Alex Bierach

When are you?

October 2019

“Our ultimate aim is for clients to be alert and available in the present, to remember and visit the past if and when they want, and to move into the future imaginatively, free of unnecessary constraints and confident that their concerns, when they have them, will be based in reality.” - Richard Schwartz and Martha Sweezy, Internal Family Systems Therapy, Second Edition

In general, an interest of mine is noticing aspects of being a person that often go unnoticed.

Our relationship with time is an example of this. When are you? Although we can only really ever be Here, in the continuous moment, our awareness is often elsewhere.

We use memories of the past in various ways to manage feelings in the present: discouraging, denying, undoing, speculating, reminiscing nostalgically, minimizing, and comparing. We also make use of the future: we fantasize to distract from reality and escape; we predict to exert control or inhibit or steer. Undoing the past and imagining or predicting a particular future are strategies we use to control feelings (Schwartz and Sweezy, 2020).

Throughout the day, we move around in time. I wonder what a graph would look like that plotted “when you were” at 1-minute intervals throughout the day. What kinds of patterns might we see? Are you a past-dweller, nostalgically longing for the better days? Are you charging full-speed into the future?

What time horizons do you most occupy? Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, Years…forward or backwards? What emotional qualities do these time horizons have for you? Are there timeframes you avoid thinking about?