…well, not really time, but our perception of time.
Which is generated from some pretty high level activity going on in separate spots in our cerebral cortex, cerebellum and basal ganglia.
So, getting back to the example of Sue, James and Harriet from Wednesday (here
) where James had what appeared to be a positive response, or consequence, to some pretty harsh comments that Sue said to Harriet.
Our perception of the passage of time colors our perception of events, because Harriet held onto her information before releasing it to James. Probably, based upon the actions of her suprachiasmatic nuclei, she thinks that she held on for “a while.”
Which is one of the reasons why gossip (which lies at the root of many conflicts generated by third party actions) is so corrosive: Holding onto it gives Harriet the feeling of power and the more time she holds onto it, the more power she may feel as though she has.
Now, for James, time works differently. In his mind, a lot (or a little) time has passed between what Sue said and when he heard it from Harriet. In his mind, a determination takes place, formulated as a question: “Has enough time passed between the making of the comments and the hearing of them that I do or don’t have to respond? And what should my response be?”
All because of time.
There is short time thinking (about something that just happened) and long time thinking (about family history) and the human brain does an excellent, though not really well understood, job of differentiating between the two.
In a conflict (or in a potential confrontation), time means everything:
- NOW is a moment where a response can either happen immediately or not so much;
- LATER is a moment to which a response may be delayed;
- THEN is a moment that has already passed.
But the emotional residue that time exacerbates can serve to create more conflict, and more consequence, not less.
Thinking about how we think about time, consequences and whether to react or respond can help us avoid further conflict and help us generate actionable solutions.