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Me, Myself and Identity – Circadian Rhythms and Gaia Theory

I was talking to my friend and work colleague the other day about the clocks going forward last week and how long it takes to affect me. My colleague said it takes her about a week. For me, it’s about two weeks.

The interesting point in this conversation was them not knowing about circadian rhythms and they are interacting with the world every minute of the day. I gave them a full explanation of circadian, infradian and altradian rhythms and at the end of the conversation they asked, ‘But what has this to do with me?’

One of the problems of living in the world today is that we are so isolated from it psychologically. James Lovelock, who innovated Gaia Theory and the Daisywheel Model of the environment we live in proposed a symbiotic relationship with the world. Lovelock is an independent scientists (like myself) who was not restricted by funding or institutionalised study preferences when proposing his theories. For many years he was ridiculed by his university-dwelling peers, yet now with climate change looming large, it turns out he was correct in his thinking. Even science admits that there are rhythms our body reacts to in the internal and external world.

But what has this to do with identity? How can the moon, the sun, the sea and time affect our identity? In more ways that we first realise. It may sound flaky and slight slightly unscientific, but the way that I work together with the world affects who I am. It affects how much I sleep, how fit I am, in fact, the whole of my existence, both physiological and psychological. For example, melatonin reacts to sunlight (or lack of it) and helps to regulate sleep. Interacting with serotonin, melatonin production is part of the the reason that when the clocks go forward or back we still wake up when the sun begins to rise. It reacts with light, not with time.

This is a perfect example of how flexible our identity can be am how we adapt to fit with the world. For example, I used to get up at 6am to write for an hour before I went to work. My body has arranged itself to wake up with the sunlight, and prior to the ‘spring forward’ of time, this coincided with my writing time. The sun was rising at six. Then, after the clocks went forward, the sun was suddenly rising at seven. I lost my writing time in the morning. I did move it to the evening but this change to fit with the external world is a perfect example how how fluid the constructed external world, even time, is.

So, my body interacting with the external world affects what I do, how I communicate and what role I play; my identity. It’s a symbiotic relationship between who I am and the world.

2 thoughts on “Me, Myself and Identity – Circadian Rhythms and Gaia Theory

  1. Brilliant post, Jacqui – and didn’t I read somewhere that women are more influenced by the movements of time, predominantly the 28 day cycle, and because we’re something like 70 percent water, are more governed by the ebb and flow of the tides and the pull of the moon? It all makes perfect sense to me. Which would explain why toay I feel all ‘meh’ (it’s gloomy and cloudy outside) whereas yesterday I could have walked naked through fields of buttercups in the glorious sunshine we had. Nice to know girls aren’t just ‘having a mood’ isn’t it?!

  2. I’ve read that the moon affects cycles. But also ask any nurse, cop or fireman and they’ll all tell you that they dread working when there is a full moon out- all hell seems to break loose. And as Debs says- we’re 70% water- which maybe explains my need to be near water all the time.
    I love your posts, Jacqui, because they make me think.

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