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February 2, 2018

Disturbances in the perception of time

Dear readers, greetings to you all. If you’ve read our blog posts for a certain time, then you may know I have focused on so-called sensory processing disorders in many articles.  I’ve wanted to close this series by the last post I shared, however, thanks to you, concretely thanks to the discussion with some of you on Facebook, I realized we have one more, very interesting sense, which can be also affected by this disorder and which would be a pity not to mention. We’re speaking about the perception of time, co-called chronoception.

Our ability to register what time has passed or understanding concepts such as the future, the presence or the past could, according to many experts, be included among human senses. If we think about it for a while, we come to the conclusion this is quite a logical thing. Time must be perceived or “felt” somehow too, just like the odors are recorded through smell and the light is registered with the help of sight.

What happens if your brain judge time intervals atypically? More or less two options open in front of us. Let’s explore them together and find out how they actually manifest themselves.

So, what is the first variation of the disorder? We can be hypersensitive, in other words too much sensitive, toward the perception of time. In that case we orientate in time intervals so well that our abilities seem almost magically incredible. For example, we are able to wonderfully estimate, what time it is without our eyes falling on the clock. If we have for instance half an hour to complete the task, we are able to plan our work perfectly, because we have that inner sense which makes us feel how many minutes have left. In rare cases, people living with this condition are able to determine time with an absolute accuracy. They may tell us it’s e.g. 15.35 without any need to look at a clock and they are correct. Their abilities seem almost supernatural to us then.

On the other end, there is something called hyposensitivity, or simply small or reduced sensitivity, towards chronoception. If we are endowed with it then we just and simply lack a certain sense for time. Let’s make the whole concept clearer with the help of a simple example. Our bodies are made up of small particles called atoms. We are composed of them, one and all. We know it, we can even observe them under the microscope but we never feel them. It goes the same with time. If we suffer from hyposensitivity towards chronoception, we are rationally aware of the fact that time exists and constantly runs, we measure it by clocks, yet we cannot really feel it despite everything.

So how does the lack of sensitivity manifest itself in everyday life? We are usually sure only about what is now. All future events tend to fall into one category for us. What’s the reason? Terms like sooner or later don’t tell us much by the rule. The celebration taking place in 2 days and the holiday we’re going to after the half year, they both just disappear somewhere in the future moments. It’s basically the same when we look at past. The performance we participated in when we attended kindergarten and the shopping in the shopping center we undertook yesterday, both we perceive basically just as the instants of the past. Even past and future mix up together for some of us. We do not sense the difference between yesterday and tomorrow, last week and a week ahead. Every event is just an event; we don’t perceive it’s time sequence. In our memories there are things that had happened before jumbled with moments which came after them. So, in our head, a sort of non-chronological network of memories on events is being generated. We’re unable to judge if we washed dishes first or if we vacuumed the carpet earlier. We often deal with a certain trouble to meet deadlines. The reason is quite clear; we simply can’t estimate how much days or minutes remain. Sometimes in the contrary, we finish ahead of time because again we aren’t able to plan out minutes or hours properly.

Have you found yourself in the mentioned examples? If you have, maybe you’ve just received an explanation for your life difficulties. In that case you’re unsure whether this all applies to you, I would recommend you to take a small quick test. Turn on the stopwatch, close your eyes and try to guess how long it takes for a minute to pass. If you hit the target with a tolerance of about 15 or 20 seconds, your chronoception probably meets the norm, of course in that case you aren’t guessing completely. If you deviate more significantly, something might be wrong. It can also happen that you estimate these 60 second with an absolute precision. Then you chronoception may be above average.

In that case you deal with troubles linked to the perception of time on a daily basis, they can cause you substantial unpleasantness. Let’s try to ease our life by a few helpful strategies which we can use whenever we need. Always wear a watch so we have something to lean on if we start to be confused by time. Let’s do everything rather in advance to reduce the risk of missing an important deadline. Write all the events on a calendar or our mobile phone. Then we will see what happened on any given day and what is waiting for us in the future. This graphic representation will help us to realize how all these events go in a row, which of them happened earlier, where is future, where is past. Don’t be afraid to invent your own coping mechanisms too. We could find a ton of them. Hopefully, some will actually help us!

Do you feel like I’ve just described the problem you deal with the whole life? Does your loved one experience something similar? Would you like to share your thoughts and opinions? Write us in the comment section below. We’re here for you!

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