A Slice of Time and a Tortoise Kebab, Please

Sometimes it’s all you can do just to hang on. Choices vanish and you deal with whatever crops up next, whatever the consequence. The future is too far away to contemplate and the past sits there glaring at you. If you can just make it through the next ten minutes, maybe it’ll be better. You’re slicing time into thinner and thinner pieces because anything larger is too difficult to contemplate. Sometimes even ten minutes is too long.

Side-step into Zeno’s paradox, beloved of Terry Pratchett who masterfully combined two of the most famous ones, ‘the arrow in flight’ and ‘Achilles and the tortoise‘ leading to a puzzled philosopher whose particular bias was destruct testing axioms, to insist that it was impossible to hit a tortoise with an arrow despite his test-site being littered with broken arrows and testudo kebabs.

Here’s the theory. If you shoot an arrow at a Tortoise it will run away. By the time the arrow reaches where the tortoise was, the tortoise will have run even further away albeit not very far. But then the arrow has to cover that new distance in order to skewer the slowly fleeing reptilian and by the time it does, the tortoise will again have run a further distance which the arrow must then cover and so on. Reducto ad absurdum, as they like to say.

Common sense tells us that this is utter nonsense but then when did common sense have anything to do with philosophy?

Or indeed how we perceive our lives.

At the same time that you’re hanging on for dear life through a day that seems to have no end, friends, loved ones and total strangers are flying through time complaining about there not being enough of it because there’s so much they want or need to do.

Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, our brains appear to have invented the ability to control time eons ago, although it seems like just last week to me.

Welcome to Time Distortion. We all do it all of the, if you’ll pardon the over-use of the word, time. It’s a well-known fact that Time flies when you’re having fun, being sixteen seems like yesterday on your eightieth birthday and double geography takes forever. It would be superb if it were possible to share out time between those of us who don’t have enough and those of us who wish like hell that there were less of it to drag our sorry asses through.

Time Distortion is a key trance phenomena. We use it to get through our day along with the other standard eight. It’s a also key component of some of our difficulties such as stress, where whatever problems we face have way too little available time to be able come up with any sort of solution that gives us the feeling that we could possibly regain any control of our lives. An inability to perceive personal control of a situation is a key aspect of negative stress. And perceived lack of time to find a solution can be a key component of the lack of control. The ability to notice how much time there really is can rebuild the possibility of finding a solution. Regaining control. Overcoming the stress.

Time distortion is quite a flexible building block and finds its way into other key difficulties we face, particularly in that other focus area I work in, pain management. The more our environment shouts at us, the more it grabs our attention. The more attention we pay it, the more we focus on it and that vicious circle spins and dances around us demanding that ever greater attention be paid to those ever smaller slices of time. In terms of a something that grabs your attention by the throat, pain is up there with the best of them.

Pain is a core self-protection mechanism and as such has an extremely high priority in your unconscious mind’s list of things it wants to give it energies to. If you’re in pain, it reasons, (well not reasons so much as red alert all hands on deck), your life may well be in danger so bloody well sort it out now. All your senses and energies focus on fight or flight and survival. You’re dumped into protection mode and that erstwhile common sense approach to life with its inherent feeling of being in control goes on holiday for a bit or in the case of chronic pain, for quite some time and given that time is the issue here, that can feel like forever.

In terms of how our unconscious minds deal with negative stress and pain, an ability to change to perception of time can be a key ally in the fight to regain some balance. Our safety mechanisms are designed to give us the ability to survive and it’s an odd fact that when we are in fight or flight survival mode, we reduce blood flow to cognitive areas of the brain. High emotion makes us stupid, to quote a certain Trevor of Cognitive Hypnotherapy fame. From an evolutionary perspective it makes no sense to think your way out of a life threatening situation, it’s much better to have a heightened ability to react without thinking to your surroundings so you can deal with or run away from whatever is attempting to make you lunch in a non-delicatessen kind of way. And guess what goes along with heightened awareness? Time slows right down and whilst that is great in evading the sharp toothed beastie of old, you have to wade through it like sticky treacle in the concrete jungles of today.

Imagine this. Thinly sliced segments of time are heightening your pain. Dragging it out. There really is no other way to deal with it than to grit your teeth and work your way through this slice and into the next, waiting for the moment when this particular flare dissipates enough for some semblance of normality to return. Now, it’s a strange thing about our individual perception of time that each slice, no matter how thick or thin we happen to have sliced it in the moment, seems to have the same duration as any other slice. So what would happen if I could show you a way to re-slice time? To make it appear to take less, for the want of a better word, time?

Although the pain would exist in scientific time for just as long, your unconscious would perceive it as passing more quickly. And if it appears to pass more quickly, then maybe, just maybe, your unconscious might downgrade its importance in its hierarchy of vital stuff to pay attention to. And that can de-trigger a whole host of other pain perception mechanisms.

Not only can it help with pain perception, stressful situations which suddenly have the time they need to enable you to create solutions that bring back a sense of control may just seem more manageable and a manageable situation, let’s face it, isn’t stressful.

Now obviously life may be a little more complex than this but given that we only use nine trance phenomena to get through our lives, (check them all out here), and that I’m well versed in all of them, it just might be that a relatively simple combination of two or three of them, tweaked in the right manner, could thrust control firmly back in your direction.

To the point where not only could you start to see the wood from the trees, you just might find that you needn’t be in the forest at all.

Why not get in touch? I promise it won’t take long.

The wood from the trees© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

The wood from the trees
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013


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