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Psychological Time

Due to a difficult childhood, I learned to worry about situations to prepare for the worst. My mind reasoned if I knew what to expect, I could be in the best position to deal with it. This made sense to me.

Worry is a pastime practiced by many people. To perseverate; to fester; to mull; to fret; to pre-suffer – you name it, there’s a lot of verbs for worrying.

I thought worrying was a problem specific to me until I learned about psychological time versus clock time. We all know what clock time is and use it to go about our day-to-day lives. Psychological time is different. When I lose the present and fixate on a thought in my mind mulling it over and over, I’m in psychological time. It’s exhausting and disorienting to flip back and forth.

Myrko Thum, a German personal development specialist created a blog “inspired by the philosophy of C.A.N.I. CANI meaning Constant And Never-ending Improvement, a way of living for continuous openness, learning, improvement and growth with the goal of self-realization."

Psychological time “always occurs if we dwell on a situation mentally, then we drop out of the present moment. If we set a goal, using clock time … we can work towards it in the present moment and be present while doing so. But when we start projecting ourselves constantly into the future (or past) and live there in the mind, we become unsatisfied with what is and dismiss the present moment. It becomes a means to the end and we want to be at the end. - Myrko Thum, The Difference Of Clock Time and psychological Time

When my second daughter was just a baby, newly diagnosed with pediatric liver disease, I vacillated between worrying about the future and the past, often losing my sense of the present. Then fear would remind me the next couple of years may be all I have with her and I was jarred back to the present.

I came up with a remedy when I caught myself in psychological time. I’d touch the end of my nose to remind me I am here right now, not experiencing anything else but what’s at the end of my nose. It worked on and off through the years. This practice helped with the onslaught of panic attacks when life got totally out of control. Touching the end of my nose reminded me where I was in the moment.

Life’s traumatic events jar us in and out of the present moment. We live in a challenging world. My goal is to stay in the present moment and it’s hard not to flip in and out with all the chaos around us.

One of my most favorite books entitled First We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson talks about quieting the mind in her first chapter. She had the opportunity to interview His Holiness, The Dali Lama and asked him the age-old question about quieting the mind. Specifically, “How do I get my mind to shut up?”

“'There’s no use,' he tells me. 'Silly! Impossible to achieve! If you can do it, great. If not, big waste of time. Nooooo. If I sit in a cave for a year on mountain, then maybe I do it. But no guarantee.' He waves his hand. 'Anyway, I don’t have time.'”

I remember these words every time I admonish myself for losing the present moment worrying about something, in psychological time.

Any problem I have is better dealt with when I am in present moment rather than lost in my mind in psychological time. I have proved that fact over and over again. When I am present, all of me is available to deal with what is.

My mind is not in charge. I choose not to be a victim of my mind. I and my mind are not one. My Higher Self is in charge. I feel the difference. Every day, I remind my mind to work with me, not alone. I get better and better as I practice.

Participants' Reflections:

  • Thank you so much. I loved it. I thought about it. During my meditation, I went into a very deep meditative state where I was right in the moment. When I came out of it, there was still five more minutes although it felt like I had been in it a lot longer. Thank you so much.

  • I loved the synchronicity of your reading. My father was the king of worrying. I’ve gotten several messages from him that worrying is a waste of time. I’ve been thinking about him so much. Both my parents were proficient at catastrophizing so I became a genius at it. About 15 years ago, I went to a stress-reduction workshop and on a flipchart, I saw a quote by Victor Frankl which was transforming for me. I say it to myself everyday as I realize I am not my thoughts. He said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” It helps me so much because I can get wrapped up in my thoughts and believe them. That quote makes me stop and use the space between me and my Higher Self. And in terms of being in the moment, I started doing that with my feet. My feet are right here and can only be right here. That helps me. It’s a practice.

  • And in meditation, there is space between the in and out breath and in that moment, we are fully present.

  • I just reread Frankl and it’s very powerful. I am one of those catastrophizers. When you are fully present in the moment, time slows down. And when you are really in the moment, you have a choice. You don’t have to do the automatic conditioned thing you’ve done in the past. You have a choice. That is what seems to be critical for being in the moment.

  • Yes, we don’t have to be a victim to our minds. And often times it’s the easiest road, to automatically slip into.

  • I am reminded of the idea that it seems to take longer to get someplace than to come home from it. It is for that same reason. We are more in the moment going someplace as we focus on how to get there. And on the way home, we are reliving the experience and we aren’t as aware of the trip. That’s an example of psychological time.

  • Thank you. Thank you for listening. I found it so helpful to understand this. It helps to bring me back to the present, by understanding my behavior instead of beating myself up about it. I wish you all the awareness of present moment today. I wish you all a gentle path as you go about your day, remembering awareness, remembering that we are not victims of our minds, that we work with our Higher Selves as we live our lives paying attention and treating ourselves with kindness. I wish you well.

Photo credit: Hanna Balan,

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