Temple of Jupiter. Pompeii, Italy. 200 BC.

NLP and Timeline Therapy

We can argue that the only physical reality is now. The past is a memory and the future only our imagination. However, the ways we view our pasts and our futures influence how we feel and what we do in the present.


Create a timeline by starting in the future and work back.

In a typical office session we discuss what and how you see yourself in some future state, condition and place. To create a big change in the present we start from the future we want and work backwards to the present. Then, when we’ve created our plan, we double check that it also works moving forward from the present.

Starting from the future we want helps us access appropriate resources and better states we would need to accomplish the future we want.  

Ericksonnian hypnosis teaches us that everything from the past can be a resource.

We can learn from all and any experiences.

  • Good memories give us useful states that we can use in the future.
  • Bad experiences teach us important lessons, and are often critical for our development.

The valuable teaching moment inherent in bad experiences is knowing how to discard any emotional baggage whilst extracting the life lessons the situation has demanded we learn. Sometimes it’s worth impartially looking at our past actions and asking what we’ve gained from that experience. We can focus on how we’re going to use what we’ve learnt, rather than focusing on the experience itself.


Typical in-office exercises.

There are many timeline exercises using visual, auditory and kinesthetic modalities. This exercise can be done whilst sitting down.

  1. Sit comfortably. Imaging the future before you as an ever-expanding triangle, full of colour and possibility. Imagine your past going off in a triangle behind. Spend a few moments considering the future you want and what you might do to achieve it.
  2. Imagine yourself far in the future when you’ve created and are living in the life that you want. What do you see, hear and feel? Fully associate into the image and take time to enjoy the feelings.
  3. Dissociate. Step outside yourself, and watch yourself in that future time. From this viewpoint, list the three key elements that helped you get there.
  4. Move halfway back to the present. What did you do to master those three elements? What could you do to further improve upon what you did?
  5. Come back to the present. What could you do now to start introducing those elements?
  6. Imagine yourself introducing those into your life. Imagine yourself moving forward, overcoming any possible blocks that might get in your way, and picking up additional resources, until you meet and exceed your original outcome.
  7. What advice does the future you have? From the time of having achieved your objective, what advice would you give the your younger (present) self?
  8. Start again from the present. Move to the future, this time taking account of the advice you’ve given yourself.
  9. Thank yourself for taking the time to invest in the planning of your future.


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