Time Line Therapy and the Basis of Personality
by Tad James & Wyatt Woodsmall
I have long been a fan of Time Line Therapy and find it to be one of the most powerful techniques in the field of NLP. In this book from 1988, James and Wyatt give a very clear description of Time Line Therapy including how to elicit the Time Line, release a limiting decision or trauma, remove anxiety, or set a goal in the future Time Line. All of these are explained with clear language and easy-to-follow steps. For this alone, this book is well worth having, but it offers much much more.
In Section I, the authors explain the NLP Communication Model and the filters which we use as we process the world around us. At their best, these filters delete, distort, and generalize experience so that we can function effectively in the world. When they are optimal, they limit our options and cause problems in our lives. These filters are the substance of the NLP expression: The Map is Not the Territory. In other words, the way that we represent the world in our heads is not the same as the world itself.
The filters include: Metaprograms, Values, Beliefs, Attitudes, Memories and Decisions. The authors postulate that these form the basis of our personalities, and after the excellent description of Time Line Therapy in Section II, Section III explores Meta Programs in great detail and Section IV explores the formation, evolution, and changing of values.
The description of meta programs in Section III is divided into simple meta programs and complex meta programs. Simple meta programs are based on Jung’s work into human archetypes and also form the basis of the Myers Briggs personality testing system. These are Introvert/Extravert, Intuitor/Sensor, Thinker/Feeler, and Judger/Perceiver. In another post, I described the complex meta programs discussed in this book. Many different NLP trainers and researchers have explored a variety of Meta Programs, but the description and means of elicitation described in this book are among the best to be found.
Section IV is a very valuable discussion of Values. James and Woodsmall give a nice metaphor for values and beliefs. If beliefs are considered to be cups, then values can be considered to be the cup holders onto which they hook. In other words, beliefs are supported by values. The authors also make the suggestion that beliefs are generally conscious, whereas values are more embedded in the unconscious mind. In particular, core values can be completely invisible to the conscious mind unless we explicitly explore them in some way. Even more unconscious are meta programs which are the unconscious strategies by which we live our lives. This section also includes an excellent exercise for eliciting values and shows how the hierarchy/order of values can be changed by altering the submodalities.
The book finishes with a long transcript of a therapy session with a cocaine addict which illustrates many of the concepts of the book very well and shows how personality can potentially be changed in positive and practical ways in order to help people to live happier lives.
Much of the material in this book has found its way into NLP practitioner courses around the world, but returning to the original source is always valuable and highly recommended for anyone interested in either Time Line therapy or the nature of human personality.