In this section, we will look at Time Line Therapy™ (created by master trainer and genius NLP developer, Tad James) from the perspective of reprocessing. This will show us how reprocessing experiences along the timeline can help people refine their thinking and respond more effectively. We will also draw from cognitive behavioral therapy. This structure can be good for expediting personal growth, processing the little “t” traumas in our lives, or working with more challenging issues. People can become much more successful and at ease from processing a good number of small traumas. First, we’ll run through this process without specific examples. Then we will do the full process for a case example. You’ll notice that this is a summary of Time Line Therapy™ that shows how to integrate reprocessing. If you don’t already know Time Line Therapy ™, I encourage you to learn it in depth.
A cognitive therapist might call it a dysfunctional or irrational cognition. And EMDR therapist might call it a negative cognition. We like to call it bad code, because this highlights the fact that we make decisions about the world and ourselves when we go through experiences, especially intense, traumatic, or otherwise overwhelming experiences. Most of us have “encoded” some of these experiences in an immature way, because we weren’t ready for them. Unfortunately, these decisions about the world or about ourselves become part of our reality, like water to a fish; unquestioned. Just as a computer doesn’t question the code that runs it, we are driven to some degree by irrational decisions made under duress. The place where these decisions reside is called implicit memory. We call it “sticky memory” because implicit memory is unconscious and unquestioned. It is simply the “truth.” In essence, bad code is the unwise perspective that you get from an experience that you weren’t ready for. If you had been fully ready for the experience, it would already be wisdom and you wouldn’t be in therapy for it.
If you learn from an experience, then you have made “good code” out of it. When you reprocess bad code into rational or functional thinking, then you have converted bad code into good code.
You know about triggers. In this approach, we are talking about triggers of bad code. This can be any situation that bears some similarity to the one that generated the bad code. It may not look like the situation; it need only have similar implications or meaning.
As in Time Line Therapy™, reprocessing may have its best impact when we go back to the situation that occurred first in causing you to create the bad code. At the most simple level, you would reprocess the experience using whatever reprocessing tools you felt were most appropriate. You would help your client move from bad code to good code, using whatever cognitive therapy skills where applicable.
These are things that resemble the source event and that reinforced or compounded the bad code. They are more influential than mere trigger events, because they are more overwhelming or happened at an early enough age to help form and strengthen bad code in important ways.
These are what I like to call imaginary memories of the future. That is, future imaginings that help to build the client’s sense of hope, meaning, and ability.
Sometimes, with reprocessing, this happens as if by magic, with little intervention at a cognitive level. The greatest share of the work might be in helping the client know what and how to target, rather than how to refine their thoughts about it. In other words, the things you do to trigger reprocessing may not need to include cognitive therapy in order to get a profound cognitive shift. It depends on the client and the issue you are working on.
Whatever skills your client needs to learn to enhance relationships, self-care, etc., they are best learned after their source and echo events are reprocessed. This is because trauma and overwhelm cause lasting shut downs of parts of the brain. This affects learning and memory, especially where touchy issues are concerned.
Your client tells you that her relationships are not very satisfying. Somehow, she stands back. She finds herself judging people, even though she doesn’t really feel that she wants to be a judgmental person. It doesn’t feel like a choice so much as a temperament. As you help her clarify things, she realizes that she doesn’t really trust people. You have explained to her that the best bad code examples are the ones that are irrational, and you help her come up with the bad code of her mistrust, which is pretty basic: “I can’t trust anyone.” She sees that it make sense that she would have various ways of keeping her distance from people if she can’t trust them. Judging them helps her maintain that distance and refrain from the risks that trust entails.
The earliest memories that she has in connection with not trusting people were from her childhood. She has always been a pretty independent thinker, but her parents were very religious and they judged her thinking, which was anything but doctrinaire. This leads you to think that her good code will have to do with being able to trust her judgement about people, and being able to fully own the fact that she is an adult and no longer under the scrutiny of her parents. As you help her come up with the good code that she would like to take the place of her bad code, it seems too simple to just say, “I can trust people.” After all, she is a skeptical person, and she knows that you can’t trust everyone. Perhaps, you say, it should be something like, “I can trust myself to create meaningful relationships.” This touches something in her, because it brings her closer to the grief that she has buried regarding the betrayal of her childhood by her very rigid parents. She decides that this is pretty good, and she understands that she can refine this as she goes along. You like this good code, because it represents success and flexibility.
