Escaping the Hamster Wheel
04.03.2011
In Stephan Grünewald's article, published in the "Frankfurter Rundschau", he reflects on our perception of time along our lives. He explains how we can take a step back and escape the spinning hamster wheel.

By StephanGrünewald (published in "Frankfurter Rundschau")

 

The firstmonth of the New Year is already over, and with it the first decade of the newmillennium. Many of us feel that we are unable to get a grip on time and thatit is racing by ever faster. It seems that the speed of time increases withage. But looked at psychologically, time may not be as fleeting as we perceive –rather  we create this fleetingsense of time. We literally accelerate time. Indeed, deep down we harbour agreat fear of time: fear of its uncertainty, fear of its risks and its dramas.

 

To dispelthis fear, we are trying to kill time and spin it to death. We climbvoluntarily into our hamster wheels and race from one appointment to the next,finding ourselves in a state of mindless activity. The hamster wheel keepsspinning, but its rotations remain predictable. Time turns steadily in the sameold way, free of disturbing imbalances. Our hamster wheels keep us busy; theykeep us from thinking and they keep unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs atbay by re-directing them through controlled fixed rituals. Thus, we feelreassured that nothing unpredictable can or will happen or even rouse us. Theprice we pay for this is high: We are kept busy but, nevertheless, feel thattime is slipping through our fingers.

 

Duringchildhood or adolescence we experienced time quite differently. Back then wewere able to endure and savour time’s inherent drama. We switched continuallybetween joyful euphoria and tearful sorrow. As teenagers we plunged into theadventure of being in love; enjoying its quivering euphoria and bitterpoignancy. The rich sense of growth and excitement we experienced during thisperiod extended our perception of time. Indeed, we are still able to spendhours talking about these times.

 

But withage we try to subdue time’s exciting drama. We ritualize our lives. Wesacrifice the risk involved in growth for the expectation of security. That iswhy Sigmund Freud called the fixed points we construct throughout our lives as “intermediatestops on the way to death”. We strive to create some kind of balanced restprior to resting eternally.

 

It is onlypossible to escape the sense that time is fleeting, if - as in younger years –we are ready to open up to time, to experiment and engage in the adventure ofpersonal growth and development.

 

A firststep to achieving this is to stop practicing the same old rituals, and to stoptreading unconsciously in our hamster wheels. Stopping and taking a step backto view from a new perspective allows us to access time. It makes us open forunfulfilled desires, scatterbrain twists, for things we have always wanted todo, or for dreams we always wanted to pursue.

 

Pausingmarks the starting point for growth. It not only makes us vulnerable, but italso makes time tangible. Indeed, only by taking a break are we able to get agrip on time.

© 2015 rheingold