Tic-Tac-Tic-Tac: On TIME.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on April 11, 2011

While talking with a patient about her sense that she never has enough time to do what she wants to do, she told me the following story. She had heard an interview with the actress Laura Linney on NPR, in which she was talking about having three weeks to rehearse her role in a play, and her feeling that there was very little time to learn it. The director called the cast together and told them “there is much to do so we have to slow down and take our time”.

Slow down so as to have time. A paradox that turns out to be true. When we slow down and attend to what we have to do, we find that there is plenty of time for everything. How can this be?

I have been thinking about time. How we use it, and think about it, or not. Whether we are aware of it or not.  Whether we act with deliberate attention to time, or whether we feel as if it escapes us and just happens. What is our relationship to time, and how does it come about?

Time is something that some of us are very aware of, and others are not. Some of us are always on time. Then there are those of us who are always late. And then there are those of us who are always running around, rushing like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Oh, and then there are also those of us who are always early. How we manage our time says a lot about how we manage in the world. Clues about us and our relationship to our life, as exhibited through our use of time.

Our relationship to time is rooted in how we manage ourselves in relation to the outside world. How we go about taking care of ourselves, locating ourselves in our lives. It is a part of our system of self- care, internalized as we grow up and take in how we were treated and cared for as children. Like much of our personal history, time and how we think of it and use it is one of the many elements that determine our relationship to ourselves and others.

While culture impacts our sense and use of time greatly, we filter its pressure through our internal experience. Our perception of time is influenced and dictated by our moods and affects. Depression, anxiety, and physical illness, to name a few, will alter our relationship to time and our experience of it. For the depressed person, time can stretch out in long blurs, where days turn into weeks and are lost. For people who suffer from depression, time is always lost, something that has passed them by and they have not lived, or have no experience of living. Something they mourn, feeling that they have lost so much time and that it is “too late”. For someone who is anxious, time becomes a formidable tormentor, adding angst to every potential appointment, due date, schedule. For the anxious soul, there is never enough time, they are always chasing after it and it always eludes them. For someone who is ill, time can go either way: it can threaten to run out, moving fast and robbing one of the ability to do and be. Or, it can move at a snails pace, highlighting pain and discomfort. All examples of how our internal experience, our senses and feelings, determine our awareness of time and the various meanings we assign to it.

“There is much to do so we have to slow down and take our time”. Wise words that have been at the core of meditation practices- as we stop, and slow ourselves down we recover the time to attend to what is happening within and without. We recover time and our sense of the present. In many ways, psychotherapy asks us to do the same: to stop and consider our lives thus far, to sit in the present and re-consider what has happened, what is past, and what is now.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

marilyn lerner April 21, 2011 at 5:43 PM

I too think about and am fascinated by time. I think time can be a tool if we realize that it is relative, that our perception of it shapes it. I think also there’s the cross draft of self states and age states. Remembering watching the clock move in public school, excited by proof of time inching forward as the minute hand clicked forward, or the racing Sunday afternoon– too fast before Monday.
So as much as I can be both depressed and anxious, with more awareness of the power of perception, I can play with time.
Waiting for the bus- hmm 10 minutes to go, pull out a book, it feels like 1 minute, it is 1 minute…
Take a mindful walk in Stanley Park in Vancouver and drink in every moment and I still have access 1 year later.
I am rushing to get somewhere, hmm slow down and I get there on time. Anxiety speeds up time, depression stops it.


Gary April 12, 2011 at 8:14 AM

You made me think of two things
1. “stop and smell the roses”
2. A golf pro once told me to slow my swing down to a blur.

Life is short, savor every moment.


Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. April 12, 2011 at 6:56 PM

Yes, carpe diem!
Roses are usually so spectacular in color and aroma that they call out to us to stop. As for golf, the image of slowing your swing down to a blur is great, it says lose yourself in the movement.


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