Books and Quotes

Books and Quotes

I recently read "My Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor.
She had a stroke at the age of 37! She was a doctor and a neuroscientist at the time. She had a really special knowledge of the brain and realized what was happening to her as it was happening. Jill had an out-of-body, spiritual experience even as her stroke was happening. She survived the massive stroke and then overcame many, many challenges on her 8-year recovery process.

In the book, she talks about the human brain generally. She also tells her own personal story. And there's a significant element of spirituality, too. I first learned about her on an Oprah podcast a few years ago, I think. Here is a link to her TED talk.

I treasured the last 3 chapters of the book! Her approaches to emotional and psychological health were so refreshing.

The passage I'm about to share below is my VERY favorite in her book because I never knew this information before. Apparently, in our bodies, when we have an emotional trigger (angry, sad, happy), a chemical is released from our brains. That chemical runs through our blood for 90 seconds. We have a real bodily reaction to our emotion, but it only lasts for just over a minute. After that, we get to CHOOSE how we want to respond to the stimuli. Read Jill's passage. It's a little complex-sounding at first, but then it becomes super empowering. Basically, she's saying, we get to choose how we respond to what's going on around us. We can have 90 seconds to feel what we feel and acknowledge what we feel. But then we can choose to let it go and live out of a place of peace. She says,

"I define responsibility (resonse-ability) as the ability to choose how we respond to stimulation coming in through our sensory systems at any moment in time. Although there are certain limbic system (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our blood stream. My anger response, for example, is a programmed response that can be set off automatically. Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run. Moment by moment, I make the choice to either hook into my neurocircuitry or move back into the present moment, allowing that reaction to melt away as fleeting physiology."

She also shares the following 3 insights that I really appreciated....

"When my brain runs loops that feel harshly judgmental, counter-productive, or out of control, I wait 90 seconds for the emotional/physiological response to dissipate and then I speak to my brain as though it is a group of children. I say with sincerity, "I appreciate your ability to think thoughts and feel emotions, but I am really not interested in thinking these thoughts or feelings these emotions anymore. Please stop bringing this stuff up."

"I'm a devout believer that paying attention to our self-talk is vitally important for our mental health. In my opinion, making the decision that internal verbal abuse is not acceptable behavior, is the first step toward finding deep inner peace."

"I've often wondered, If it's a choice, then why would anyone choose anything other than happiness? I can only speculate, but my guess is that many of us simply do not realize that we have a choice and therefore don't exercise our ability to choose. Before my stroke, I thought I was a product of my brain and had no idea that I had some say about how I responded to the emotions surging through me. On an intellectual level, I realized that I could monitor and shift my cognitive thoughts, but it never dawned on me that I had some say in how I perceived my emotions. No one told me that it only took 90 seconds for my biochemistry to capture, and then release me. What an enormous different this awareness has made in how I live my life."

Hopefully you find some of this stuff as interesting as I do!
I think it's fascinating. Obviously, emotional and mental health is not cut and dry. Our hearts and minds and brains are complex. Nevertheless, I really think Jill is onto something. Amit Sood is a doctor at Mayo, and I'm reading his book, too. He shares similar content but through a different lens. Powerful!


  1. Emily! This year's Nobel Conference at Gustavus is called "The Brain and Being Human". Here is a link:
    They will webcast all the talks on the Gustavus website so you can watch them live or at your leisure.
    Isn't it funny how the thing you're interested in is always the Nobel Conference topic of the year? I think last year it was about food and I sent you that link too! :)

  2. 90 seconds! I sort of love this. The science behind your mother's advice to count to ten before responding in anger.

  3. Sarah! Thanks for the link and comment. Maggie - I KNOW! 90 seconds! How empowering. :)

    Love you, ladies!

  4. So very interesting, especially to a mom of a preschooler who tends to be exasperating. 90 seconds is a long time to wait (after he's pounded on the door and woken Kasen up), but I'll try!