How could I be an adult fixing dinner for my family and feel like an adolescent whose world was crumbling from the fear of being ousted from my social circle? Was it possible that I could feel the grossness in my gut from junior high school three decades later? Being emotionally transported back into adolescence occurred a few times each year for me until it was permanently healed, in one session, with timeline therapy.
The Healing Timeline is a remarkable new Christian counseling method. As in all methods, it has a few similarities to previous counseling techniques, yet is vastly different in other ways.
The Healing Timeline (HTL) works faster and differently than traditional forms of counseling and appears to rewire the neural networks of the brain enabling rapid resolution of emotions tied to events transforming them into more positive thoughts and behaviors. It is not an old method accelerated; it is a whole new approach to emotional transformation. We hypothesize that the Healing Timeline changes the brain which causes the transformation to be permanent. One client of the method said, "For years I have heard the back of my brain talking to me but I have never found a way to talk back. The Healing Timeline has given me a way to go back to the bad parts of my life and explain that it's over."
Healing Junior High Thirty Years Later
Using the timeline, a friend gave me the chance to go back to the years of junior high school and finally explain to my brain that the bad parts were over.
Moving in sixth grade, I left elementary school on Friday, and was enrolled the next week in a junior high school a thousand miles away. Sixth-grade students were at the bottom of the social ladder and I was a neophyte in the world of adolescents - vulnerable prey for junior high sharks. Once a week or so, a supposed friend would share the gossip that someone was mad at me and my stomach turned into the debilitating feeling of rejection. Unfortunately, this gut shot from junior high school seemed to operate on its own well after adolescence. No matter how many decades passed, several times a year an event would happen and my stomach automatically turned into the sour, jelly mess of my youth. Although I was a fully functioning adult, my emotions had reverted on their own to 'Junior High Cathy.'
To heal this repeated feeling, my friend asked me to remember being in junior high school. Doing so, I explained the worst of it to her and she led me through a timeline of my life in which I pictured a personal memory from age 13, then a different memory for age 14, 15, etc. up to my current age. With a few other steps, we repeated this sequence three times over an hour. The final time I imagined myself in junior high school she asked if I felt any distress.
"No," I answered truthfully. The icky junior high feeling was completely gone. Although it had been present when we started the session, after three timelines the physical and emotional feeling had vanished.
"Then we're done," she cheerfully said.
That's it? I remembered thinking. A feeling I have lived with for decades is gone - just gone?!
My head was swimming in bed that night. All the repetitions of the timeline had memories swirling in my mind, yet I felt very, very different and deeply relieved. No counseling session or inner healing prayer had ever been as effective as my experience that evening. I could feel emotional tectonic plates shifting. Not a trace of the frightened Junior High Cathy remained inside. On a profoundly deep level I understood that I was no longer in junior high school. I was living as an adult and always would be. My brain finally got the idea that Junior high school was really over.
The next morning I felt even more like an adult inside. The interior shifts kept occurring and I knew something very profound had happened. I never again felt like Junior High Cathy. Not once, in five years, have I been emotionally transported back into that dreaded condition of being a rejected adolescent in an adult's body. On the few occasions where I have encountered the junior high behavior of others, their responses did not recreate for me the earlier trauma. In each of those situations I felt and acted like an adult and my stomach did not turn into the acidic glob of shame and isolation from my youth.
Peggy Pace is my friend who developed a specific process for repeating a timeline of memories in her therapy. The method is copyrighted by Peggy Pace and evolved into the book and therapy Lifespan Integration: Connecting Ego States Through Time. I was so impressed by my personal experience that I learned and began using her timeline method as well. The results were astounding.
My professional counseling practice had been informed by twenty years of Christian inner healing prayer. Because her method is copyrighted, I secured Peggy's written permission to combine the repeated use of a timeline with inner healing prayer. It is a simplified, specifically Christ-centered version of using a timeline of memories in prayer counseling. The method described here is designed for lay and pastoral counselors.
To implement The Healing Timeline: God's Shalom for the Past, Present and Future ( HTL), the spirit and image of Christ is invited into earlier memories. A prayer counselor then leads the client into a timeline of his or her life composed of real memories from their lifetime. The repetitions of the timeline prove to the client that their hurtful experience is over. It is hypothesized that repetitions of the timeline create lasting, neural change in the brain. This hypothesis will be fully developed in a later chapter. By combining a timeline with inner healing prayer, the outcomes are exponentially greater than Christian talk therapy or inner healing alone. The method enables clients to really understand, on a mental and emotional level, that their old traumas and hurts are over. These changes appear to be permanent.
