In or Through Time

Donald Michael Kraig Presents a very interesting way of viewing and interacting with time: a personal Timeline.

While it is easily possible to map out historical events over time, it is interesting to note that we each have a personal time line. Even though we don’t constantly think about it, when asked we can see our lives as a linear series of events***. Interestingly, this is not merely philosophical. There is actually a physical location to our personal concept of time. Here is a simple exercise to discover your personal time line.

Step One. Think of a happy event from five years ago. Now, going with your first thought, point to where you hold that memory. It may be to your left or right, above or below you, in front of you or behind you. There is no right or wrong here, it’s just a location. If you can’t quickly determine where that past event is located in space, try to locate another event earlier in time, perhaps your birthday party from when you were five years old. If, after a few tries, you cannot locate a past event in space, ask yourself, “If I could locate this past event in space, where would it be?” Point to it quickly. Go with your first thought.

Step Two. Now imagine something taking place in the future. Going with your first thought, point to where you think it will be. If this doesn’t come quickly and easily, try a different event you hope will occur in your future. If its spatial location still doesn’t come quickly and easily, ask yourself, “If I could locate this future event in space, where would it be?” Again, point to it quickly. Go with your first thought.

Step Three. Imagine a line going from that past point in space to the future point in space. This is your personal time line.

I’m a big fan of Pete Carroll‘s theory that time is multi-dimensional, and that what we experience as the present is actually an intersection of probable pasts and probable futures. But Kraig’s model still works even with this understanding, with one problem: I don’t see a line to the future, I see several. My awareness of the probabilistic nature of time and my rejection of determinism don’t seem to let me keep that future location/time to a single option. Some of them are “heavier” or “thicker,” which I’m assuming means more probable, and some of them are very thin and trail off.

Oh, and my line doesn’t seem to go through me, but kind of by me. And Kraig addresses that as well.

For most people, the line is straight. It may go from right to left or left to right. It may go from your front to your back or vice versa. The present may be within you. That is, you may see the past behind you, the present going through part of your body, and the future being ahead of you. This may be on a diagonal. It may go from a lower height (relative to your body) in the past to a greater height in the future. Others may discover that the entire time line is outside of them. They can see it in front of them or turn to see it behind them, running from side to side. Or perhaps it runs along either of your sides, going from back to front or front to back, but never touches you.

[…]

For some people, their time line is completely outside of their bodies. They can see the entire line—past, present, and future—to their sides, in front or behind them, above or below them, etc. At no time does this imagined time line go through their bodies. [Most often, the time line for people in this group forms a line in front of them, going from left to right.]

To be a member of the second group, the time line goes right through you with the present being within you. My personal time line goes from a past that is below the center of my back, to a present that is within me at my heart, and on to a future that extends up and ahead of me. [The most common form of time line is like this, going from back to front with the present being within the body, but unlike my time line it is level.]

My timeline goes from left to right, swinging from somewhat behind me to in front of me and to the right. I think some of this is due to the orientation of my body as I sit at my computer: in facing north, and having spent the last seven years of my life in location west of here, I would expect my line to come from my left. The movement off to the right has interesting implications as to where I may end up living in the next year (although one of the potential lines curves back to the left).

And the fact that my line(s) moves past me but not through me is also interesting, and Kraig assigns significance to this.

If you experience your time line as completely outside of you, NLP describes you as being a Through Time person. The characteristics of a Through Time person include:

  • You are very aware of the value of time.
  • You are very good at planning.
  • You are precise at meeting deadlines.
  • Once you plan something for the future, you can quickly lose interest in it.
  • You may have little connection with the present and often ask what day it is.
  • Problems from the past can bother you for a long time.
  • You’re great at remembering past events.
  • You’re great at remembering birthdays, anniversaries, moon phases, etc.
  • You’re a great researcher.
  • You probably like “oldies” music.
  • You are punctual. If you’re late, you know it and may feel guilty.
  • You may often look at a watch or clock to check the time, although you probably have an internal clock that very accurately knows the time.
  • You have little patience for people who delay you.
  • Perhaps the most important question in your life about anything is, “When?” Answers that involve the past or future are far more interesting than those that involve the present.

If you experience your time line as going through you, NLP describes you as being an In Time person. The characteristics of an In Time person tend to be the opposite of those of a Through Time person and include:

  • You are the life of a party.
  • You only look at a watch or clock if you have to.
  • You get engrossed in what you’re doing and tend to lose track of time.
  • Being late to meetings and appointments is common. You may keep an appointment book (or have a secretary do it for you).
  • You may look at your appointment book and be shocked at everything you have planned.
  • You’re not good at planning.
  • If asked what you’re doing next weekend, you either haven’t planned it or can’t remember what you’ve obligated yourself to do.
  • You tend not to plan ahead.
  • You like to keep your options open.
  • You focus on the present and “live in the now.”
  • You enjoy whatever comes your way.
  • In the future, you may regret things you did in the past, but you don’t worry about it.
  • “Get over it” and “put it behind you” are two of your favorite types of expressions.

As with any binary system, there are some minor problems with this model. I have many characteristics of the “Through Time” personality, but some of the “In Time” as well. (Might this be related to how “close” the line gets without touching? Nah, most likely law of probabilities. I have many more of the Through characteristics than the In.)

This is an interesting exercise that suggests not only that we can perceive our awareness of time, but as Kraig suggests, we can work to change it. I can see traits on both of those lists that seem useful, and others that might seem not so useful. I’d imagine that practicing some of the traits of one personality style might help temper the other’s extremes.

I’m also curious as to how this exercise might be used to influence future possibilities. Perhaps making an effort to shift the future location of the line (or strengthen one possible line over others) would have tangible results.

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