Our relationship with time

Our relationship with time reflects our other relationships. Photo by Ocean Ng on Unsplash

Over the years, I have come to realise that our relationship with time is crucial to our psychology.

We can get squashed by time.  The sensation is similar to being physically squashed.  We feel breathless and urgent, as though we want to escape.  Our capacity for action is compressed into a short space.  It causes anxiety.

We can also get dragged out by time.  This sensation is similar to being physically ignored, or deprived of sensation.  We feel bored, unmotivated.  Our capacity for action feels dwarfed by the size of the universe.  We feel insignificant and neglected.  It causes depression.

Somewhere in the middle, we can feel in flow with time.  The sensation is similar to good companionship, or a gentle hug.  We feel neither urgent or bored, just present.  We can act freely within the time that is given to us.  This is a mentally healthy space between the extremes of anxiety and depression.

I call it our relationship with time, because it really is a relationship.  It’s interactive, and we have choices.  When we are speeded or slowed by life, it feels as though we are being oppressed by time, and have no choice.  In the same way, in our human relationships, when we are unhappy, we feel oppressed and without choice.

In all relationships, whether with time or other humans, we come to the realisation that we have more choice than we think.  When time seems to compel or ignore us, we become increasingly aware of our own part in that seeming.  Perhaps, we start to think, it is not all about what time is doing to me.  Maybe I can find a good relationship with time, whatever my external situation.

So begins the path to some kind of wisdom in our relationship with time.  Instead of always feeling pressured, or always feeling bored, we realise that we can start right here, right now, by just being present.

We may start to see parallels with our human relationships.  For instance, perhaps we are always procrastinating, then rushing things at the last minute.  This might be reflected in our human relationships.  Our friends may feel ignored most of the time, and then suddenly given our attention when we feel like giving it.  Healing our relationship with time (for instance, learning to give steady effort instead of being last minute) can help to heal our relationships with others (where we might learn to apply steady love, instead of alternating between under- and over-attention).

We may always be late for things, because we haven’t learned to let go of our current activity, and make space for the next.  Others may experience this as a kind of neglect.  By learning to plan and prepare in relation to time, we  can improve our relationship with those who rely on our timeliness.

Whatever the learning, I have come to appreciate how fundamental and illustrative our relationship with time is.  I believe strongly that if we can solve the problem of time, by learning to flow freely, then we can also solve the problem of our relationships with others and ourselves, by flowing more freely, and not fluctuating so much between hyper-attention and neglect.

Try it for yourself.  It’s possible you may find that, by healing your relationship with time, you unexpectedly heal other relationships.