Tyranny of the Clock


Clock © by Earls37a Flickr

People in an economic system based on production learn to live with the tyranny of the clock.  Although people have been tracking time since the early days of humans, our relationship with time has become different.

Time used to be related to something going on in nature.  People measured the hours of sunshine, the seasons, and how long crops took to grow.  The day began when the sun came up and ended when it set. Our survival was directly related to what nature offered us and so our relationship to time was related to nature also.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have changed our relationship to time and nature. We treat nature as something we control.  It is understandable that we sought to control nature because we felt so out of control in relation in nature: weather was so unpredictable, the basic needs of people were not being met, and disease was rampant.  At the time, natural resources were so plentiful. So we created machines and production processes to harness natural resources to take care of our basic needs and kept on going.  Now we do not seem to be able to stop.

There were understandable reasons for the economic system that we have created.  Human society at the time of the Industrial Revolution was saddled with all sorts of limits that needed to be challenged. Some of these limits were based on belief systems. Some limits were geographical, others political.

Even time felt limiting because we were limited by the amount that each person could accomplish which in tern limited our ability to meet our needs. Since the Industrial Revolution, the clock has been used as a tool for challenging limits through productivity measurements which evaluate how well we produce in a specific period of time.  Our educational system is organized around time.  We have a certain period of time to learn a given amount of material, whether we learn or not is often irrelevant, when time is up, time is up.

When the clock controls how much attention we give to something or someone, we relinquish control over our lives because we are not really engaging with life and the realities around us.  If it takes two years to learn a subject that is allotted only six months time, then essentially one’s learning is controlled by the demand for speed. If it takes 2 hours to accomplish a task well and one hour is all that is allowed, again we relinquish control over our lives, and the quality we are able to bring to it by the demand for speed.  If it takes a year to grieve the loss of a friend, and the people around you demand that you grieve quicker, then your life is diminished by the demand for speed.

The demand for speed is a serious issue for highly sensitive people since creativity, deep listening, and serious problem solving do not lend themselves to time pressure. HSP’s inevitably suffer from distracting and unhelpful conflicts when they are expected to work under artificial, and unnecessarily restrictive time schedules. To the highly sensitive person production is not the end and be all of one’s work life. Qualitative considerations are more important than quantitative ones – within reason of course.

Being sensitive means that we notice the cost of our highly competitive and highly demanding capitalistic system. We notice that stress in ourselves and others, the loss of time for connection and the kind of deep teamwork that is satisfying and inclusive. We see the loss of our cherished natural environment and all the cost to animals and humans. I suspect that to most HSPs the cost-benefit analysis does not read that way it does to a corporate accountant. As a result, how we use time will also be different.

The tyranny of the clock does not allow for the freely engaged way of relating to living and problem solving that results in deep satisfaction. It does a lot of damage so create more problems than it solves. There is such a need for healing caused by the destructive shortsightedness of the economic machine.  As a result it is bound to be unsatisfying to highly sensitive people.

Time is precious; a high pressure system is not very appealing to highly sensitive people who will treat time as they treat other things with regard and diligence.


No Need To Rush: The Special Gift Of Slow

The Special Gift Of Slow - HSP Health Blog

No Need To Rush - HSP Health Blog

I have always been expected to operate at lightening speed.

And it has never worked for me.

I need to process…and process…and process…

I LOVE to process.

It is my idea of a good time!

What’s The Rush!

I have never understood the need to rush. In my experience the easiest way to have problems is to rush.

However from a very young age, I have noticed that people around me were aways in a rush for something. A rush to judgment, to get something, be somewhere or do something.

I always felt “wrong” because it always seemed so silly to me.

It also seemed to me that something terribly important was missing.

Is Anybody Home?

I felt alone in all of the rushing. Rushing felt so escapist, and I did not understand what everyone was trying to escape? I felt stupid for not really wanting to join in.

Escaping was not compelling to me. It did not attract me and still doesn’t.

All of the rushing and escaping feels sad.

It feels like we are afraid to take a chance.

It feels like we are here but no one is home.

