Temporal Mastery: sleeping in the ‘glacial’ psychiatric ward
Temporal mastery has been described as a ‘primordial human need’ (Gibson). This presentation will draw a thread from the depiction of the futility of attempts to master time in Tolkein’s The Hobbit through to the use of sleep as an attempt to assert individual temporal mastery on acute psychiatric wards. Temporal mastery is viewed as an individual need, but assertion may not always lie within our power. In some contexts, such as hospital wards, collective temporalities are imposed and these may not align with the individual or indeed with a traditional clock based temporality. In particular, when the metric of time is used as a punishment an imposed temporality may generate tension between the individual ‘primordial need’ and the collective interests and attempts to assert the individual mastery may subvert the collective. Moreover, in closed societies collective temporalities may seem shared, as in the example used here of the routines of wards rounds and mealtimes, but beneath the surface these can be fractured and multiple temporalities generated by differing world views. A study of high secure wards suggested that for staff temporality was largely situated within the present and understood by shift patterns, but for patients temporality was longer-term and driven by the future expected stay. The ‘instantaneous’ and ‘glacial’ notions of time offer useful lenses to explore temporal mastery in this context and this presentation will aim to provide a journey through these landscapes and raise the question of what tensions emerge from attempts at temporal mastery between the individual and collective.
I am currently a PhD student at the University of Manchester exploring cultural participation and mental health. I have worked in the mental health and addictions fields for the last fifteen years in a range of roles, including research and development.
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013