Lipton’s Journal/February 10, 1955/562

From Project Mailer

I have an idea which I think is important. The problem of psychoanalysis has always been one of measuring intensity. There has never been an objective correlative. The variables in the patient have to be judged by the variables in the analyst. Which of course is the mathematical relation of all human relations. So the business of deciding just how neurotic the patient is becomes the riddle wrapped in a mystery and surrounded by an enigma.[1] (AP. Neurotic—The no of erotic; also, the new of erotic. Also, the knew of erotic).

But there is one way we can go at it. A human is the combination of a human animal—God and a social-person. The link between man and society is Time which is society’s concept and its building bricks. What may be said of any person who is highly socialized is that they grow up with a clock built into them. We have all had the experience of going to sleep without a clock knowing that we must wake up at some difficult hour, and always five or ten minutes before the time we stir and are ready. Just as a carpenter measuring spaces all his life can estimate to the quarter of an inch a length of wood four feet long, so civilized clock-chained man can measure time.

But we have two systems of time within us. We have the social time which is accurate if not metronomic, and we have er-time which is cloudy and suspended—so that often on a flight of thought (not a flight of “ideas”) we have no idea whether we have been “gone” for two minutes or twenty-two minutes. Our sense of time has broken down because the nature of the experience has been one of taking, and taking with its intensity muddies the count—the sense of time is dependent upon “even” experience. (Perhaps even the five-minute error in awakening is due to the three-second dream which seemed like five minutes.)

So, what I sense as a test is this: To measure the discrepancy between clock-time and subjective time through a range of passive and active experiences. This has been done by some testers I believe, but so far as I know it has been approached more as a stunt, as a curiosity, than as a serious investigation. What would be involved is to study first on a person their sense of time in standard characteristic activities—eating, reading a newspaper, going through a modest interview, etc. With very neurotic—that is half socialized people—the discrepancies would appear already, but they would at least provide a guide to the more elaborate tests. Then would come such things as listening to a piece of jazz, a piece of a symphony, studying a painting, singing a song themselves, watching TV, or better a part of a movie since TV has commercials to set a “beat.” There I throw out as suggestions—undoubtedly better standard things could be chosen. Then tests of rhythm according to the best methods possible.

By the time one was done, I believe that the give-take functions of the person would be revealed in their similarities and discrepancies to other people. For example any person who has already demonstrated a close sense of time in characteristic activities would reveal er-anxiety, passivity anxiety if five minutes of a symphony sounded like two minutes to him or twenty minutes might it have enjoyed it that much, or the same with two minutes—it was so good that they felt it was fleeting—but that in itself would reveal attitudes toward time, and given the battery of subjective-time responses there would be inner evidence to support the idea of special sensitivities or special anxieties. And if used at the beginning and end of an analysis, one could have a certain objective correlative to the progress and loss of the analysis.

The great obstacle to this test is of course the one present in all tests—the presence of the tester who as society immediately alerts and dulls and thereby distorts the character of the one who is tested. But, probably, there is a great deal here, and maybe I’ll get further ideas on it.


  1. A slight misquotation of Winston Churchill’s description of the U.S.S.R.: “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”