Speed Can Be Dangerous

In school we are rewarded for getting answers not for asking questions. So often we continue that pattern in our daily lives.

Not to have an answer os a failing, a way of losing a competitive battle for survival, a risk we are afraid of.

But answers are not necessarily simple and they can only evolve by engaging with a set of circumstances or conditions. It is through that process that answers come.

When we fail to honor the process of engagement and deliberation we are plagued with the kind of ideological substitute for problem solving that plagues our society right now. We have packaged answers that fail to solve anything while the real problems seeking our attention remain ignored.

And so we run around each one of us with our bandaids unable to really solve our problems.

No wonder so many people feel frustrated and depressed.

They have every reason to.

Slow Is About Respect

When you approach anything in a slow careful manner you are paying a very basic kind of respect. You are paying attention to people, place and things. You are paying attention to process. You pay attention to current reality as a starting point for moving forward. You give everything the attention it deserves.

Slow is about paying attention. Fast is about escaping.

That is true both in our work and in our relationships.

I am sure how you have experienced the awful feeling when someone rushes you because they do not want to be bothered.

I am sure you have also experienced what it is like when someone takes the time to talk with you.

The rushed experience closes you down; the slower, more thoughtful interaction opens you up.

Does The World Belong To The Takers?

When people rush as their primary way of relating, all interactions become superficial and transactional. Speed does not really allow for anything else.

So when we slow down, we open the door to more give and take which is a more satisfactory arrangement for everyone, in reality. We also honor each other and the value in each other when we slow down. We honor each person’s uniqueness, gifts and limits as part of the whole.

We can then give ourselves the opportunity to be with what is instead of aways demanding that everyone be something else to meet our demands and requirements.

Life Is Not Just A Shopping Trip

Too often we relate to each other as consumers looking for something pleasurable from others.

Pleasure is great but seeking or demanding it as a constant in our lives keeps us in the role of shoppers rather than creators. As a result we miss out on ourselves as much as everyone else.

Slowing down gives us not only our time back, but also our friendship and respect.

It gives a more natural place in the universe. It lets us be both more humble and more creative at the same time.

Slow is a gentle place.

Slow lets us open up more.

It frees us from our demands and lets us join into the world rather than bearing down on it oppressively with our need for continual self-indulgence.

Slow lets us be human and humane.

Slow gives us a much needed beak and everyone else, too.

It is worth embracing.

What Time Pressure Costs Us

What Time Pressure Costs Us - HSP Health

patience © by rosmary

How do you feel about the time pressure of this impatient world we live in?

Personally, I hate it, yet I often feel that slow is “wrong”.

Slow means getting run off the road by someone faster.

Slow means “missing the boat” because you can only miss it by being slow.

The fast pace of our society has a life of its own. It feels like “reality” and when we drop out of the high speed movement of our economic culture it can seem like a form of death.

But if you look at it another way, our fast paced system can feel like a form of death as well.

It seems like a catch-22.

What Time Pressure Costs Us

When you have to work fast, in my experience you also have to focus. Focus is great, but under conditions of pressure, that focus becomes narrowed to whatever will enable us to create a quick result and move on to the next action or decision.

Essentially the demand for speed forces us to be short-sighted.

There is a paradox in this: being short-sighted and fast forces us to make a lot of changes, but it also forces us to seek solutions that are “accessible”, that in effect, keep us where we are, that are not really innovative or difficult. So the project that takes longer, the relationship that requires cultivation – these things often do not happen.

What does happen is actions, decision, and people that fit our time constraints but not necessarily our needs. This is one of the reasons we feel we are in a rat race or running fast on a treadmill going nowhere. Time pressure forces us into choices that keep us stuck.

The Bigger Loss

Time pressure costs us more than we realize. While we are getting through the day, the kinds of connections, moments and observations that come with engaging with each moment often elude us. We are too busy.

