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What altered states of consciousness-the dissolution of feelings of time and self-can tell us about the mystery of consciousness. During extraordinary moments of consciousness-shock, meditative states and sudden mystical revelations, out-of-body experiences, or drug intoxication-our senses of time and self are altered; we may even feel time and self dissolving. These experiences have long been ignored by mainstream science, or considered crazy fantasies. Recent research, however, has located the neural underpinnings of these altered states of mind. In this book, neuropsychologist Marc Wittmann shows how experiences that disturb or widen our everyday understanding of the self can help solve the mystery of consciousness. Wittmann explains that the relationship between consciousness of time and consciousness of self is close; in extreme circumstances, the experiences of space and self intensify and weaken together. He considers the emergence of the self in waking life and dreams; how our sense of time is distorted by extreme situations ranging from terror to mystical enlightenment; the experience of the moment; and the loss of time and self in such disorders as depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. Dostoyevsky reported godly bliss during epileptic seizures; neurologists are now investigating the phenomenon of the epileptic aura. Wittmann describes new studies of psychedelics that show how the brain builds consciousness of self and time, and discusses pilot programs that use hallucinogens to treat severe depression, anxiety, and addiction. If we want to understand our consciousness, our subjectivity, Wittmann argues, we must not be afraid to break new ground. Studying altered states of consciousness leads us directly to the heart of the matter: time and self, the foundations of consciousness.
An expert explores the riddle of subjective time, from why time speeds up as we grow older to the connection between time and consciousness. We have widely varying perceptions of time. Children have trouble waiting for anything. ( Are we there yet? ) Boredom is often connected to our sense of time passing (or not passing). As people grow older, time seems to speed up, the years flitting by without a pause. How does our sense of time come about? In Felt Time, Marc Wittmann explores the riddle of subjective time, explaining our perception of time-whether moment by moment, or in terms of life as a whole. Drawing on the latest insights from psychology and neuroscience, Wittmann offers a new answer to the question of how we experience time. Wittmann explains, among other things, how we choose between savoring the moment and deferring gratification; why impulsive people are bored easily, and why their boredom is often a matter of time; whether each person possesses a personal speed, a particular brain rhythm distinguishing quick people from slow people; and why the feeling of duration can serve as an error signal, letting us know when it is taking too long for dinner to be ready or for the bus to come. He considers the practice of mindfulness, and whether it can reduce the speed of life and help us gain more time, and he describes how, as we grow older, subjective time accelerates as routine increases; a fulfilled and varied life is a long life. Evidence shows that bodily processes-especially the heartbeat-underlie our feeling of time and act as an internal clock for our sense of time. And Wittmann points to recent research that connects time to consciousness; ongoing studies of time consciousness, he tells us, will help us to understand the conscious self.