Friday, November 7, 2008

the 90 second rule

I took this from a discussion on parenting and rage.
The first section is from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, and then there are two posts from two great unschoolers who i really respect. :) I XX'd out the names to keep it anonymous.

Keeping this 90 sec. rule in mind has really helped me wade through those initial surges of emotion so that i can really respond and connect with my family, rather then react. :)

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: *The 90 second rule and then it’s gone*. It’s predictable circuitry, so by paying attention to what circuits you are triggering and what that feels like inside of your body, you can recognize when it has happened. We all know what it feels like when we suddenly move into fear. Something happens in the external world and all of a sudden we experience a physiological response by our body that our mind would define as fear. *So in my brain some circuit is saying something isn’t safe and I need to go on full alert, those chemicals flush through my body to put my body on full alert, and for that to totally flush out of my body, it takes less than 90 seconds.*

So, whether it’s my fear circuitry or my anger circuitry or even my joy circuitry - it’s 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’m thinking that are re-stimulating that circuitry that is resulting in me having this physiology over and over again.
When you stay stuck in an emotional response, you’re choosing it by choosing to continue thinking the same thoughts that retrigger it.* We have this incredible ability in our minds to replay; but as soon as you replay, you’re not here, you’re not in the present moment. You’re still back in something else and if you continue to replay the exact same line and loop, then you have a predictable result.

You can continue to make yourself mad all day and the more you obsess over whatever it is, the more you run that loop, then the more that loop gets energy of it’s own to manifest itself with minimal amounts of thought, so it will then start on automatic. And it keeps reminding you, “Oh yeah, I was mad, I have to rethink that thought.”

This is so powerful to me. It is something I have done, without even knowing it. And I think it might help bridge the gap for people that think I'm crazy to say "it's always a choice". I didn't realize that I naturally wait and observe when I have a reaction and in talking to XX realize that many others do not, their natural reaction is to react :) But even for me, being aware of the 90 seconds has been so cool. Today, XX was telling me something about a local woman and it kind of irritated me and I could feel myself amping up to launch into a diatribe and then I remembered the 90 second rule and just sat quietly while that passed. I could actually feel it (the irritation) melt away, afterwards I had no desire to get amped up about this woman, none at all. Had I reacted during the 90 seconds I think I would have stayed in that place of anger/irriation for a while.

I've seen it work with my dh and my kids. It's a neurological explanation for the advice to 'take a deep breath and wait". I wanted to share it here because I think it's a great tool in helping to find solutions because if we can wait through our "reaction time" and then *choose* the path we want, we are that much closer to connecting with whoever we are dealing with. I think it helps us not feel trapped or like we can't control our rage because we can, we have the choice, we just need to honor our reactions for 90 seconds and then decide where we want to go next.
I found this a fascinating theory. I have observed that if I WALK to the SINK and pour a glass of water and drink it when triggered, that I will P.A.U.S.E. long enough for me to THINK, instead of react to a situation.

I've found that there are some BIG TRIGGERS for me. The worst being *hit* or *screamed* at. Or a sense of *NOW!!* demand/time pressure. Those throw me into that 'fight or flight' feeling, even when it is my own little child which is the "threat". When I was able to recognize that my perception of that "attack" was projected/triggered by my past experience, rather than actually happening in the present, I was able to BREATHE and PAUSE. But, just standing there didn't relieve me of enough "threat". I found that walking away and intentionally doing something else, helped me to move past that flare of a *FIGHT BACK!* feeling.

Walking to my purse, or to the cabinet to get the Rescue Remedy saved me from hitting back. I just keep my mouth shut and I feel my jaw set, teeth clenched, and my face flush and my chest feels tight, and my shoulders draw in; and I know *WALK AWAY. DRINK WATER. TAKE RESCUE REMEDY.* Being in motion seems to help move the chemicals out of my body.

All of that helps me to move past that moment. I never realized that there was a physiological alert phase of 90 seconds where the "fight or flight" chemicals were amping me up when I was triggered. HALTING and allowing those chemicals to dissolve away sounds like something I can consciously focus on doing.

I'm trying to help our son learn this same PAUSE when triggered. First I had to *feel* it flare up in my body and recognize what those signals are. And then consider what past experiences were triggered by this situation. And realize that those threats are not happening with my child. He is a little baby or little person who is overwhelmed and learning about emotional awareness (along with me!). Then I was able to stop myself from reacting in the moment. But, I still have to walk away sometimes to get AWAY from the trigger. The water and rescue remedy give me something to DO with that URGE to scream. Also, it helps me to repeat to myself, "I am the Adult. I can control Myself. I am the Adult. I can control Myself."

(It doesn't always work. PMS, sleep deprivation, not enough sunlight, not enough magnesium. Those things make it harder to PAUSE, imo.)


  1. I like that 90 seconds rule! I inherited my mom's bad temper and I used to lose it a lot more, but I've been trying to curb that more now (helps that I've mellowed out some with age too). I think I need to tattoo "90 seconds" on my arm. That will really help me and everyone else around me. :)

  2. i'm glad you liked that Teresa :)
    I know its something i'm really trying to work on. i'd like it tattooed to the inside of my eyelides. ok, thats gross never mind. :)

  3. Great share Lisa - I am researching the 90 second rule and this blog came up so thanks for the excellent angle you provide!!