In the book “My Stroke of Insight”, brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor explains that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body—is only a minute and a half, a mere 90 seconds. After that, we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So, if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue. Modern neuroscience has discovered a fundamental truth: neurons that fire together, wire together. When we rehearse a looping set of thoughts and emotions, we create deeply grooved patterns of emotional reactivity. This means that the more you think and rethink about certain experiences, the stronger the memory and the more easily activated the related feelings become.
Researcher Benjamin Libet discovered that the part of the brain responsible for movement activates a quarter-second before we become aware of our intention to move. There is then another quarter-second before the movement begins…By catching our thoughts in the magic quarter-second, we’re able to act from a wiser place, interrupting the circling of compulsive thinking that fuels anxiety and other painful emotions.
Tara Brach- Why We Lock Into Painful Emotional States
A small amount of time that can create a large amount of difference. Too often we think that what we are feeling in the moment will last forever, and often that idea causes more pain than anything else. It is incredibly freeing to think about having that moment, that opportunity to shift things.
What could you do with your magic quarter-second?