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


So who is narrating my life?

The 18.26 is trundling along, taking it’s time as these trains do in a not quite all stations North kind of way. It’ll be another two and a half hours before I arrive and it’s at this point that I realise I’ve been talking to myself about time distortion and is it really just a mental representation of the time/space/speed continuum of Einstein fame.

Not actually talking out loud, I hasten to add. The voice in my head has just pointed out to me that would be way too weird and I’d have been asked to shut up or leave the train by now. What would be really interesting is finding out the split of readers who are pretty sure that voices in heads should also result in automatic train defenestration and those who nod as if it’s the most familiar thing in the world and feel relieved that someone else has taken the plunge and put it into words so they don’t need to admit it in public themselves.

To be fair to them though, feel is probably the wrong word. We of the internal monologue persuasion tend not to go in for feelings per se. We know they’re important but they should be saved up and used sparingly and most importantly, privately. Emotions should be stifled, squished and forced into a small box to be metamorphosed under the intense pressure of life into the diamond strength of the soul. At least that’s the theory behind the AD mind, (Audio Digital, one of the categories of NLP’s Rep system).

The reality, of course, is that the metamorphosis doesn’t quite work out, resulting in a procession of AD clients beating a path to the CogHyp door. At least it would if they had the slightest notion that such a move might be beneficial. Anything except emote.

Why do some people want to bare the soul with the least provocation and others wouldn’t know an emotion if introduced itself and gave references from previous owners and satisfied customers. Which persuation do you belong to? A trouble shared is a trouble doubled? A friend in need is bloody nuisance? Listen to that inner advice? Probably AD.

The crazy thing is that once you get an AD on your side, you have a friend for life – even if you never see them again. These guys are foul weather friends. You won’t hear from them for years but when something goes wrong, really wrong, they’ll roll their sleeves up and deal with the mess.

My problem, and I always have at least one to avoid self-therapeutic atrophy, is that my AD is closely supported with K which, as you all know, stands for Kinaesthetic of all things. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of AD, leaking feelings all over the place. This leads to my spending most of my inner monologue mopping up spilt mental milk and other metaphoric wetness.

But how does all this have anything to do with Einstein’s less well known theory of of mental time distortion? Now, the real theory pretty much says that the faster you travel relative to something else, the slower time passes. This really does happen. Most of us use it every day.

It’s an integral factor in GPS systems. The effect in percentage terms is so tiny as to be almost infinitesimal, or infantismal as Robo-Warrior would have put it. But don’t forget we’re dealing with the speed of light here and on a human scale, light covers a significant distance in an infinitesimal slice. About 10 meters a day to be precise.

If we ignored Einstein, your SatNav would drift 10 meters every day. So would every one else’s. Maps would slowly become useless. We’d all be driving down alleyways and into fields. Maybe that’s what happened with those trans-continental Euro-trucks in the Nineties. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why EasyJet think their planes are going to land somewhere close to the cities they claim to be flying to.

Meanwhile, back to time distortion. If acute awareness of your surroundings were measured by the number of snapshots of now that you take when you’re really stuck in one of those can’t get away from it moments of total boredom, anxiety, stress or anything you wish wasn’t happening and were to equate to the speed-relative-to-something else that Einstein was always banging on about, then one of those lucky sods who’s really enjoying themselves and completely missing the now in everything would equate to the slow thing you’re mentally travelling next to, so maybe that’s why time passes so slowly for you and that other bugger can’t fit enough hours in the day. Not to mention the weirdly long sentences you can construct that still nearly make sense.

When you’re bored or stressed or anxious then your mind is wringing out every single thing it can find to confirm to you that you really are as bored, stressed or anxious as you thought, if not more so. You are fitting in many more units of nowness per dragged out second than someone who is engrossed in an anything of their choice, be it work, a movie, a book or a blog.

If it’s this blog and you’re still reading, you’ve either got some serious stamina or an odd sense of the interesting. Thanks for sticking with it.

So if the mental passage of time is actually controlled by your unconscious replaying the now-based snapshots at normal speed, then concentration on nowness makes time pass slowly and focus on otherness causes time to pass more quickly, (fewer units if nowness in each second: boy doesn’t time fly?), then what is Time Distortion? Presumably it turns one into the other without the you that’s experiencing the distortion being aware of it.

If your unconscious gets prompted to take snapshots for recollection later but at a different rate than your current mental state would usually do it, then once the events have passed, whether quickly or slowly at the time, when you look back your mental instagram will have different numbers of recollections than you were aware of along the way.

