“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.” ~ Albert Einstein

The subconscious mind is not locked into conventional time but seems to live in a sort of “spatial” time as opposed to “clock” time of the conscious mind. This means that time, to the subconscious, seems to be irrelevant and therefore expandable or shrinkable according to its needs.

Time often passes slowly – or stops altogether – in moments of crisis or emergency Many people have experienced an extreme slowing down of time in car accidents. A motorcyclist describes being knocked off his motorbike by a car. The impact catapulted him into the air and as soon as he hit the ground he lost consciousness. However, those two or three seconds became massively extended; he felt like he was gliding through the air, almost floating above the scene, and remembers how beautiful the windscreen glass of the car looked spraying out into the sunlight.

A Navy test pilot who in taking off from an aircraft carrier only to find that his plane wasn’t developing power. It started rolling immediately, and then ‘everything went into slow motion.’ What he did over the next eight seconds was so complicated that it took him 45 minutes to explain it.

These kind of stories are often told by sportspeople too. This might seem a little anomalous at first, but sport is a kind of artificial re-creation of emergency situations. Whether a goal keeper makes a save in the dying minutes of a ‘crucial’ soccer match doesn’t really matter at all, of course, but all the players and the crowd treat it as a matter of life and death. A professional goalkeeper recalls how once, when playing in an ‘important’ FA cup match, somebody fired a shot from close range which seemed unstoppable.

“Everything went into slow motion for me. I moved across, watching the ball drifting slowly to my left and then I dived, lifting my right hand to turn it over the bar. All was like a slow-mo replay and everything was quiet, like some mystical dream, until my right hand made contact with the ball. Then everything zipped back into conscious time.”

Basketball players, when they experience being “in the zone” report that the basket seems bigger, and feeling an almost mystical connection to it. The legendary hitter Ted Williams has said that sometimes he could see the seams on a pitched baseball. Gymnast Carol Johnson found that on some days she experienced the balance beam as wider, so “any worry of falling off disappeared.”

Football quarterback star John Brodie said that he found periods in every game when “time seems to slow down, in an uncanny way, as if everyone were moving in slow motion. It seems as if I had all the time in the world to watch the receivers run their patterns, and yet I know the defensive line is coming at me just as fast as ever.”

This time dilation experience may relate to studies of psychologist Robert Ornstein in which increased information processing by the brain can result in a “stretching” or slowing down of the experience of time.

One Response

  1. Interesting.

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