The 90 Second Rule

When I first heard Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor say on the Oprah Show a few years back that if we allow ourselves to feel an emotion in our body, the emotion runs through our body in 90 seconds, I didn’t believe her!  (Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist and author of My Stroke Of Insight who experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996.)

Fast forward a couple of years to Geneen Roth’s Women Food and God retreat in California.  Geneen repeatedly told our audience of over 200 women that we need to get in touch with our bodies and FEEL our emotions and that experiencing them in our body takes less than a couple of minutes. Again, I doubted the reality of this perspective. After all, I had gone through a painful divorce years ago which left me devastated for months, not just 90 seconds!

However, one day while at the retreat I was feeling a sadness that I couldn’t figure out with my rational thinking mind. I wrote about it, I did The Work (Byron Katie), I sent out a request to the universe to help me understand my sadness.  The sadness remained.  Finally, I decided to follow Geneen’s suggestion to just FEEL the emotion in my body without having to figure it out. I sat by a little waterfall and brought my attention to my internal body. I felt and saw a shape and color to my sadness, a dark grayish cloud shape as I recall. My gut felt raw, my heart ached, and I wanted to hunch over to protect my heart.

As I watched and experienced the sensations from my observing self, emotion rose and I cried, briefly. Then the shape and color of the sadness changed and moved out of my body. The tears and sadness ended. The body sensation of sadness had moved through and out of my body.  I felt at peace in 90 seconds!!!

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor says, “When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop. Something happens in the external world and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds.”

“We can all learn that we can take full responsibility for what thoughts we are thinking and what emotional circuitry we are feeling. Knowing this and acting on this can lead us into feeling a wonderful sense of well-being and peacefulness. Whether it is my fear circuitry or my anger circuitry or even my joy circuitry – it is really hard to hold a good belly laugh for more than 90 seconds naturally. The 90-second rule is totally empowering. That means for 90 seconds, I can watch this happen, I can feel this happen and I can watch it go away. After that, if I continue to feel that fear or feel that anger, I need to look at the thoughts I am thinking that are re-stimulating that circuitry that is resulting in me having this physiology over and over again.”

So many of my friends, family and life coaching clients tell me they are not sleeping well because they are “re-hashing” or “worrying” about someone or something in the middle of the night.  If the 90 Second Rule holds true, and I believe it does, what keeps us awake (or sad, angry, frustrated….) is our Story and not the actual feeling associated with the person or situation.

Are you running some of the same stories that cause you stress or upset? Would you like to share? How about sitting with the Feeling/Emotion to let it run its course through your body? Not enough time? (That’s often my excuse!) Take 90 Seconds for yourself!