There are many big consequences of time pressure:

  • we live in our heads. We make decisions based on what is expedient. Our bodies and hearts do not get a voice in what we are doing. The system, after all, has its prerogatives and its demands which must be honored.
  • we lose the mind-body connection which is an important foundation of living and also of our health. Everything in our lives and experience is processed in our minds AND bodies. There is no escape. So when we live in our heads, we do not process all of our feelings through our bodies and become stuck and sick. Our bodies feel dragged down and we feel that we are dragging them along with us rather than living fully from them.
  • we are unable to really connect. Do you ever wonder why ideology is so entrenched? When people live in their heads and go too fast, they do not have time for human connection. So they relate from political ideas or entertainments or recreational activities but not usually to each other.
  • we lose our creativity. A fast time-based system particularly a mechanistic one prefers continuity and consistency to creativity. Novelty and some innovation that serves the system are allowed but not the full-bodied creativity of an awake human being.
  • we lose our part and place in the universe. We are creative human beings. So when we cannot rock the boat by being creative then we lose our basic nature to a cultural and economic construct.
  • we lose our common ground because we are each of us competing cogs in a machine rather than collaborating co-creators of our world, a way of thinking that honors us better.

Letting Go Of Time Pressure

Letting go of time pressure is hard to do. Slowing down can seem like a luxury.

However, particularly for highly sensitive people it is a necessity because it is the only way we can give rein to our creative natures. It is also the only way we can minimize the stress that comes from being highly sensitive and taking in all of the stimulus that we take in.

So embrace the eternal present! Luxuriate in it and honor your creative talents for the benefit of all.

Time And Space

The Main Stairs Creative Commons License photo credit: Peter Alfred Hess

More and more I have been thinking about the relationship between time and space.

They have a very direct relationship.  The more attention you pay to time the less attention you pay to space.

They are two very different values.

They are also two antithetical values.

What Makes Time And Space Clash?

Western cultures operate on the belief that speed increases productivity and is a way to challenge limits. Speed forces focus and resources to one objective. Speed is force.

Time, or perhaps better speed which is fast time, creates an alternate reality. Speed increases intensity and forces us to compress our effort and attention into a small space of time. When we increase our intensity we are burning up our own resources – physical, mental and emotional. We are consuming ourselves.

Speed consumes the space of our attention as well and in doing so removes other matters from our attention. Emergencies then become the highest claim for our attention. The easiest way to control the human agenda is through emergency. It controls the social space and attention space, and shoves simpler, often more important considerations to the side.

Speed And Creativity

Some people think that by going fast you can bypass the critical mind and negative programming and therefore makes you freer. Essentially, speed is being used to shut out parts of ourselves that are wounded or unhealthy to increase our productivity and creativity.  We are shutting out parts of ourselves through speed.

There is validity to these methods; however, it seems unfortunate that we have to deny an important part of ourselves to be creative. Whenever we treat a part of ourselves as the “enemy” we lose an ally for our creativity. There is always a price to pay for denying a part of ourselves and any part of ourselves is needed for us to be fully functioning.

When we work this way we are using time to control space – the space of our attention. But what we are doing is trying to trick ourselves into being focused and effective.

Time And Productivity

The evidence is all around us that speed is not a good basis for living or problem solving. Whatever we achieve through speed often comes at a high cost.

Relying on speed is an attempt to achieve success by rushing. And if we can rush those who are on the receiving end of our rushed work, perhaps they can be rushed into not noticing the flawed work they are receiving.

Time And Space As Values

Time pressure actually makes us stingy with our time and attention. It  causes us to become sloppy. It forces to value that which consumes little time over that which might be relevant, material and valuable. It harms us when we need to do good work and are rushed into something less than our best. It causes us to feel bad about ourselves, and over time erodes our self-esteem and will cause us to question our worth. Deep down we know something is wrong.

Space is such a different value. Space lets a situation or task’s necessities dictate the attention we bring to it. Space is generous. When we make space for whatever we need to make space for, a learning, a grieving, a task, we are also making space for ourselves. We don’t have to look over our shoulders hoping that we are not in someone’s way or out of step with a schedule that has no room for us. Space lets us be who we are and bring what we bring to the table. Space looks to let information in not shut out what it does not want.  Space does not have a predetermined outcome.

Space works with not against. Space is communitarian not competitive. Space includes everything so there is nothing to reject or exclude. Space is a kind of heaven. Time pressure is a kind of hell. For highly sensitive people, environments that have a value of space are the ones that make the most sense for their holistic natures.

