Some Questions about Time

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Hands of time1.jpg
I recently gave a talk at the Geelong Mood Support Group, it was a great night and a challenge to keep my usual rambling style relevant to the audience of patients and carers.

Following the talk, Reid Maxwell, coordinator and psychoanalyst, asked me some very insightful questions which I thought may be interesting to post here. Thanks Reid for the stimulating queries and opportunity to speak with the gorup!

RM: I’m particularly interested in the relationship between bipolar sufferers and their struggle with time management. I have read mixed results from research on sufferers estimation of time. Is time a learned phenomenon?

FG: I think there's two issues here, firstly there is the inherent feeling or 'sense' of time, without which we wouldn't really have any awareness of events around us, this is almost certainly not learned. Secondly, there is the way in which we interact with our awareness of time, in the sense of time management, this appears to be more learnt (and likely also partially trait based). However, when there are alterations in a person's ability to track events and categorise them in time, then the latter process is likely to be impaired, no matter how well learnt.

RM: Time does seem a high consideration (lack of time) in those individuals who I’ve seen are elevated. Is there a difficulty in perception of tense (past, present, future) or/and is an issue with ones’ ability to see causality (order) accurately.

FG: I think Fuchs (2007) has an interesting perspective on this, although his paper mostly deals with schizophrenia. He certainly suggests that there is a loosening of causal relations, largely to do with the sequence of events already appearing more fragmented due to the disease process.
In mood elevation, there is probably another process at play too, that of changed subjective feelings and self-monitoring in response to external cues. It's really these changes in time that we're trying to get a better picture of in the current research.

RM: In depression, Is there a rejection of time and a inevitable futile perception of the future. Can frustration be measured to identify ones capacity for delayed satisfaction i.e. kids with lollies having to delay eating them and if they can rewarded with more!

FG: The core phenomenology of depression certainly includes 'negative ideation', a sense that things cannot change for the better is part of this. I think it depends a lot on the severity of depression as to how profound this symptom is but it has a temporal dimension to it. The idea of delayed gratification is also interesting, there's quite a large area of study into discounting functions form the economist angle.

It's not an area that I'm particularly familiar with, but there is some work on it, for example:
Takahashi et al. (2008)

RM: Your view of portention is interesting, is there also some detail on the projection of internal perceptions i.e. For one to be amazed at a teller who comes forward earlier than expected with change one must first have a internal estimation of the time it should take?

FG: Yes, that's right, it's very much a comparison of the expected and the apparent, that's how the violations happen. People are pretty good at estimating short periods of time, although we are still uncertain of how they do this.

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