You have her look back over her timeline and identify some of the more recent events that have triggered her tendency to distance and be judgmental. She realizes that part of the pattern includes her having difficulty expressing her most vulnerable feelings from a powerful place. This results in rarely exposing herself. This has really affected her primary relationship, in particular. You make a mental note that this is an important skill that she will need to learn in order to really make her work with you translate into a better life. You’ll certainly want to have her practice the Vision Communication Protocol from this book.The triggers that she comes up with don’t seem to have much of a theme. As she said before, it’s more like a state of mind that she carries with her into most situations. But she is most judgmental of people she does not know very well, and of people who are making bad judgments, especially if they are inconsiderate toward her. But it isn’t being judgmental that is the problem so much as being preoccupied with judging people and carrying around a feeling of distance from people that is salted with mistrust.
Now you have her go back through her timeline and identify the source event. You might use timeline visualization for this. As she thinks back through her life, she gets to her earliest memory of feeling a lack of trust. She realizes that the ongoing pattern of judgmentality in her own mind is what she absorbed from her parents. She is carrying on the reality that she grew up in. But she is able to remember a harsh interaction with her mother that left a strong impression when she was very young and starting to ask too many questions for her parents’ comfort. This is her earliest memory that has the themes of judgmentality, mistrust, and betrayal. She was precocious and developed abstract thinking that her parents could not understand. As a child seeking the truth, her trust was fundamentally violated.
Your client sees that there are many situations that came along after this, though none of them had a strong impact. The strongest echo event happened when she was a teenager, and realized how important it was for her to get out on her own. She didn’t just need this for her independence, but for her own sanity. At least it felt that way to her.
She defines future success, so far as this issue is concerned, with being at peace around people, and appreciating her own power and ability to exercise realistic judgment about others. A lot of it is just about accepting the truth that she has good judgment about people. She describes feeling confident and at peace in various situations. She imagines how she would be flexible and not distracted by people who are inconsiderate or quirky.
Knowing all this, you are in a good position to reprocess the source event. You will target this, along with her feelings of judgment, betrayal, and insecurity. As you go, you will bring up the bad code and target that as well. If the process is simple, you will find that the bad code has less and less power, and the good code makes more and more sense at a gut level. Unless you have training and supervised experience in reprocessing and cognitive work, you will want to only do reprocessing with situations that do not involve serious dysfunction, substance abuse, or dissociation.
Working With The Time Line
An NLP practitioner familiar with Time Line Therapy™ will find countless ways to integrate reprocessing into this work. In fact, they will probably recognize ways that it is already in play and can be enhanced. The visualization of the time line that occurs at the same time as more conscious, verbal processing creates a kind of bilateral stimulus that promotes a reprocessing state. We believe this is a key reason that Time Line Therapy ™ works for so many people.
From the reprocessing to the timeline work:
Let’s say that you have directly reprocessed an issue. You may have gotten to it in doing the timeline work, or it may have been a presenting problem. You can do timeline work from this point through means such as sophisticated future pacing.
From timeline work into reprocessing:
You can travel back into the timeline to find additional echo events. In Time Line Therapy ™, source and echo events are addressed through means such as bringing in the client’s adult self to contact the child, or imagining resources being in place. An alternative is to directly do reprocessing, and then see what additional timeline methods are necessary. This can greatly expedite timeline work and make it more consistently effective with a broader range of clients.
More integration with cognitions:
Now that you know how negative cognitions work in reprocessing, you can integrate this into timeline work. You can identify how a negative (or limiting) cognition has played out through the timeline and recalibrate the timeline as a result of reprocessing that allows the client to fully accept a positive cognition.
As you help the client undo their bad code, you need to know how powerful it is. You can ask the client to tell you, on a scale of one to ten, how true the code seems. You must make sure that the client understands that you are talking about how true it feels. They must not rate it by how logical it is. You are, after all, working with illogical code. But you can do the same with good code. When the client begins working with good code, they will tell you that, although they understand that it is true, it doesn’t “feel” very true.
When they think of it, something at gut level signals them that they cannot completely accept it on a feeling level. Again, they can help you know where things are by rating its gut level power on a scale of one to ten.
You can even focus your targeting more effectively by having them target the feeling between this rating and a ten. If they only give it a six, what are the feelings and impressions that are holding it down to that level? Target those for reprocessing.
Tracking and processing source event power:
The source event is disturbing in some way or ways. Ask the client what is most disturbing or upsetting about it. That is what you target. To track the power of the source event, ask them to rate those disturbing feelings on a scale of one to ten. When reprocessing is working, the number will go down. As you’ll recall, we have talked about identifying feelings and helping the client cooperate with processes through “economy of speech.” Those elements are very helpful with reprocessing.