rule" in the realm of emotions? This principle, highlighted by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a renowned brain scientist, in her book "My Stroke of Insight," uncovers a profound understanding of how we experience and manage our emotions.

Unpacking the 90-Second Rule

When an event occurs that stirs a certain emotion within you, your body responds by releasing chemicals that induce this particular feeling. But the fascinating fact is, your body expels these chemicals within approximately 90 seconds.

So, what does this suggest? If an emotion lingers for more than 90 seconds, it's not due to the initial chemical reaction, but because we are consciously or unconsciously choosing to remain in that emotional state. We tend to replay or dwell on the triggering event, which effectively hits the 'replay' button on the entire chemical process in our bodies. This keeps us locked within that emotional loop.

Why Is Understanding This Rule Essential?

Comprehending this mechanism offers us greater control over our emotional landscape. It's like suddenly discovering the remote control to your feelings. This doesn't imply suppressing emotions or denying their existence. Rather, it's about understanding their workings to regulate them better.

When you grasp the concept that it's your thoughts sustaining an emotion beyond the initial 90 seconds, you gain control. You're in the driver's seat, able to examine your thoughts and assess whether they are beneficial or detrimental.

A Practical Example

Suppose someone's comment offends you, and anger begins to bubble within. If you pause and examine your thoughts, you might realize that you're continuously replaying that comment. Additional thoughts such as "They always disrespect me," or "They purposely said that to upset me," may even add fuel to the fire.

However, what if you could hit the 'pause' button on these thoughts? What if you question their absolute truth, or consider another perspective? Maybe the person didn't intend to insult you, or perhaps they're just having a terrible day and their behavior isn't personal.


The Power of Our Thoughts

Our thoughts hold immense power. They act as a movie director, deciding which scene plays next. In an emotional loop, our thoughts repeatedly replay the same scene, prompting the same chemical reactions and emotions.

Imagine a movie with a saddening scene that's on loop. After a while, you'd start to feel down, right? Similarly, when we replay an event in our minds that triggers certain emotions, we experience those feelings repetitively.

The good news is, just like we can choose to stop watching a movie, we can choose to shift our thoughts and break the emotional loop. It's challenging, especially when emotions are intense, but it's definitely doable. The first step is simply being aware that our thoughts sustain our emotions.

Emotions: Signals, Not Enemies

Let's be clear. The aim is not to suppress emotions after 90 seconds. Emotions aren't villains—they're just signals, providing valuable information about our environment. For instance, fear warns us of danger, while happiness indicates enjoyment.

Issues arise when we become trapped in an emotion and can't escape. Here, understanding the 90-second rule and the power of our thoughts is a lifesaver. By shifting our thought patterns, we can alter our feelings and behaviors. This is an effective tool for managing a myriad of issues, from anxiety and depression to stress and self-esteem.

Armed with the knowledge of the 90-second rule, you can take charge of your emotions rather than feeling they control you. Emotions aren't good or bad, they're just signals. And with this awareness, you can better interpret those signals and choose your responses.

Like any skill, it takes practice. The next time a strong emotion arises, try applying the rule. Allow the emotion to wash over you for 90 seconds, then assess your thoughts. Are they prolonging the emotion, or allowing it to pass? Remember, you have the power to choose.