Preframing Time Line Processes

by Lynn Timpany, NLP Trainer.


Time Line Therapy is a fabulous way of releasing emotions from past events. It is one of the crinkles in the hair-clip of human change!

I have developed a systematic way of pre-framing Time Line Therapy in such a way as to enhance all clients ability to accept and utilise the change possible. you may have found that some clients don't find it easy to 'just do' the process. Worrying about 'doing it right' or analysing can interfere with relaxed easy change.

Pre-framing techniques are not about what is true or correct. They are a way of rationalising the process to both minds in such a way as to allow them to allow change.

As the banks of a river allow the water to flow, the conscious mind can open and allow and guide unconscious communication.

Having a frame work on which to place this unusual and valuable experience can profoundly influence the likelihood that the change will be integrated and generalised. If the conscious mind has a way of understanding and making sense of the experience then it is easier for it to relax and enjoy an unconscious change.

Margot Hamblett and myself presented some of our ideas about preframing Time Line Therapy? to a group of practitioners at the NTINLP National Gathering in Christchurch earlier this year. While I was explaining that the workshops outcome was for participants to understand the principles of reframing and be able to generate their own, rather than to be given specific examples, a participant was overheard to say

'Bugger the principles, I just want to know the words she used just then!'

This ones for you!


Preframing the principle of Time Line Therapy?

Gain agreement at each step of the preframe before proceeding.

1. About the unconscious mind (UM)

Define: 'When I say the unconscious mind, I mean all of your neurology that isn't your conscious thoughts. Your unconscious mind organises your body, keeps your heart beating, stores your memories...

2. Your UM responds to conscious thoughts.

I usually demonstrate this by doing the pointing exercise.

In the exercise you ...

'see how far you can point around, arm straight, keeping your back straight, keeping yourself safe, until you feel tightness and tension. Notice where you are pointing. Remember that place. Come on back and keep your feet in the same place.'

'Now I'd like you to create an image in your mind of how it would look if you could point this much further (gesturing about a medium fish length)? What would you be seeing if you could go that much further? What would you say to yourself if you can go that much further? How would you feel if you can go that much further with total ease and flexibility? Have you ever seen a cat or a dog go all the way around and lick themselves on their other side? Just imagine for a moment that you were as flexible as that! Imagine how it would look if you could go that much further (gesturing a very large fish length)! What would you be seeing if you can do that now? What would you say to yourself if you could go that far? How would it be to feel that totally flexible? Go that? Great, now just do it! (model smoothly and confidently turning around)'

Generally at the point where the client notices that they have gone at lot further than they expected there if a significant state change. I usually anchor the phrase 'that's right' in a trance voice to that state, if there is a good shift.

3. Your UM doesn't differentiate real and unreal.

Making this statement often causes looks of total disbelief, which is really fun, because it is so easy to demonstrate!

'Most people have been to a horror movie and had a fright, and had adrenalin and all kinds of biochemical changes in their body, even though they knew it wasn't real.'

'Think of your favourite food. What is it that you really love to eat? (Talk about that food a little). Now notice that you're salivating! Even though your conscious mind knows that there's none of that food here, your UM just responds to the representations that you put through your conscious mind as if they were real! That's how we can change so many things here by thinking and imagining things that aren't even real. Your UM responds as if they were real.'

4. Your UM codes time on memories.

'It must, mustn't it? Otherwise you wouldn't know the difference between a memory that was from last week and a memory from 10 years ago!'

5. Your UM codes meaning and emotion on memories.

'When you think of a memory now, you know what it means to you. The meaning is coded in the nervous system so that when you think of the memory you "just know" what it meant, whether it was fun or boring, or whether its something that you are motivated to do, or not. Also emotion is either coded onto the memory, or not. For example, most people can think of a memory that was unpleasant at the time, and yet when they think of it now, there is no feeling there, it's just one of those things that happened in the past (shoulder shrug). And yet some memories when people think of them they can actually feel the emotion as they think of the memory. Are you familiar with that difference? It's a very important difference. When we have had an unpleasant experience, and when we get to be able to think about it and it feels neutral, that's what we think of as healing. What we can do with Time Line Therapy? is dramatically accelerate this natural process of healing.'

Emotions are time dependant.

'You can't get angry about something tomorrow! Anger is in the past. If you really wanted to get angry about something in the future you would have to actually imagine that the event had already happened! Then it would be in the past relative to you.'

'What these things all mean then, is if you imagine yourself before anger had ever existed, the unconscious mind acts as if that were true, as the emotion cannot exist in the future, it deletes it off the coding. 'Just like that!' Isn't that so simple!'

Preframing the process of Time Line Therapy?

Trust you ability to pretend it in any way that you like.

