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Time Line Therapy[R]: an advanced technique from the science of Neuro Linguistic Programming.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is an incredibly powerful psychotherapeutic tool that enables individuals to unblock the structure of human communication. By doing so people can feel, think, communicate and thereby manage themselves, and others, more effectively.

NLP explores the relationships between how we think (neuro), how we communicate (linguistic) and our patterns of behaviour and emotion (programmes) (James and Woodsmall, 1988).

By learning from the relationships that exist between each of these components, individuals can effectively transform the way they may have traditionally felt, thought and acted, adopting new and far more helpful models of human communication.

In effect, NLP is a powerful change management tool that transforms the way individuals feel, think and act to have the greatest impact both professionally and personally. That's why NLP is one of the most powerful skills used in business management, psychology, sales, sports coaching and all forms of personal development (James and Woodsmall, 1988).

Time Line Therapy[R]

Time Line Therapy[R] (TLT) is one technique, among the many used by NLP Practitioners, that is an excellent way of assisting clients to make immediate changes in their lives.

Some even describe TLT as a method of Brief Therapy, (James and Woodsmall, 1988) since it offers a fast and effective means for changing the outcomes of life's experiences, and the chain of events that led to those events happening, and hence led the individual to a certain set of unwanted behaviours or internal states.

Inappropriate emotional reactions, such as outbursts of anger, periods of apathy, depression, sadness, guilt, anxiety and chronic fear, are responsible for preventing individuals from achieving the quality of life they deserve.

These outbursts are often more about unfinished business that happened in the past, than about what is happening in the present.

These past Negative Emotions, which I like to call Limiting Emotions as they limit your capacity to fully experience your life in the present, and Limiting Beliefs, such as "I'm not good enough," "I'll never be rich," or "I don't deserve a great marriage," that create limitations and hamper your ability to create reachable and attainable goals and outcomes.

Limiting Decisions, which are the behaviours that result from your Limiting Beliefs, such as overeating or under eating, gambling or having extra-marital affairs also have their rationalization in past events.

Through Time Line Therapy[R] These Can Be Eliminated.

Developed by Dr Tad James, and first written about in 1988 in his book; "Time Line Therapy[R] and The Basis of Personality", Time Line Therapy[R] techniques enable you to remove the negative impact of issues from your past, thus allowing you to move forward towards your goals and desires. This then ensures that decisions made in the future are made in the reality of the current circumstances not on baggage held onto from the past.

There is nothing new about the idea that time and events from our past affect us in the present. Throughout history, humankind has been aware of the passage of time: Aristotle was the first to mention the notion of "stream of time" in his book 'Physics IV' (As cited in James and Woodsmall, 1988). William Hames spoke of linear memory storage as early as 1890.

Finally, the concept, almost entirely forgotten about with history, was revived in the late 1970's with the advent of Neuro Linguistic Programming. It was then that two psychotherapists, Richard Bandler and John Grinder resurrected these old ideas and how with real Scientific evidence supporting it, presented these old concepts in a totally new way.

The Time Line Therapy[R] process in use today is a consequence of that revival. Time Line Therapy[R] is a process that assists us:

* To let go of Negative or Limiting Emotions from the past.

* To let go of Limiting Beliefs from the past.

* To let go of Limiting Decisions from the past.

* To create our future the way we want it. (James and Woodsmall, 1988).

These are the four major strategies that comprise the practice of Time Line Therapy[R] . They are easy to do and make considerable change possible in a person's life.

Negative or Limiting Emotions:

Time Line Therapy's major focus is to free you from unwanted emotions from your past. The "Big Four" include anger, sadness, fear and guilt, and any others that might be apparent to your client and that they feel needs to be addressed, such as depression, anxiety or loneliness.

The strategy is performed using a visualisation process that allows release of these emotions from the memories that produced them. In essence this is done by having your adult consciousness be present to the critical event, though not in it, to determine what it needs to learn, know or understand about the event that their earlier self was unable to reason at the time.

Once this process is complete, it frees you to be able to react to current and future events without being influenced by the emotional baggage of the past.

Limiting Beliefs and Decisions:

Put simply, Limiting Beliefs and Decisions are a natural consequence to all your previous life's experiences. And while these Beliefs and Decisions, for good and for bad; have come about as a consequence of past experiences they are now with you and may now be limiting your life and in many ways preventing you from achieving your potential.

The way through this is to observe your life for beliefs and decisions that are of no use to you going forward. These are the limiting beliefs and decisions that can be re-created using Time Line Therapy[R].

Creating your Future:

Finally, having worked through the unresolved issues from the past, Time Line Therapy[R] gives you a specific technique for creating your future dreams and goals in a simple way that produces long term and lasting results. The process involves using your imagination in visualisation to create a "compelling" future that is truly inspirational and which brings about the desired outcomes (James and Woodsmall, 1988).

The Principle Strategies Used In Time Line Therapy[R]

The following is a summary of the scripts used when working with Time Line Therapy[R] as taken from the Master Practitioner's Manual (James, 2004).

