January 2024

Losing Time Part 1

There is a popular misconception that one of the ways you can determine whether you are dissociative is if you recognise that you are losing time.  Therapists will ask patients or clients whom they think might be dissociative if they are aware of losing time. If the client says ‘no’ then that is deemed to be an indicator against the possibility of dissociation (DID) as a factor in their diagnosis. 

The irony is that the more dissociative you are – hence more of the time you are actually losing time because your alters are completely taking over for you – the least likely you will be aware of losing time. 

The reality is that you will generally only be aware of ‘losing time’ when you are NOT dissociative.  If I am really absorbed in an activity or deep thought, time flies. Whether it is playing a fully engaging computer game, watching a riveting movie, participating in a stimulating discussion or simply daydreaming, we are often surprised how quickly the time appears to have passed. However, we can only be aware of how quickly time has passed when we are consciously or subconsciously referencing time in relation to hours and minutes. I know it was roughly 4pm when I sat down to play the computer game and now it is 6pm but it seems like half an hour.  The movie started at 8pm and it is now 11pm but it seems like it was only an hour and a half. All of these scenarios involve free-will choice, self-aware actions and relative awareness of the time.

However, when one of my alters decides to take over, I have no control over when that happens, hence there is no conscious or subconscious reference in time, I just simply go blank, like  I am under anaesthetic. The alter could be out for half an hour and when it recedes and I return to full consciousness, I will not be aware of that lost half hour. I won’t even think that time has flown. 

When you come out from anaesthetic, you have no concept whatsoever of whether the operation was 10 minutes or 10 hours. Because you knew you were having the operation and when it began, you can work it out if you know the current time. However, imagine the anaesthetic was applied at random, without any self-awareness on your part that it has happened, you would have no awareness whatsoever that you were under anaesthetic and therefore no need to reference time.

When I counsel clients that fully dissociate easily in the counselling room, they are not aware of lost time if a strong alter pushes through uninvited, completely takes over and dialogues with me.  If I talk with this alter for one hour, when it recedes and the person returns to full self awareness, she has no idea whatsoever, that she has lost one hour of her counselling time. Let’s say I begin counselling this client at 9 am and the alter intruded for an hour from 9:30 onwards. It now 10:30 am; time for a morning tea break.  The client never says, “But we only started counselling half an hour ago, it’s not time for tea break yet.” No, she simply looks at the clock, realises it is 10:30 am and happily has her cup of tea without any awareness whatsoever that she has just lost an hour.

Whether it is an hour at a time, sporadic periods of 5 minutes, or 15 seconds when one of your alters comes out and tears a strip of your son in an angry outburst that you have no awareness of, you will not be aware of losing any time at all.