The Problem Of Time For Highly Sensitive People

Impatience Photo by Loozrboy/Flickr

Hurry up!  Hurry up!

Do you ever feel that many people around you are too quick and too impatient?

I know that I do.

It’s a weird problem, because as slow as HSP’s may seem to non-HSP’s, non-HSP’s seem superficial to HSP’s.

It can be a challenge to handle it.

Why Time Is A Conflict For HSP’s

Non-HSP’s tend to operate at a faster speed than HSP’s.

Non-HSP’s are usually extroverted and have a more competitive orientation. If you are going to be a successful competitor, you need to be fast.

HSP’s have a holistic orientation. They take in everything and sort out the information they receive before making decisions and taking action. HSP’s tend have an organic approach to life which creates different relating and problem solving approaches.

Put an HSP and non-HSP in the room and it will be difficult for them to work together unless they create a way to do so. Their interests, values, and working approaches will be very different.

How HSP Biology Creates A Time Challenge

Highly sensitive people are born with nervous systems that soak up all sensory information around them.  HSP’s are like sensory sponges.

Because highly sensitive people are also holistic they need to process the information they take in before choosing how to direct their energy. Having a holistic orientation complicates things because

  • you have to consider all of the factors that are relevant to any task at hand
  • you do not have the excuse that you are not aware when you take in so much information
  • you take in information that includes factors from the past, present and future.

The reality is that highly sensitive people have a complex mental processing problem on their hands, that is not shared by non-HSP’s. As valuable as HSP’s are, non-HSP’s may not appreciate the awareness that sensitive people bring to the table and become impatient with us.

Getting A Handle On Time Issues

The first thing that highly sensitive people need to do is accept that they will not change non-HSP’s nor do we have to take care of their impatience.

At the same time, you cannot simply conform to a competitive world which often does not suit your values.  Compromises need to be made, however, it is better if they are not with your values.

It may sound like a simple time management problem but it is really more important that that. Competition is a serious factor in social respect. People who are gentle are often not well regarded. Therefore, finding a way to come into your own value and take care of your own needs in a world that may not appreciate your strengths is a challenge.

Start by identifying where in your life you are having the greatest difficulty. To get a handle on time issues, start with an assessment:

  1. family life: am I the only HSP or are there others in the family?  Am I supported in being different and having different needs and going at a slower pace?
  2. work life: am I in a competitive or collaborative environment?  Do I feel good about going to work or do I dread each day?
  3. friends and social life: do I experience friendship and acceptance from the people around me or do I often find myself bullied and put-down?
  4. health: how is my health?  how much stress can I withstand before I become debilitated or ill?
Once you have the big picture it is easier to make some intelligent adjustments in your daily life and do some planning.
  • are their places that offer you comfort and joy?  Can you expand them?
  • are their places where the interpersonal situation is extremely unpleasant for you?  Can you reduce it?
  • can you work for yourself in order to create a more satisfactory life for yourself?
As Peter Messerschmidt, popular HSP blogger writes: “Unfortunately, many HSPs struggle with planning, as it tends to be a rather “left brain” (analytical) type of thinking process, where most HSPs prefer “right brain” (intuitive/subjective) thinking. However, in the interest of self-preservation, planning is one of those areas where we are well served by stepping outside our comfort zones.”

Steps For Planning

Consider taking some steps to do more planning by answering the questions above to give yourself a picture of where you are in you life. Depending on your situation it may be easier to start small with one life area and make improvements before moving on to other challenges.
Here are some small planning steps you can take:
  • conduct an assessment
  • identify the areas you want to change
  • pick a place to start
  • identify what you need to make the change: support, information, tools etc.
  • pick some ideas for making changes and pick a strategy that suits you
  • make changes and notice the results
  • journal about your progress.  It is a good way to think things through as well as release frustration safely.
Planning can help you will put yourself on a path to a more satisfactory life. If you take it one step at a time, and make small changes, you will be able to combine the left brained planning functions with your intuitive sense and gain a new life skill that can serve you well.