We are a composite of all our life experiences. When people fully understand on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level that the bad things in life are over, they are free to respond to today's challenges without the collective angst from yesterday's hurts. The case study in this book Pastors Need Help, Too tells the story of a man with whom my prayer partner and I had used inner healing prayer and biblical counseling for several years. When we added a timeline to the work, he had lasting, life-changing shifts unlike anything we had seen before.
Rings of the Tree
One way to think about this collective description of ourselves is to consider the rings of a tree. People, like trees, are cumulative. When we grow we do not stop being one age when we become the next age. An eight-year-old boy does not stop being seven when he turns eight. Instead, he becomes an eight-year-old with the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the previous seven years. Humans are made up of all their years of life, just as a tree is comprised of all its rings.
We can look at the cross section of a tree and see the conditions in which it was grown. Fire, drought, good soil, and abundant rain produce very different growing conditions for the tree. In the same way, people carry inside themselves the conditions in which they were raised. Good or bad circumstances of their growing up years become the physical and emotional self that makes up their 'human tree.' Every thought, perception and experience laid down in the human brain and body becomes part of the human self. When the Holy Spirit shines his light through us, he is radiating through every one of our rings.
Planted in our DNA, like the seed that becomes a tree, are our spiritual gifts, talents and calling. While we are growing, these gifts and talents are developing inside us. The conditions in which we grow affect how well our abilities flourish. Like trees, we have a DNA directive for who we can become and our experiences in the world either enrich or hinder that development. Fortunately, we never lose the God-given creation of who we are even though circumstances may stifle it.
This collective self, comprised of God-given gifts and life experience, is the person we carry through the world. When hurtful things happen, we can trigger a young ring from inside which informs us to run away or strike out with childish words. These thoughts and behaviors automatically activate when defenses are called for. A child who grew up in a violent home will have violent rings to draw from when facing the challenges of life. All rings can be triggered at any time. The neurons in these rings fire whether we want them to or not and inform how we respond to situations today.
Obviously, the structure of our human minds and bodies is infinitely more complex than the rings of a tree. Yet, the analogy to us is clear. Even though we were created in our mother's wombs by a perfect God, (Psalm 139:13) we are also affected by our life experiences in an imperfect world. By going back and healing life's negative experiences in the ring where they occurred, we can open the way for more of the God-created self to shine in the world.
Current research is telling us that the brain can re-wire itself (1). We believe that timelines, as developed and copyrighted by Peggy Pace, cause the brain to wire early areas of the brain to more grown up parts of the brain which results in spontaneous, more mature thinking. The wonder of The Healing Timeline is that we can help people remember the earlier rings that comprise their lives and then prove those years are over, opening the way to fuller, more empowered living.
The form of Christian prayer counseling described in this book is a quantum step forward in healing human life where it was wounded. It is not traditional inner healing prayer or another form of talk therapy. Through the methods described here it is possible for people to go directly back to the time in life where damage took place and permanently heal that ring. The steps provided here cause the changes to be long lasting without strain or effort.
By using the Healing Timeline, a client can expect the emotional distress in a memory to fully resolve even if the trauma was many years ago. In one session, clients can move from being very emotional about a remembered event to being objective and rational about the same memory. Their objectivity lasts and includes more adult ways of thinking about their current problem. Brain research over the last few decades bears support for this hypothesis. Several sessions using the HTL can completely resolve hurtful experiences which led clients to incorrect, negative beliefs about themselves. Other prayer counseling modalities have guided clients to envision Jesus in a memory. Biblical counseling has rightly instructed clients to think differently about themselves and their problems. Adding the timeline and removing the emotional charge of a painful memory can integrate Jesus' truth and biblical principles into the past, present and future. Integration through the timeline is the quantum leap for healing.
Combined with Other Methods
The wonderful thing about this method is that The Healing Timeline is a tool that can be combined with other counseling interventions. It is highly compatible with biblical counseling, inner healing prayer, and spiritual direction. When the HTL is used to lower the emotionality of a memory, the client can progress to forgiveness, deliverance prayer or problem solving from a new perspective. Because wisdom and internal resources spontaneously emerge through the timeline process, clients can naturally move into solving their current stressors from a rational, adult perspective. Clients find their current problems much easier to solve when they are no longer activating younger, wounded parts of themselves who hold erroneous beliefs and misconceptions. Generally, clients don't know that their current problems have roots in hurtful memories but when they heal former experiences, their current situations look radically different and they self-generate appropriate solutions...