'You know that your unconscious mind responds to representations that you put through it regardless of whether they are real or true or not. You know that your unconscious mind does sometimes use symbols. That's why your dreams can be a little strange! Right? So it's much more important that you trust your hunch or imagination. It may even feel like you are making it up. That's OK. We are going to test a memory before and after the process, so that means that you can relax, you'll know at the end when we check the test memory that it's works perfectly for you, if not we'll do something more afterwards. This process is not about what's true or correct, it's a way of communicating to the UM in a way that causes the UM to change the way that memories are coded.

Elicit time line

'Your UM must code a sense of time on memories in order for you to know whether a memory is from last week of ten years ago. Right? And most of us think of time as being linear and sequential. So if time were like a long line, and you were sitting here at now, which you are, which direction would the past be? And which direction would the future be? If you knew... you know.'

Demonstrate with a simple memory

Doing a demonstration of the process allows you set useful anchors.

1) Relaxation/ trance anchors such as music, tonal and tempo voice shifts.

2) Dissociation anchors such as tonal and head position shifts with a key phrase such as 'way up above'.

'I'd invite you to experience how this process works with a memory that isn't too important to you, but one that has enough emotion that you can feel it when you think of the memory, and you will know when it's gone. Something like "the dog ripped up the rubbish bag", or "someone nicked your parking spot"!'

'Now that you've picked one, I'd like you to check as you think of that memory now, can you feel that emotion? Where do you feel it in your body? So you'll know for sure when that emotion has disappeared? Great.'

I generally do the process on this exact memory, before I explain root cause etc.

Draw attention to the change and ease of change. Validate the persons skill at doing the process as exceptional.

'Isn't that amazing! Can you imagine how good you'd feel about life if you let go of all the bad feelings off the past! You did that really well! That means you'll be able to achieve a lot here.'

If the emotion hasn't totally disappeared, explain that the reason for that is that we haven't taken the root cause into account yet. Validate the shift that did occur and explain the model.

The Time Line Model

Gestalts: I generally explain the principle of gestalts using a 'string of pearls' analogy.

'When a number of events have happened, and a similar negative emotion has been stored with the memory, the emotion can collapse down and become like one unit that connects memories, like the string in a string of pearls. For example, with people who have a lot of anger a fairly small event may trigger a lot of emotion, like the 'last straw broke the camels back' type reaction. Or like having buttons pushed, or emotions whooshing in from nowhere. Do you know what that's like?'

Root cause: 'The very first event in that string, the very first time that a younger you ever, ever would have experience that emotion at all.'

Past life/ genealogical: For those people who have a problem with these possibilities I explain these two categories as being a way of utilising the symbolic nature of the unconscious mind.

'The unconscious mind responds to your thoughts, not to what is real or true (remember the pointing exercise, or how you respond in movies). UM often uses symbols, that's why dreams can be a little strange. It isn't important whether it is real or true, so much as it is to relax and trust your hunch, your imagination. This process is a way of communicating to your unconscious mind to change the way is has coded something.'

Pre and post test: I think that it is essential to test each time line process. The pre and post test format facilitates both you and the client in being totally convinced that a change has indeed occurred. I use the analogy of the string of pearls when explaining this. The memories are connected via the string that is the emotion. We pull the string from the beginning of the chain and then test further on to check that it is gone totally.

'Choose a memory from your adult life where you can fee that emotion. I'd like you to check, as you think of that memory, now, can you feel that emotion? Where do you feel it in your body? Are you sure that you will know when it's gone? Just feel it enough to know that you will know when it's totally gone.'

After completing the Time Line Therapy? process with the root cause event I ask the client to check the test memory.

'Go right ahead now and think of the memory that you chose as a test when we started this change. As you think of that time now, just notice how it feels to think of that now. Has that feeling totally disappeared, or is it just totally different now... or not?

Validate any signs of humour , or confusion.

'That's right! Isn't that amazing?'

If there is still emotion there you can do a parts integration or core outcome process, repeat the time line, and then re-check the test memory as above.

Elicit and fill convincer strategy.

'When you've lost something, and you are looking for it, how many times do you look in the same place before you are totally convinced that it's not there?'

'OK, so just go ahead and check that test memory again, and try and find that emotion and find that you cannot.'

You can repeat as many times as it takes to fill their convincer, or until you see the physiological shift that generally occurs at the point that the threshold is crossed.

Future pacing.

Future pacing the change onto the future time line is the final step in this process. It's a good idea to have the client do check on the ecology of the change.

'As you float right out there into the future to a time where previously you may have had that old reaction and notice how different it is out there now. Go right ahead and imagine that future you responding in a totally appropriate way. Notice how good that change is. Is there anything else that needs to change out there, or is it totally comfortable?


The way in which a process is presented to the client does dramatically influence the quality and speed of change. By noticing what works, and changing what doesn't, we can all continue to refine our effectiveness as practitioners. This is oiling the wheels of change. I hope that this information assists you in sharing this wonderful tool with others in ways that enhance all of our lives.