Is time too fast or too slow for you? The Key is in your mind! You control the flow!

Psychological time refers to our actual perception of time rather than the “reality” of time. Much as art and beauty are in the eyes of the beholder, time is in the mind. There are times when the clock seems to fly and others when it drags. When we are enjoying ourselves or having fun, time seems to pass too rapidly. We wish the moment or day would last forever. It feels like this when we are on vacation or spending time with people we like and really enjoying ourselves.

However the opposite is true when we are doing things we really do not want to be doing. Time seems to drag by ever so slowly when we are bored or doing work that we hate. Time spent at a conference listening to a boring speaker can seem like an eternity. Time spent at an amusement park or something entertaining will seem to pass much too quickly. However, even at the same event, time for one of us may be too fast while for someone else it will be too slow.

Young children perceive time as passing very slowly and think of each day as a lifetime. The elderly count weeks going by as the young count days. Indeed, it sometimes seems like I turn calendar pages so fast, I forget what year it is. How often have I said to Karen “when was the last time we were there”, only to hear the answer “about 25 years ago.” Then I think: “Impossible, it seems like only yesterday.”

You have all heard stories about people who while having some kind of a life threatening event; will have their lives pass before them in a heartbeat. I have heard many people speak of how before an accident on a motorcycle occurs, everything will seem to be in slow motion until the actual crash. Imagine if there were clocks for psychological time. How do you suppose a clock like that would work? You could dial in slow days and fast days. If you wanted time to speed up, you simply set the clock on “speed up.” Vice versa, you could set it on slow down if you wanted things to last longer. This clock actually exists but it is in our minds and we often do not know what the key is. Our minds respond to stimuli and we are not able to alter the perceptions that we are having. If we could, we might be able to change boredom into excitement or to slow the clock down on those times that we want time to last longer. If the key is in our head, it must be there for the finding.

Can you control your perception of time? Do you know anyone who can? Does time fly when you do not want it to and drag when you wish it would fly? Do you think you have any control over this? Why not? What do you think it would take to change your perceptions of time and how it moves? Where is your key to time to be found?

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 16:26:04

    I think I can counteract the tendency for time to seem to pass more quickly as we get older. I can manage the feat (perhaps) but cannot say how I do it. It may have something to do with attending to at least some things, some of the time, intensely just about every day. It isn't that I'm engraving these things in my memory. Unfortunately, my narrative memory is rather sketchy and unreliable, but just that I'm focusing on them for a minute. I think time stretches out for the motorcycle rider as he crashes because he is automatically paying as acute attention as is possible for him to what is happening right now. It is as if we were like cameras that normally take in one frame per second, but we can up that to many frames per second, at least in fairly short bursts. Of course, its not just the visual aspect of experience, but many others that we can intensely focus on, and thus get extra psychological time. And by trying to habitually generate intense attention on a regular basis, even though it amounts to a tiny fraction of my overall experiences,leads me to perceive time, in general, as if it were passing more slowly.

    I worked with a guy years ago who was concerned about mortality and who wanted time to pass slowly. He said he had deliberately taken a job he found boring because that would make his life seem longer. I could never tell if he was joking or not. If unpleasant experiences do seem to take longer, I guess it would work, but he would be extending his psychological time only be living a generally unpleasant life. And I'm not even sure if it would work. I think the sense of dragging time during unpleasant experiences has a lot to do with gnawing impatience, of so wanting the thing to be over. Every day, my friend would be released from what to him was a boring cubicle prison, and if that release engendered more joy in the evening than his pain during the day, he might have a positive net for manipulating himself that way. Why did the moron hit himself on the head? Because it felt so good when he stopped. This strategy would be a rational one, if the good feeling more than outweighed the pain (and possible tissue damage). But I doubt that this would really work because I think our painful attention to unpleasant things is proportional to our expectation of their being ended. If there is some relatively permanent circumstance that causes us pain, I think we quickly go numb to it, and sort of zone out about it in a way that makes it take little subjective time at all. Or at least so it seems to me. If he really felt he was stuck in his job permanently, it would have to stop bothering him so much, and his joy at being released would lose its kick as well. It would be like riding a roller coaster over and over.

    Reply

  2. John Persico
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 14:07:04

    Great comment Bruce> Can I post this as a blog and give you credit?

    Reply

  3. bgalbreath
    Dec 03, 2011 @ 15:07:13

    Sure.

    Reply

  4. John Persico
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 14:23:13

    Thanks Bruce, I will use it this week.

    Reply

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