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Bergler, E. Róheim, G. (1946). Psychology of Time Perception. Psychoanal Q., 15:190-206.

(1946). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 15:190-206

Psychology of Time Perception

Edmund Bergler, M.D. and Géza Róheim, Ph.D.


The most important contribution to the psychology of time perception is Freud's discovery that the unconscious is timeless. Classical proof is the evidence of dreams in which split seconds are felt as eternities, years are disregarded, chronology is scrambled or reversed.

No direct connection has been traced between infantile omnipotence and time perception although Freud stated that in the unconscious everybody considers himself to be immortal. In fairy tales, daydreams, myths, and children's play, the element of time is freely disregarded.

Hanns Sachs has observed that the infant probably first learns appreciation of time during intervals between nursing.

In clinical analysis one finds that the child which persists in the neurotic personality of the adult still clings to the omnipotent fantasy of an existence free of the painful realities implicit in the progression of time.

An intelligent business woman sought analysis because of the bizarre phobia that a lion would attack her from behind in the dark. She could not remain alone at home evenings and was fearful of going out. 'Don't tell me, please', she begged, 'there are no lions running around in apartments of a modern city. I know my fears are stupid and irrational.'

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