1. Discover how your client stores time

To discover your client's time line say the following:

"if I were to ask your subconscious mind, where your past is, and where your future is, I have an idea that you might say, "it's from right to left, or front to back, or up to down", or in some direction from you in relation to your body.

And it's not your conscious concept that I'm interested in, it's your unconscious. So, if I were to ask your unconscious mind where's your past, to what direction would you point?"

"And your future, in what direction would you point if I asked your unconscious mind; Where's your future?"


Master Time Line Therapy' Practitioner Training (James, 2004, May)

2. Find the Root Cause or The Significant Event

To find the Root Cause of your client's issue ask:

"Is it all right for your unconscious mind for you to release this ... (limiting emotion or limiting belief or decision) today and for you to be aware of it consciously?)

To find the first event ask:

"What is the root cause of this problem, the first event which, when disconnected will cease to make this problem an issue in your life?" "And if you were to know, was it before, during, or after your birth?"

Continue this line of questioning until you get to a clear description of the initiating event.

* If the answer is 'before' ask: "In the womb or before?"

* If the answer is 'in the womb' ask: "What month?"

* If the answer is 'before' ask: "Was it a past life or passed down to you genealogically?"

* If the answer is 'past life' ask: "How many lifetimes ago?"

* If the answer is 'genealogically' ask: "How many generations ago?"

* If the answer is 'after' ask: "If you were to know what age were you?"

Here are some examples of how a typical Time Line Session might go.

3. Clearing a Negative Emotion From the Past

Elicit the time line and show the client the various positions on the time line and their corresponding numbers. eg position 1 is above the time line in the present, facing the past.

Discover the root cause of the nominated negative emotion by saying:

"Is it all right for your unconscious mind for you to release this (nominate the negative emotion) today and for you to be aware of it consciously?"

Find the first event by asking: "What is the root cause of this problem, the first event of which, when disconnected, will cause the problem to disappear?

If you were to know, was it before, during or after your birth?"

Before--"in the womb or before?" If in the womb--"what month?"

Before--"was it a past life or passed down to you genealogically?"

Past life--"how many lifetimes ago?"

Genealogically--"how many generations ago?"

After--"if you were to know what age were you?"

Then The Actual Induction May Proceed Like This:

Position the client above the Time Line: "Just float up above your time line to position 1, facing the past, and when you get there notice the event. Let me know when you're there."

"Now, float back in time to position 2 directly up above the event so you are now looking down on the event. Ask your unconscious mind what it needs to learn from the event, the learning of which will allow you to let go of the emotions easily and effortlessly. Your unconscious mind can preserve the learnings so that if you need them in the future they'll be there."

"Now float to position 3 so you are above the event and before the event, and you are looking toward now. (Make sure you are well before any of the chain of events that led to the event) and ask yourself; 'Now, where are the emotions?'"

"Float down inside the event to position 4, looking through your own eyes, and check on the emotions. Are they there? Or have they disappeared! Now!! Good, go back to position 3."

"Now, come back to now above your time line but only as quickly as you can let go of all the guilt on all of the events all the way back to now. Assume position 3 with each subsequent event, preserve the learnings, and let go of the guilt, all the way back to now. When you are ready float down into now, and come back into the room." (Break state)

Now it's time to test: (with client back at now) "Can you remember any event in the past where you used to be able to feel that old emotion, and go back and notice if you can feel it, or you may find that you cannot. Good. Come back to now."

Future pace: (with client back at now) "I want you to go out into the future to an unspecified time in the future which if it had happened in the past, you would have felt inappropriate or unwarranted ... (name the emotion being cleared), and notice if you can find that old emotion, or you may find that you cannot."

Bring client back to now: "OK? Good. Come back to now." The negative emotion in this circumstance may be anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shame or any other emotion the client nominates as being relevant for them.

The Three Things To Check In Position 3?

1. Make sure the client is in position 3--tell the client: "Get up higher and float further back" and then "Get high enough and far enough back until the emotion disappears."

2. Be sure they are before the first event--ask the client: "Are you before the first event?" "Is there an event earlier than this one?"

3. Be sure the client is totally agreeable to let go of the emotion: If emotions are not releasing ask client: "What is there to learn from this event? If you learn this, won't it be better than having the old emotions provided when you let them go?"

An Alternative Approach: An Intervention For A Limiting Decision

Sometimes it is more appropriate or helpful to place the client into the significant event. Here's how to do it.

"I'd like to ask your subconscious mind to float up in the air, above your time line, into the past and down into the event--right into position 4 (i.e. being in the actual event).

"Notice what emotions are present, and also note if you are aware of the decision that was made there, too. (if no, say "I'd like you to rewind the movie of your memory until you come to the time of the decision ... right now).

Float back up above the time line and go to position 3, well before the beginning of the event, or any of the chain of events that led to that event, and turn and look toward now. Preserve the positive learnings."

"Now, where are the emotions? And the decision, did it disappear, too?"

