In brief - it can offer speed and effectiveness, giving a very tangible feel afterwards, so you know that the problem is finally dealt with.
When there are many forms of ‘talking therapy’ it can often be confusing for someone to know which method is suitable to deal with the issue(s) that they have. This can be made even less easy, when someone is in an emotional state to begin with. This article aims to add clarity to the question and inform the reader of a method that they may not previously have considered.
The concept of a ‘time line’ has been around for centuries and it is worth understanding why this should be relevant when dealing with mental/emotional issues. Talking based therapies are usually formed around certain ‘models’, which aim to describe how the human personality works. These models are like a map, being a description of how things function and as with any model, it’s value lies in the results that can be obtained through it’s use. One such model is Time Line Therapy® which was formulated by Dr Tad James in the USA and it has been refined over more than 25 years within the context of other models such as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and Hypnotherapy.
The model poses the question “who are we but a collection of our memories?” and that these memories are an important aspect of our personality, hence by changing our association to the memories, we can change someone’s personality at the deepest level.
Our mind stores our memories in 2 ways:-
(1) By subject, or Gestalt. This relates to one way we hold our memories, as if in a filing cabinet, with different sections according to the subject matter, or emotions contained within those memories. So, in order to recall a memory, we can access the ‘file’ we have for ‘friends’ or ‘family’ or ‘work’, rather than having to go back in time through every moment in reverse sequence. We can jump directly to memories linked with particular content. This also holds true where the memory contains a certain emotion – so we have a ‘file’ for memories containing ‘anger’ or ‘sadness’ or ‘fear’ etc. and the memories can link up a bit like a string of pearls, where the event in our memory is the pearl and the string joining those events is subject matter/emotion that the events have in common.
(2) The second way we store our memories is along our ‘time line’ – in the chronological order/sequence in which they happened in our life. So the time line will contain memories from the distant past, through to the present day and even out to the future. Yes, we even have ‘future memories’ of events we are thinking about doing and our mind has to store them in such a way that we can recognise we have not done them yet!
When things happen through our lives, we will unconsciously (automatically) build up a set of beliefs about how life has treated us. We then use these beliefs to judge scenarios as we live through them, or weigh them up for the future.
When we go through what could be termed a ‘significant emotional event’, that has a negative attachment for us, we will unconsciously decide that it is important for us to avoid that happening again (because it didn’t feel very good!). We will then live through that belief, which whilst it may have been relevant to that past event, does not hold a real truth for us in future situations – yet we generalise about what happened and link our experience of ‘now’ with what went before. We believe that this will keep us safe from making the same mistakes again and may hold on to the negative associations to remind us of the past negative event (that felt bad when it took place).
The reality is, that the negative emotions we ‘choose’ to hold on to are there to remind us that we need to take action to ensure we are kept safe and the correct action is gaining new learnings/insight about what happened. These learnings are what will ensure we do not repeat mistakes, rather than the emotion itself. Once we gain the relevant learnings that we need to retain, we no longer have any use for the old negative emotional attachments and these can be let go of.
The Time Line Therapy® method is somewhat hypnotic in it’s nature, but does not require a ‘formal’ trance induction as would be used in pure hypnotherapy. As such it is quick and comfortable, so allowing the person to let go of negative emotions and limiting beliefs without having to re-live the past event.
Let’s face it, the fact that you had to go through that old negative event once … is once too often – so the ability to let emotional attachments go, without needing to re-live the past, adds an important ‘comfort factor’ in to the process.
It works due to the basic structure of how and when we create such emotional content in our memories. Imagine an event in the past that caused you to feel angry. If we took you back in time (in a time-machine for example) to 15 minutes BEFORE the event … then where is the emotion of anger at that point in time? Quite simply, it does not exist - because the event that created the angry feeling has not taken place yet. This perspective allows the emotional attachment to be removed from the event, so when you have finished the process you can no longer access that old feeling of anger, when thinking about the event. You remember the event for what it was, and retain the important learnings about what happened – to prevent you having similar circumstances again – and the event becomes ‘emotionally flat’. By this, I mean that before the process you can remember the event and easily access the angry feeling again, whilst thinking about it. Once you have done Time Line Therapy® to release the emotion, your remembering the event does not bring up that old feeling - so giving you a very tangible ‘before and after’ reference point. You realise right there and then that it has worked and the emotion is gone.
By going back to the very earliest causes of the emotion, you can release an emotion from the entire chain of past events, so meaning you become much more emotionally balanced. Those old events no longer affect your mood, or control your day-to-day behaviour, as they did in the past.
Similarly, if you go back along your Time Line to before an event in which you decided you were ‘no good’ or ‘worthless’ (for example) then those beliefs disappear too, since at that point in time you had not decided they were true for you. You can then move on knowing that you are ‘good enough’ or ‘worthy’ having removed those old limiting factors. Life feels very different once those are gone!
The process can be used on any emotion – such as Anger, Sadness, Fear, Hurt, Guilt and Anxiety PLUS any limiting belief, no matter how big an issue you may feel this is to you. So, issues such as depression, PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], anger or low self-esteem can be comfortably dealt with – as can most other conditions you may think of.
If you can imagine how good it would feel to release all your anger, sadness, fear, hurt and guilt from the past ….. and beliefs such as “I can’t X” or “I’m not Y” – the resulting increase in self-esteem and feeling of daily comfort can be dramatic.
The Book - Time Line Therapy and the basis of Personality (Copyright 1988) by Tad James and Wyatt Woodsmall will give further insight to the method. [All be it that the method itself has been further refined since the book was initially written]