Timeline, a metaphor for healing low Self Esteem

This is the final section about the interventions used as part of my dissertation research into how NLP can be used to enhance Self Esteem.  I used a guided Timeline with an embedded “time heals” metaphor based on a process developed by Julie Silverthorn and John Overdurf.

 Timeline is an intervention generally attributed to Tad James and for those wishing to find out more I recommend his book “Timeline Therapy and the Basis of Personality”.

 Before moving into the main intervention we helped the participant elicit their time lines and understand the concept.



As part of the pre-frame, Joe and I facilitated a discussion about the paradox of time and the possibility that there is only “now”. This was designed to open people up to the understanding that we can choose when to change, heal or feel better about ourselves. Time is a convenient construct that we use to understand life.

 Most people were able to relate to the idea that “time heals” and we were able to build on this by suggesting that in order for this to happen three conditions needed to exist.

  1.  People need to move on.
  2. Look back and learn.
  3. Change their focus.

 With this guided process the participants were presented with the option of going into the future and connecting with future learnings ahead of schedule. The idea with this one was that instead of waiting until time healed at it’s own pace the participant could go into the future to find the learning for a current issue.

 Having identified the learning we encouraged them to store the learning and bring it back with them to the present applying it to the now. As this was a guided visualisation version of timeline we used Milton Model language patterns to enhance the process.

 There was a particularly powerful result reported by one of the participants in the debrief to the exercise. This particular woman began describing how she had been experiencing extreme back pain going into the exercise.

 As you can imagine I became a bit concerned at this point. From an ethics point of view I needed to check what the medical position was. She explained that she had been experiencing this back pain for over 15 years and that her doctors could not find a cause.

 She went on to describe how the pain had initially increased during the process and then she had bumped into the learning! She claimed that the pain at this point disappeared!

 Several weeks after the completion of the research she telephoned me again to report her progress. The pain had not returned and she had gone back to horseback riding, something she had not been able to do for some time.

 While this result is very exciting it is always important to remain cautious about the claims we make about the effectiveness of NLP on health issues. For this woman there certainly seemed to be a positive outcome. As a matter of ethics I always make sure people are receiving medical support and advice if they come to me with a health issue. Having said that this result was fantastic from a research perspective.

 Below, in their own words, are a few more of the participants experiences of this final exercise.

 Participant 1: “Also the session on timeline and the fact that the present is formed by the future has really made me realise how important the “now” is.”

 Participant 2: “I really enjoyed the “flying trance” sessions, looking back over my past and ahead to the future confirmed how lucky I am (and have been) and made me feel that everything will turn out OK.”  

 Participant 3: I came away feeling excited by the ideas – especially the quantum physics related thoughts of this being the potentialities of my future and as though I would be able to achieve more of what will challenge and fulfill me than simply getting back on the mortgage treadmill.  

 Next weeks blog will summarise the results of my research into how NLP enhances Self Esteem.

 To read my full dissertation check out our website.


About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
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