NLP timeline refers to the way you organize the concept of time on the inside. Everyone needs a way to differentiate among the personal past, present, and future.
Otherwise, you’d have no way of knowing if that romantic walk on the beach with your lover actually happened. If you were unable to sort the past and future, you’d be positively lost.
Without an organized concept of time, you might not be able to build new skills, learn from experience, or even know who you are. How could you create a personal narrative (a life story) if you didn’t know the past from the future?
In cognitive neuroscience, the subjective experience of time is called chronesthesia, which is defined as a form of consciousness that allows people to think about subjective time and to mentally travel in it.
Researchers admit they don’t know much about chronesthesia:
We know essentially nothing about perceived, remembered, known, and imagined time. When you remember something that you did last night, you are consciously aware not only that the event happened and that you were ‘there,’ as an observer or participant (‘episodic memory’), but also that it happened yesterday, that is, at a time that is no more. The question we are asking is, how do you know that it happened at a time other than ‘now’?
University of Toronto
The NLP timeline method has been around since the 1970’s. It’s apparently still the best tool we have to explore the subjective past and future. Too bad more people don’t know about it!
NLP timeline doesn’t create an inner timeline as much as reveal one. The NLP timeline is merely the reflection of the natural inner process you already use to properly sort the span of days, weeks, months and years. When you see your timeline, you’re seeing a representation of something that’s always been there, ever since you understood the concept of time.
NLP practitioners discovered that most people represent time spatially, which is why we tend to point in certain directions when referring to the past or future. A series of inner images that represent the past and future usually span from left to right or front to back – or any variation thereof. An impressive variety of shapes, colors, and movement often accompanies the timeline.
Common phrases about time can give clues to the direction of the inner timeline:
• Put the past behind you.
• You can look forward to a bright future.
Trained NLP practitioners learn how to help people discover their inner timeline, but why is this helpful? Here are a few of many outstanding reasons to discover your timeline.
Make important changes to your timeline that may transform your day-to-day life. Imagine, you’re subconsciously viewing time – your own past and future – in ways that create problems and limitations. And you have no idea how you’re doing it.
You may feel like you have a dim future, no future, or a wildly uncertain future. These feelings originate in your timeline, or at least it’s useful to assume so. Someone with a dim future will literally see dimness in the future timeline. The colors will be dull and there is often a shroud of sorts enveloping the future timeline.
Now we have something to work with! A dim future, once seen in the context of your timeline, can be brightened. This leads to greater motivation, a lighter mood, and greater productivity.
Some people do not have a clear representation of the future. Their future timeline may appear extremely short, scattered and non-existent. Seeing this introduces the opportunity to build a new future timeline and thus a purpose for moving forward in life.
The above concepts apply to any subjective experience of the future: uncertainty, overwhelm, apathy, anxiety, etc…will also coincide with timeline characteristics. It will all make sense!
For some, the past is ever-present. How this happens will be visible on a timeline. Perhaps the past is front and center, while the future begins off the distance. Conscious adjustments can be made to change this experience.
Sometimes there is a dark shadow on someone’s personal past. There may be good reasons for this, but sometimes the shadow is unexplainable. Either way, you can lighten up the past once you know your timeline. Be mindful of ecology. Many configurations of a past timeline can create symptoms. Once you use NLP to elicit your timeline, you can address the cause directly by conscious intervention.
Futures that are too big, too small, too scary or too boring…can be remade with an NLP timeline intervention. Pasts that are too close, too distant, or too disturbing…can be reorganized to reflect the qualities you want. It’s all about consciously influencing this deeply unconscious construct.
You can deliberately affect your past, present, and future with the NLP timeline technique. There may be no more direct, effective and immediate way to go about it.