It would turn a speeding life-journey into a slow one from which you recall more and would prime you to take more notice next time.

And it would turn 3 hours of a boring train journey into a momentary slice of time and a hopefully interesting Post for you to read. The last two hours only felt like 20 minutes.

It’s 21.08 and I’ve only got 20 minutes left until I arrive. With nothing left to do…

…so according to my units of nowness theory…

I hope I haven’t finished this post too soon.

Shining a light
© Tony Burkinshaw

The future me with the H.P.D.

I’ve just taken my first proper look at the HPD, (that’s the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma), which I need if I’ve going to register with the NCH, (the National Council for Hypnotherapy). The NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) part is assessed throughout the course.

Why are there always so many TLAs, (that’s Three Letter Acronyms to you and me)? Why do Organisations, Government and Trainers love TLAs? They’re all over the place. Think about it; NHS, GDP, FAQ, BBC, PDQ, JLS (Peterborough reference!), SUD, CIA, FBI, BFG, OMG, WWW, the list goes on. Apparently there are 17,576 possible TLAs.

They came into their own in the 70s with computer science, until by the 80s no self-respecting organisation could have a meeting without at least one TLA appearing on the agenda. They were supposed to make  long and complicated names easier to remember and use. In fact they just create confusion and an odd esoteric internal language that no-one outside the ‘club’ understands. Strangely, probably the  most frequently used TLA ‘www’ is 3 times longer to say than the phrase it replaces!

Anyway, enough of that and back to the HPD (sorry). I’m familiar with tests and exams and questions because my alter ego has been in financial services for years and I’ve passed far more exams than I care to remember. I’m also currently training and assessing the new Regulated Diploma in Financial Services, required by a thing called RDR – see? So this is familiar territory, or so you’d think.

I find myself putting it off. With a deadline of December, it’s just too far away to be scary enough to get the blood racing and the brain in gear.

Now this set me thinking. Somewhere out there, according to Quantum Physics and Hypnotic Trance Phenomena, there’s a future me who has already passed the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma. This is known as Age Progression and if true, then I needn’t worry because I know that my HPD has already been passed by the future me by time it matters.

This is where Age Progression gets a bit weird.

As I’m reasonably confident about exams and essays, then the thought of the future me taking an HPD doesn’t create a hurdle I can’t get past. That’s an aspect of Age Progression that leads to anxiety if the fear of something in the future gets so great that you react as if its happening now AND you can’t cope with it. Fortunately for me this isn’t one of those Age Progressions.  But it is a problem.

If there’s a me out there in the future with the HPD, then do I actually need to start work yet? The other complication is a technique that Cognitive Hypnotherapy uses to connect you with that future you that’s already done what you’re thinking of doing and learn what you’ve found out by then, so you can use what you’ve achieved in the future, now.

So if I do that, then how do I know when I would have started the HPD? If I completely ignore the me in the future with an HPD, then I have to do the work from scratch all on my own without my future me helping and so will need to work harder. So I’d start sooner. Right?

But if I do connect with the future me, then I’ll know that I’ve passed, so I’ll stop feeling as concerned about the HPD, (its only 21,000 words – what’s the big deal…!) and start work later. Now if that future me is really the future me, then that future me would already have connected with his future him at the point when he was sitting where I am now, pondering about whether to time travel in my present mind to have good old chat with the future him about his HPD.

And if he gets to the same conclusion as me, which surely he would because at the point he was here he was actually the present me, then surely he would have started even later than the me that’s sat here now not yet having had that HPD debate with the me that’s sitting smugly in the future gloating about having done all the work and why not just go down the pub anyway.

So if you follow where this leads, (in which case you’re better at this than I am – are you a Questie graduate?), then either me and the future me AND the future him that he connected with when he was the me that’s sitting here now, are going to have a great time just chilling about the HPD and the course and all things vaguely hypnotherapeutic until the HPD magically writes itself, or I’m just going to have to ignore Age Progression as a means of revision and just knuckle down and do the work myself.

On the other hand, I’ve just spent the afternoon bottling last year’s Elderberry Wine, (very reminiscent of a good Port, even if I say so myself), and adding the yeast to this year’s 4 gallon mash. Now this would be good point to engage in some useful Age Progression and compare next year’s brew with year’s to see if was worth the effort. In reality the only way to achieve this is to sample this year’s brew tonight and rely on Time Distortion, otherwise known as alcoholic amnesia, to carry me through to next year and try next year’s vintage then. Or is that now?

Anyone for a glass?

…and it all became clear…
© Tony Burkinshaw