My clients have brought me the gift of time this week, everyone seems to want more time. “I need more time” is said as if I could magically wave a magic wand and produce more time for them to take away and solve all of their problems. Of course, secretly I wish for this myself, warmly remembering a childhood when warm summer days seemed to go on forever… Mmmm back to the real world.
It is true that we all have an equal 24 hours in each day, however it is also true that time is highly subjective, and we all experience time differently, depending on what is going on for us at any one moment. Try this out … position yourself near a time-telling device (the word ‘clock’ seems to be so limited these days with the various gadgets and electronic devices we have to hand), either set, or wait until you can time exactly one minute, and then close your eyes (no peeking) and count for 60 seconds, after which open your eyes and look to see if your counting matched the actual time. How did you do? According to Michio Kaku in his documentary “Time” we can do things that change our perception of time (slowing it down) such as learning a new skill, and having new experiences, this is because we come out of auto-piliot and take notice of what is going on inside and outside of ourselves.Ahhh back to grounding (Ken Mellor) again, experiencing the here-and-now.
Time perception aside, what we do with our time is of course a collection of our choices and decisions. Two bits of Transactional Analysis (TA) theory come to mind here, discounting and time structuring. I often hear clients discount their own ability to solve their own time problems, that they have no choices about how they spend their day. A common ‘presenting problem’ is “I haven’t got enough me time”, often some gentle enquiry normally highlights not only a discount of their own needs, but also a discount of their choices, and so we both embark on a journey to find out how they do this and how they can change and update their outdated patterns, discounts, beliefs, and values. One of the ‘how’s’ often involve looking at how they structure their time in order to get their needs met whilst avoiding perceived (and once experienced) harm. Eric Berne identified six ways to structure time, ordered from high risk of harm/high yield of strokes (stroke = a unit of recognition) to a low risk of harm/low yield of strokes:
- Intimacy Sharing our true self with another/others, such as an expression of our emotions (fear, anger, sadness, happiness etc), our beliefs, values, and our needs (such as touch, recognition etc).
- Games Social interactions with others that usually ends with bad feelings (everyone involved)
- Activity Doing things with others, sport, work, hobbies, meals, bringing up children etc
- Passtimes Small talk, easy conversations such as the weather, food, work etc.
- Rituals Set clusters of communication, usually done on auto-piliot, such as “hello” “how are you” “i’m fine thank you”.
- Withdrawal Physically/psychologically internally/externally withdrawing away from people, situations, relationships etc.
Time structuring analysis can help clients to explore ways to get their needs met, to identify what works and what doesn’t. The ideal is to work towards intimacy, where we connect with others on a real level with safe others (our defenses still have a role to play with unsafe others), however what needs to come first is an intimacy with the self; to love, respect, trust and accept ourselves (both light and dark parts), it is from this place that we can be truely intimate with others, just as a baby learns about the self before it learns about the other.
So how are you going to use your time today? I have chosen to write this blog instead of dealing with a tax matter, perhaps I could do a blog on procrastination next! So I’m off now to deal with inland revenue before spending my afternoon walking one of the many coastal paths of Cornwall in order to get my slice of ‘me time’.
Time Structuring: Berne, E. (1964) Games People Play. New York: Grove Press
Discount Matrix: Mellor, K. and Schiff, E. (1975) TAJ 5 (3), 295-302
Strokes: Berne, E. (1971) “A stroke is a unit of recognition”. The foundation for TA therapy and practice.
Grounding: Mellor, K. Grounding Meditation. Purchase details.
Kaku, Michio. (2006) Time. BBC documentary.