Time Line Therapy

date Aug 31, 2007
authors Tad James, Wyatt Woodsmall
reading time 4 mins
  • Book Title: Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality
  • Author: Tad James & Wyatt Woodsmall
  • Year written/published: 1988
  • Book Source: Amazon - Some extracts:

Time line…

Who are we but our collection of memories? For years, psychologists have agreed that our past experiences do determine who we are and how we act. Memories are recorded and stored as we age and with time, they have more and more influence. Our Time Line is the memory coding of the brain. It is how people encode and store their memories.

Different Times…

These are the two ways that people organize time. One is Anglo-European, where there are linear, sequential, planned events. The other is Arabic, where time is an all-at-once event. … … … The Anglo-European type of time we call “Through Time,” and it is delineated by a Time Line that stretches from left to right (or right to left), or any other organization where all the past, present, and future are in front of you. The Arabic type of time, which we call “In Time,” is represented by a Time Line that stretches from front to back or any combination of past, present and future where a portion of the Time Line is inside your body, or behind the plane of your eyes.

Flying with time line…

I’d like you to float up above your Time Line again. And I’d like you to look at the continuum of past, present and future. Get up high enough so you can see the whole thing now. This time I’d like you to float out all the way into the future. Just go right up to just before the end of the future of your Time Line and turn around and look back toward now. You’re standing above your Time Line looking down on it so that you’re looking back all the way from the future, all the way across now, all the way into the past.

Guilt and shame…

Now, if you have discovered something near to lightweight guilt, I’d like you to float up above your Time Line. I’d like you to go back to one minute before the event about which you are guilty happened. Go back to one minute before the event about which you feel guilty and consider this question: Now, where’s the guilt? How many of you found that you were laughing? Do you still have the guilt? Some will say, “It’s right in front of me.” If that is what they say, then say, “is it in front of you, or is it gone now?” That will destroy the guilt of an event for almost everyone.

Sub modalities and time line…

It is most useful for a person to have a Time Line with contiguous or similar brightness, color, etc. The Time Line should have similar brightness, for example, running from the past through the future, with the future perhaps a little brighter than the past. The past should not be black or substantially darker than the future. The future should not be black or substantially darker than the past. When there is trauma, usually there are some gaps, holes and dark spaces in their Time Lines. In fact, dark areas are a tipoff that there has been trauma in the past.

Detaching Emotions

One of the other things I often like to do beforehand is to detach the emotional content of the memories. I’ll say something like this: “When you think of a specific event that is particularly unhappy for you, it’s OK for you to continue to remember that event, but perhaps you’d like to have the emotions detached from that event. As you think of that particular event, notice down at the lower right-hand corner a little hook there. What I’d like you to do is to unhook the emotions that are there, just unhook them. Now, step out of the picture and make sure you see yourself in the picture. Notice now that changes the event.” After you’ve done it with one event, you can do it with many. If they have a lot of negative events in their Time Line, you can then say, “What I’d like you to do now is to take all the events in the past that you’re not particularly happy about, unhook all the emotions that are there.” And it does happen. They unhook the emotions. Then the memories that remain are informational rather than negatively emotional.

We believe that the past should be informational rather than negatively emotional. We have learnings from the past. It is important that we learned from those events, and we probably stored those learnings in that special place we reserve for all such learnings. It is also important to remember that the past does not have to be negatively emotional. It should be informational, and it should contain positive emotions.