How to deal with the illusion of time distortion

The Illusion of Time: Perspectives from an Officer and a Store Clerk During a Lockdown

Time is a curious concept that can appear to stretch or contract depending on our circumstances. In this blog, we will explore the perception of time from two vastly different perspectives during an active shooter reality-based training session at a retail store. One perspective belongs to an officer urgently responding to the situation, while the other belongs to a store clerk locked down in a secure room, anxiously waiting for information. We will delve into the illusion of time experienced by each person and offer valuable advice on how to manage time while waiting to be released from a locked-down room.

The Officer’s Perspective:

As an officer responding to an active shooter situation, time takes on a different dimension. Every second counts, and adrenaline courses through the veins, heightening awareness and sharpening focus. In this high-stress environment, time appears to accelerate. Tasks and decisions that would typically take minutes may feel like mere seconds.

The pressure to neutralize the threat and protect innocent lives intensifies the perception of time. As the officer methodically hunts for the suspect, the minutes seem to fly by in a blur. The mind is laser-focused on the mission, leaving little room for personal thoughts or distractions.

Advice for Officers:

During such critical moments, it is vital for officers to maintain composure and mental clarity. Staying focused on the task at hand is crucial, but they must also remember to communicate effectively with their team and gather accurate information. Regularly checking in with their colleagues and superiors can help maintain a sense of unity and shared purpose, making the situation more manageable.

The Store Clerk’s Perspective:

In contrast, for the store clerk locked down in a secure room with four other people, the perception of time becomes a slow, agonizing crawl. Fear and uncertainty amplify each passing second, making minutes feel like hours. The anticipation of not knowing what’s happening outside the room or when they will be released creates a psychological burden, contributing to the illusion of time dragging on endlessly.

In the confined space, anxiety and tension among the people in the room can further distort their perception of time. The mind may wander to worst-case scenarios, making the wait feel even longer.

Advice for Store Clerks in Lockdown:

When faced with a lockdown situation, it’s crucial to stay as calm as possible, despite the circumstances. Encourage open communication among the individuals in the room, although quietly, as sharing fears and concerns can help ease the mental burden. Create a plan together for dealing with a possible door breach. Include using improvised weapons available to you in that room. Focus on following protocols and staying secure, and remember that rescue teams are working diligently to ensure your safety.

Engaging in calming activities like deep breathing or distraction techniques can also help manage anxiety and the perception of time. Keep in mind that the situation is temporary, and staying composed can make the experience more bearable.


Time is subjective, and during critical events like an active shooter training session at a retail store, it can appear to warp and stretch based on our perspectives and emotions. For the officer, every second counts as they actively respond to the threat. For the store clerk locked down in a room, waiting for information, time can feel like an eternity.

Both parties must manage their perception of time to cope effectively with their respective situations. Officers must focus on the task at hand while maintaining communication, and store clerks should remain calm, follow protocols, and engage in calming techniques. Through proper management and support, the illusion of time can be better understood and navigated, leading to a safer and more controlled outcome for everyone involved.

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