What does it mean to lack a past and future?
January 27, 2008 8:06 PM   Subscribe

What is it called when you can't imagine the past or the future?

I'm not sure what else to include. Essentially, the past and future are unimaginable from an intellectual and emotional point of view. Sort of like tunnel vision. Does this have some sort of Psych 101 term?
posted by unknowncommand to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 


Well I can't top Ironmouth on this one, but I believe it's otherwise called Buddhism! The rest of us are trapped in only being able to think about the future and the past. We have to work hard to train ourselves to be mindful and to live in the present. So, I hope you're not having a rough time, but if you have this condition just know that it may have some advantages.
posted by kookoobirdz at 8:58 PM on January 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this is exactly what you're looking for, but this reminds me of the story of Clive Wearing, a man who suffers from severe amnesia and cannot remember the past beyond more than a few seconds ago, or comprehend the future. The only person he recognizes is his wife, Debra. The only thing that triggers other memories for a brief time is music (he was a conductor).

New Yorker article about Clive Wearing by neurologist Oliver Sacks.

Radio Lab segment about Clive Wearing including interview with Oliver Sacks and Debra Wearing from the Memory and Forgetting show. [Segment starts at 43:00.]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:59 PM on January 27, 2008


hurdy gurdy girl has it. I was looking for him when I found the other link. Watching him on video is amazing and scary.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:33 PM on January 27, 2008


I experience something similar as a symptom of ADD (yes, professionally diagnosed.) but I'm not sure if you're talking about your own past and future, or the past and future in general.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:41 AM on January 28, 2008


Well, autonoetic is the term for being able to remember the past episodically and imagine the future, so whatever the opposite of that ot.
posted by internet!Hannah at 4:06 AM on January 28, 2008


Hm, maybe my question is about an inability to conceive of life being different than it currently is. Even when faced with facts that show this is objectively untrue. Not sure if this is a symptom or a worldview, actually.

For example, in the literature about depression, they mention that a depressed person can't imagine a time when they were not depressed, and that they feel as though they will always be depressed.

Or, kind of similarly, in movies there are characters that are sort of trapped in their worldviews (until the protagonist affects some sort of revelation). American Beauty springs to mind, but it's a common trope.

It's sort of the opposite to Buddhism, I think, although in some ways the effect is the same.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:41 AM on January 28, 2008


In sociology, it's called 'present time orientation', usually used to described the poor, who cannot imagine why they should defer instant gratification to save for a future they can't imagine.
posted by eaglehound at 9:08 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


hurdy gurdy girl: I don't know if this is exactly what you're looking for, but this reminds me of the story of Clive Wearing, a man who suffers from severe amnesia and cannot remember the past beyond more than a few seconds ago, or comprehend the future.

cf. "Ten Second Tom" in 50 First Dates.
posted by WCityMike at 11:33 AM on January 28, 2008


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