"Float down inside the event, to position 4, looking through your own eyes, and check on the emotions. Are they there? Or have they disappeared! Now!! Good, and the decision too--it's disappeared! Good, come back to position 3."

"And come back to now but only as quickly as you allow all the events between then and now to re-evaluate themselves in light of your new choices, and let go of all the negative emotions on those events. Assume position 3, preserve the learnings, let go of the emotions and allow each event to re-evaluate itself all the way back to now."

"Now, how do you feel about that old decision (or belief)?"

"I want you to go out into the future to an unspecified time in the future that would be most appropriate, and imagine a time when something like this could happen again, and how do you react, OK? ... Good, come back to now." (James, 2004).

NB: A word of warning here. Only do this if you believe your client can manage any stress that might surface as a consequence of being placed directly back into a traumatic event.

Time Line Therapy[R] Is Not About Deleting Memory

The critical thing about either of these above approaches is that the therapist is not deleting the memory of the event. What the therapist is deleting is the emotional or cognitive bond to it. The outcome therefore is that now the client simply sees the event as an event, a story if you will, that has no emotional or cognitive ties to any event in the present or future.

How To Change Personal History And When To Use This Technique

The only time to use a personal change technique is where traumatic memories from the past may be too disturbing for a client to want to have as part of their life and that by so deleting them or replacing them with more positive memories with more positive outcomes the client has an opportunity to create more possibilities for their future.

The technique basically uses Time Line Therapy[R] but instead of leaving the memories in the time line it allows those memories to fall off the time line to be swallowed up or to be sent off to the sun to be devoured. The critical part of this technique is to then have something to replace the unwanted memory. This can be done by planting a desired memory in its place.

This procedure should be done with caution remembering that a person's present way of being is the consequence of all his past memories, good and bad, and should not be tampered with except in extreme circumstances.

The Difference Between Association And Dissociation, And When Is Each Useful?

Association is the state of recalling a past event as if you were experiencing it in the now ie seeing it through the person's own eyes. Dissociation is the state of recalling a past event and experiencing it as if from the eyes of an observer.

It can be useful when changing strategies around unwanted fears, phobias and behaviours, by having the client Dissociate from the present state and Associate to the desired state.

As the desired state is considered more and more to the point of becoming possible, the submodalities of the present state, or problem state, get blown out of existence and results in the strategy change.

Association and Dissociation are also useful in working with Time Line Therapy[R]. To work effectively you need to keep the client Dissociated from past traumatic events, which enables them to take the learnings they need and provide a way to remove the negative emotions from those past events.

In contrast when anchoring a new strategy you need to have the client clearly Associated to each of the anchors.

The Appropriate Intervention For Trauma, Using Time Line Therapy[R]?

It is not the intent of Time Line Therapy[R] to associate the client into a traumatic memory, however it may happen. If this occurs, the appropriate intervention for dealing with trauma is to ensure that they stay dissociated from the event. So, if a client has associated into the event, say:

1. "Where are you? Then to whatever the client says say:

2. "Good, just get up above the time line so you are looking down on the event."

3. "Are you above the time line?" (if not go back to getting them up there) if "yes" then:

4. "Good now make sure you are in position 3. Now where are the emotions?"

If these steps don't work, then stand up and clap your hands over the client's head and say:

5. "Open your eyes and look up at the ceiling. Keep your eyes up." (with client's eyes open go back to step 2)

If this doesn't work, stand up and say to client, "stand up and walk with me." Then walk the client around the room at high speed while you do the Time Line Therapy[R] process while the client is walking (James, 2004).

NB These are just a small sample of the strategies included in Time Line Therapy[R] and are not intended to replace any formal training. I hope that by giving you a sampler of some of these strategies your interest may be tweaked sufficiently to encourage you to go and discover more and maybe to even embark on some formal training.


Bandler, R., & Grinder, J. (1979) Frogs into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming. Moad, Uttah: Real People Press.

James, T., & Woodsmall, W. (1988) Time Line Therapy[R] And The Basis of Personality. Capitola: Meta publications.

Tad James and Advanced Neuro Dynamics. (2004, May). Master Time Line Therapy[R] Practitioner Training (Ver. 6.5 5/2004).

Lewis, B., & Pucelik, F. (1990) Magic of NLP Demystified: Metamorphous Press Portland Oregon USA.

Useful websites:

Time Line Therapy[R] is a trademark of Dr Tad James and the Tad James Company.

Lidy Seysener

Northern Beaches Counselling & Mediation, Sydney

Lidy is the principal of Northern Beaches Counselling and Northern Beaches Mediation, based in Mona Vale in the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Besides her work as a Counsellor and Psychotherapist, Lidy also practices as a Hypnotherapist and an NLP and Time Line Therapy[R] Master Practitioner. Lidy is a qualified and registered supervisor with ASCH and ACA and coaches practitioners in the techniques of Time Line Therapy[R] as well as in other modalities.
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Author:Seysener, Lidy
Publication:Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis
Article Type:Chronology
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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