Drop the Story. Feel the Emotion.
Neuroscientist, Jill Bolte Taylor recognized in her book My Stroke of Insight, that feelings and emotions flow through us and, typically, last only up to 90 seconds! 90 seconds!!! Not days or weeks, as it may seem. That happens when we FEEL the emotion rather than hook onto a story and ruminate, looping through emotion and story and details and analysis. ......90 seconds! : She writes: "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. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds. After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking” ...(and the story you are telling yourself) : Using the metaphor of emotions as waves, we can see that as we are swimming along in life, an experience happens and we have a wave of emotion arise within us. In this moment several things can happen------> We could struggle against the wave, pushing it, paddling hard to maintain our head above the surface. We often do that by tensing up as the emotion comes, fighting against it, and making the wave of emotion bigger… like when we brace against feeling anger or embarrassment- applying our defenses of blame, denial, or worry to struggle or push against the emotion, refusing to acknowledge and feel this natural emotion. : Sometimes we choose to give up and let the wave of emotion consume us by letting go of the struggle altogether and sinking to the bottom, wallowing in the painful feelings, looping, analyzing, and ruminating, adding insult to injury by criticizing ourselves and ending up in a pit of hopelessness. This often appears as depression. : Another option, and one that requires far less energy, is to ride the emotion. To do this we observe the emotional wave as it appears, noticing sensation, feeling, thought, and experiencing these as it moves through us and using our skills to not hook onto the story. And, as we do this, the emotion moves through (in 90 seconds or less!), and we recognize, feel, and release the emotion, breathing through the experience, keeping our head above water, without struggle, and flowing with this life energy. : Getting hooked by the story and details is so enticing and the practice of retraining ourselves to feel the emotion and drop the story can take repeated attention and focus, but is worth the effort. And, of course, being compassionate with ourselves when we forget or are too tired or interested in the story to drop it… because that will happen too. But knowing that there is another way brings hope and possibility.