Time Line

This article details a lesson from a Practitioner Certification Class in 2001

At times, shifting the subject’s perception of the present time can be useful in influencing him or her to change now. Though in this moment, this very present moment, no one would think to question exactly “What is ‘now’?” This fact can become very useful as you note, breathing in, that each moment brings new experiences, every second unfolds, gently and patiently, new information, new knowings, which, a moment later, become the newly known.

For any of that to make sense, we must understand the concept of the Time Line. This is the way that we orient ourselves in time, spatially. By that, I mean that in order to differentiate past, present, and future, we all organize time in some fashion so as we “look” at them, we can orient any event along that continuum.

Many times people don’t even realize we do this, so we can establish credibility with them right away by helping elicit this with them. Asking questions that require a temporal orientation will nonverbally reveal the location spatially.

Time Lines themselves can vary a good deal, though many people in Western culture orient their past to present to future from left to center to right, respectively. Many others orient their future in front of them, their past literally behind, as though the Time Line runs behind, through, and in front of them. We elicit this for ourselves or another person by asking questions that require an orientation in time such as, “Imagine something you do nearly every day…like waking up in the morning, brushing your teeth, showering…something like that. Since this is the same event, I imagine you don’t greatly vary the process each time, right? So I’m curious about how, when you have to recall different instances of that same thing, how you tell them apart. Let’s try it. Imagine a time when you did this thing…

…a year in the past
…a month in the past
…last week
…the present
…two weeks into the future
…a year into the future”

As you (or they) respond nonverbally, note the location in space where their eyes settle. If they move too quickly or they move around a bit, just ask, “When you see something from a year in the past, show me where it is—the picture looks to me like it’s over here, am I understanding? Okay, and how about with that picture here, where is a memory from last month? It looks to me like it’s here, right?” (Note the line and direction between the two.) “What about something from last week?” (Continue this process until you’ve established their Time Line and could gauge with reasonable precision where a particular event might fall on their Time Line.

Next, ask how they differentiate those—specifically, how do they know this instance of brushing their teeth was “yesterday” versus “a year ago”? Even more interestingly, how do they know where to put an instance of that event on the Time Line in the “yesterday” position versus the “tomorrow” position? How are they different in the person’s mind? In many cases, the submodalities of the different times will also differ, enabling the person to readily distinguish the times. After a bit of this testing, you should have a Time Line determined, and you can fill in memories or imaginings from various points accurately onto that Time Line. Assess which direction the Time Line runs. Is it straight? Does it curve, etc?

Next, determine whether that Time Line is effective for yourself or the person with whom you’re working. Is there a point where you have difficulty recalling or picturing anything before or after a certain point? Is there anything about the Time Line that might explain this, such as a dark spot or, as I had a client once say to me, “that part of the Time Line is blurry, like the ink hadn’t dried and someone wiped it with solvent.” You can suggest that they adjust the submodalities accordingly to change this. Every aspect of time is very literally relative. This includes our Time Lines, so we can modify them in any way we find useful.

When we want to use Time Line to influence our future, we use our Time Line as a tool for change. First, specify an outcome, stated as completely and simply as possible.

Next, create a detailed image of the desired outcome. Make it seem very real by supplying the VAK data as thoroughly as possible.

After this, imagine floating “above” your Time Line and go into the future to a time you feel would be the soonest you could easily imagine having accomplished this outcome. Insert that detailed image, with full VAK information, into that point in the Time Line. Associate into that image, noticing your feelings and adjust the submodalities until you feel that image is realistic.

Now float back “up” over your Time Line and look back toward the present. Notice that all the events between then and now are changing and rearranging to fully support achieving the desired outcome.

Finally, return to the present and now look toward the future, noting that the accomplishment of the desired outcome sets a direction of achievement.

To demonstrate this process, I called upon a person I observed “watching” their Time Line as I described the process, over their head. “Would you be willing to explore your Time Line and new possibilities for your exciting future with us now—here at the front of the room!”

As he walks up to the front, I thank him and ask whether he’s already identified his Time Line, though I don’t mention that I’m confident he has.

He says he has, so I tell the group, “Again, use that sensory acuity to elicit his Time Line. Note what he does when I ask him certain questions…”

I then address him, saying, “What is a task you do every morning?”

“You mentioned brushing my teeth, so I used that one.”

“Great. So it’s safe to say you brushed your teeth a year ago, today. Can you show us where that is?”

His eyes traveled to his far left as he said, “Of course.” He then pointed to the same location as his eyes had traveled.

“And you did so this morning as well? Would you show us where that is?”

He laughed, looking at and pointing slightly to his left.

“Now, you’re going to do it tomorrow, right? Where is that image?”

He pointed and looked at a spot slightly to his right.

“Nice. So what about this very day, but next year? Where is that?”

He pointed much further to his right, following his eyes.

“Anybody want to ask about other times?”

A couple of participants asked for different times, and he confirmed what we had already seen about his Time Line.

“Great. Next what we want to do is identify something you would like in the future. A goal or outcome, but something really compelling. Your physiology suggests that you have something good in mind! Fully develop the VAK, see it clearly, feel it, hear anything relevant to it, experience it as though you already have it. Now float above your Time Line…look down at it…good…I want you to float out above that Time Line, into the future, but only to the soonest point in time where you could easily imagine it happening. It has to be realistic for you. If I am reading your Time Line correctly, that would be some time in the next year, no?”

He nodded.

“Okay, nice. So we’re going to take that powerful image of your outcome, in its full VAK glory, and—not yet—but, soon, we’re going to insert it with a powerful ‘boom!’ into your Time Line at that exact point. And the second we do it, you’re going to associate into that image, feeling, seeing, hearing it, as though it’s right NOW! Okay, are you ready? And it’s your Time Line, your image, your outcome, and your success…so if it makes another sound besides a ‘boom!’ that’s of course fine with all of us! Okay—ready, NOW! Go ahead and adjust the submodalities as necessary for you to experience that, making it real for you in that future NOW.”

He grinned widely.
“Now, again float up above your Time Line and look back at the present. You might notice all of us in the training room back there. Notice how all the events between then and now are changing, rearranging to completely support achieving that outcome. Nice. Lastly, return to the present and now look forward to the future…notice that the accomplishment of this desired outcome set a direction for its achievement. Thank you!”

When we finished, I invited students to ask questions, everything that would facilitate their repeating the process in the exercise to follow.

Once everyone has had the chance to elicit and then install an outcome onto a Time Line, we again verified that everyone understood what we have done. Our subjective orientation in time gives us the ability to organize, influence and develop events in our history as well as our future to better support our desired outcomes.

Copyright © 2021 Chris Gingolph

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