90 seconds of emotion

A really important point came up today for me. I’ve heard this before and I was listening to Martha Beck on a call today and she reminded me of an interesting fact. I think that if you remember this, it will help in a lot of situations.

This comes from Jill Bolte Taylor, who is a brain researcher. She wrote an extraordinary book called “My Stroke of Insight” and has the number 1 rated TED talk about her experiences.

You see, Jill Bolte Taylor not only studied neurology in detail, especially the differences between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, but she suffered a massive stroke a few years ago.

She was in the unique position to study her own brain as it was having a stroke, and apply her many years of research to the entire experience.

Although it took her years to recover, her subsequent insights into the brain have been amazing. And she’s continued passionately with her studies and research.

Now, besides heartily recommending this book, and the TED Talk, I want to mention a very interesting fact Dr Taylor has realised about emotions.

It takes “less than 90 seconds” for an emotion to get triggered, surge chemically through the blood stream, then get flushed out.

There’s an automatic and chemical response in the body, even to an EXTREME emotion, that simply cannot last longer than 90 seconds. After that, she’s saying, anything that you feel is OF YOUR OWN CHOOSING.

If you FIGHT the emotion and you don’t allow it’s natural release through your body, you are going to have to fight it again and again. If you open yourself to it and remain completely present, it will pass within 90 seconds.

This is extremely empowering. It matches what a lot of us know already – if you “stuff down” your feelings, they are going to explode at some point, and even stuffing them down comes with an extra cost – you might gain weight or get depressed or develop an ulcer with the effort of it.

So, even if an emotion, your own or someone else’s, feels too scary to be around, take heart from this.

You can weather the storm for 90 seconds. Don’t try to stop the anger or the grief or any other intense emotion as it blazes inside you. Pay attention to it, and let it pass. It will clear through you, it might come back another time for another circumstance, but you can survive 90 seconds.

Photo Attrib: CC2.0
Emotion Storm


  1. Natalie Fallon

    Very true. I am sending this to my aunt, who just recommended the book to me. Synchronicity at work.

    Thank you!

  2. Thanks Natalie – it’s a beautiful book, and she really brings a great message with the TED talk too :)


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