General Semantics Advanced Thinking
A System-Discipline Concerned with the Sanity of the Race & the Individual
Managing Impatience

by Milton Dawes

The next ‘time’ you find yourself waiting impatiently at the airport … at the end of a long line at the bank … caught in a traffic jam … waiting for an important phone call … waiting for a taxi, train, or bus … waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and getting more and more anxious and impatient … here is a simple solution: don’t wait.

Instead of “waiting“, do something else.

It doesn’t matter much what else you do. When we are waiting, when we ‘feel’ bored, we are expecting something to happen or change or stop. And we find ourselves in a state of heightened awareness involving a theme – It hasn’t happened yet, It hasn’t happened yet, It hasn’t happened yet. In this state of “It-hasn’t-happened yet-heightened-awareness“, our psycho-logical ‘time’ (our own personal sense of ‘time’) slows down.

Psycho-logical ‘time’ can be considered as “awareness-experience of an interval between two instances of awareness“. Chronological ‘time’ involves measuring or comparing intervals between events. A year represents a measure of the interval between the sun in one position in the sky, and its apparent return to that position. In psycho-logical ‘time’, the higher the number of instances of awareness, the higher the number of intervals, and the slower ‘time’ seems to be experienced compared with chronological ‘time’. In other words, ten minutes of chronological ‘time’ in such a situation might seem like half an hour psycho-logical ‘time’.

Recall a child’s “Are we there yet? When we ‘feel’ happy or involved in something – enjoying ourselves at a great party, spending time with a good friend, reading a book, etc. – we are more “in the situation” than “in ourselves”, so to speak. A student who is enjoying a particular lecture and likes the lecturer might find the lecture over too soon. In these situations, the number of times or instances of awarenesses of intervals between awarenesses is less than ‘times’ when we ‘feel’ bored. The lower number of such instances of awarenesses result in a ‘feeling’ of ‘time’ going faster, of ‘time’ speeding up; half an hour in such a situation might seem like ten minutes.

When we are waiting and we decide to do something else, our attention is engaged elsewheres, and the number of instances of awarenesses of “it hasn’t happened yet” is lowered. I see in this management of impatience a relationship between numbers, ‘time’, conscious awareness, self-reflexiveness, and non-identity. You might work at elaborating on that, making some of your own connections here. In a sense, managing our impatience involves managing our ‘time’, managing ourselves, and conscious abstracting – being aware that we are doing, while we are doing.

Leave a Comment