Temporality in Psychosis: Loss of Lived Time in an Alien World

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This article presents a model of the temporal structure of psychic life. Time is a rule-guided process. A person's psychic life, too, yields to an examination of necessary and regulated operations. To outline both the regular and the modified perception of time within psychic life, Sigmund Freud's model of the drive interaction is brought to bear on Jacques Marie Émile Lacan's understanding of psychosis. Both Freud's and Lacan's findings are explained with an eye on the temporal dimension of the psyche, temporal modifications manifested in states of psychotic delusion, and the role of time for one's meaningful engagement with the world. Psychic time is nonlinear. The future, the past, and the present must be engaged simultaneously, albeit not in the same way, to yield the sense of temporal fullness. For Freud, the cooperative functioning of the drives accounts for the sustainment of the lucid psychic life, whereas modifications in the drives’ interactions signal psychic disturbances. Lacan (1955/1993) stresses the atemporal character of the nonexistent, negated, or lost reality that pressures an individual to enter a psychotic delusion. This article makes the assumption that the psychological states in which the reckoning with time is lost are the consequences of an unsuccessful incorporation of traumatic stimuli that are caused both by outside phenomena and by the actions of an individual's inner drives. The findings of this article support the view that psychic traumas necessitate modifications to the sense of time. The findings also offer an understanding of the kinds of temporal modifications that occur in an individual's psychic life and the way in which these temporal changes lead to the experience of radical otherness that is present in some cases of psychological disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-159
Number of pages12
JournalHumanistic Psychologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 3 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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