What does your timeline look like? How do you see time in your head? I was listening to tapes by Alan Konell – he does the best explanation of timelines I have come across – and it set me thinking.
We all have a concept of time, but how we actually picture it tells us a lot about how we relate to life. Where do you see your past? Straight behind you or perhaps stretching off to the left. It makes a huge difference to how you feel. My past was over to me left, with my childhood way over. What I didn't realize is that it is within sight – always there out of the corner of my eye, a path that's easy to meander down. Very convenient for reminiscing. Our first date is at hand to enjoy again, but so are the bad bits, the mistakes, the squirming moments when my solar plexus cringes.
So one day, I had had enough. I took the ribbon of my past and put it behind me, straight out the back like a tail. And it was remarkable how freeing that was – just that imagery. Of course, it distanced the good memories, which may be why I had kept my past so conveniently to hand. So I decided to make a mental photo album of good memories, which I can open and visit, sit and enjoy.
Rather like the way I learned to cope with our daughter settling 15,000 miles away. I missed her so much at first and then realized that even when she lived in Canada, I didn't see her daily. So I could say, “This is one of the days when I am not seeing her – just an ordinary day.” Then I would put on the tape of her wedding music and indulge in half an hour of happy memories, before shutting them down and reverting to my normal practical day.
But what about the future? Where did i put that? Did it run ahead smoothly? Were there kinks in the road or corners I couldn't see round? According to NLP theory, how you picture time ahead really affects how you handle life. For example, when I dream up a project, I can see the result clear and bright. It is simply the matter of getting there. My husband always frustrates me by listing all the intervening problems, which has probably saved me quite a few mistakes. On asking him, somewhat irritably one day, I found he saw each step like a pop up picture dead in front of him and he couldn't even see the end product till each had been methodically dealt with and removed.
A friend had terrible difficulties making decisions. She, it turned out, saw each decision stretching like a railroad track inexorably into the future, with no possibility of adaptation. Of course, she couldn't get started – until she built in visual stepping stones where she could rest, regroup and, if necessary, alter course.
So having tucked my past neatly away, with my memory picture book on my coffee table, what do I do with the future? It was rather a shock – my future, which had always stretched ahead and slightly to the right, like a sunlit path, now seemed rather dimmed. Pain, I realized, had taken away a lot of possibilities and much of my energy has gone towards “not minding” when another door has slammed in my face. Huge emotional growth, but little forward movement, in fact, mainly trying not to slide back.
I also realize that I am unlikely to climb Everest, hang glide or even easily travel. So what does the future look like? Up to me! If I don't have a long view, and probably at my age, I don't, then why not a broad one? So I looked through a wide-angled lens – no longer a ribbon path, but more like a view from a hill or a picture window, huge and many coloured like a sunset. The brilliance surprised and entranced me – suddenly I don't know where it will take me, but only that it is immeasurably beautiful. And I am not afraid.
I want to stress that I write this blog, not because I think I am interesting or important, but because I am endlessly curious about how life, our psyches and our souls work. And I see each step I discover as another clue in a fascinating and universal story.
The Six Week Pain Solution: a Radical Effective New Approach to Fibromyalgia, Back Pain, Migraines and More by Alan Konell, MSW. This is the best explanation so timelines I have read. It came as a free kindle book; the meditations can be downloaded for $14.99. I found them really helpful, even though I already knew the NLP basis and had used it before. His approach worked far better for me than any of the highly recommended meditation programs (I'll try them all if it helps my pain). However, none of the programmes have dented my pain, but Alan's moved me forward as a human being.
An interesting NLP timeline exercise – link