“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.”
-Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight
Stories can get the better of us when we constantly replay them in our heads.
In other words, if we’re angry after one and a half minutes, it’s because we’re telling ourselves a story. Like picking a scab and making it bleed, we tell the story of why we’re angry, over and over again.
Here’s my story (warning – it’s not pretty):
I have a cute little Italian espresso-maker called a Brikka, which, for some reason, is nearly impossible to open.
I’ve literally strained my wrists trying to open it. I’ve had arguments with my husband (“You’re closing it too tight!”). I’ve even banged it on the countertop – hard – on more occasions than I care to admit. (I told you, it’s not pretty!)
It all came to a head a few days ago. As I painfully tried to open it, I started imagining the pleasure I might find by throwing the espresso-maker against the wall.
Before you get the wrong idea, I’m generally NOT a thrower-of-things. But on that morning, I felt a primal need to chuck that thing across the room.
Instead, I closed my eyes and started breathing.
I stood there, picturing the Brikka hitting the wall. I felt my muscles twitching. I wondered which wall would be most satisfying to hit. (Again – not pretty!)
Over and over, the images, the feelings, the anger.
Finally, I noticed the story I was telling, and I started making space in between each replay.
…I’m so frustrated right now… I’m breathing in… I just want my coffee… I’m breathing out… It shouldn’t be this hard… I’m breathing in... One toss and I might feel better… I’m breathing out... I just want to open this damn thing…
I’m breathing… breathing… breathing…
The stories we replay in our heads can vary. Sometimes they’re more true than others. Sometimes we have a good reason to be upset. But mostly, they’re just stories.
As soon as we move away from them, the anger can dissipate (90 seconds!), and we can get back to being happy humans… and coffee-drinkers.
Questions to Consider:
Are the stories you’re telling right now perpetuating anger in your life?
Can you breathe into them and know that they’re just stories?
What helps you let go of your stories?
(Ponder these questions in the shower or write about them in your journal.
If you have any “aha” moments, post a comment or email me and let me know!)