Is time a component of psychological problems?
Recently I became interested in time perception in relation to change. I was reading some old accounts of a therapist, Milton Erikson, who used time perception as an intervention on physical pain. The point that came to mind was that time is a common factor in psychological problems. Of course, this translates easily into an existential issue, our time on earth is limited (existential angst). That, however, was not my focus. If time was a component of a psychological problem, what can be done with time? Can anything be done with it? If your perception of time alters, does a psychological problem change? Or even, is your perception of time causing you problems?
Unaware of time change
I wondered about:
- Repetitive compulsions Doing the same thing over and over again. Isn’t that like reliving the same moment over and over again? Of course, time doesn’t stand still, we orbit the sun! However, can our perception of time change during a behaviour.
- Cognitive Rumination Visiting past events or future problems is like moving your mind to a different time.
- Flashbacks Moving to a point of trauma involves the mind being at a different point in time and feeling like that time is now.
- Suicide The eradication of personal time? Returning to a point of no personal time? (Regression)
- Image Altering our looks to look younger or even older. Existential anxieties.
- Motivated forgetting Loss of time. (Suppression)
It was not long before I looked in the mirror and noted the passage of time, that aging process. Yes, time became something very interesting, like a constant in a psychological equation. What else can the human mind do with its perception of time? I pondered on, how can we create a positive impact with a time perception intervention?
On reflection, I found I already do something like this by drawing attention to the ‘here and now’ during a therapy session. ‘Right now, what’s happening for you?’
This brought into focus my previous studies in mindfulness. Something that I would term as, being persistent in focusing on no other time other than the present moment. Mindfulness has research results showing a correlation with positive outcomes (Davidson & Kabat-Zinn, 2003). This is nothing new and mindfulness once mastered is really quite soothing. However, becoming mindful from an initial starting point of stress takes a lot of willpower. With the right help, it can be achieved. For example, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) uses mindfulness in treating extreme stress disorder, this suggests to me that it is achievable.
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Time for you
Therapy can be a positive experience. Taking time for yourself and treating yourself with compassion. We all have needs and in this fast moving world we sometimes overlook that. Research shows that some therapy is better than no therapy. Consider taking time out for you.
In order for you to be there for others, you need to be there for yourself first.