Published by humanHi magasine in 2008.
Isolation and loneliness
When I was about 8 years old I was the only one not to bow my head in assembly when we were told ‘let us pray’. I felt embarrassed at being the odd one out and yet I forced myself to go against the tide do what I thought was right. At the time I just couldn’t work out how the stories I had lapped up like everyone else at Sunday School related to the other things I was learning: Where were the dinosaurs in the garden of Eden? If God is all powerful and all loving then why is there suffering in the world? If we all ask God to help us come first in the race why do most of us still lose? I just couldn’t reconcile these things in my head and yet, all around me, were people who seemed quite happy to pray to and praise the Lord. They had God, Jesus and each other to keep them company; I was alone.
My feelings of loneliness were compounded by many others over the years. Shame was the one I was best at. Growing up there was a certain event that happened when I was 13 that I couldn’t even think about – let alone talk about with my friends or parents. But I coped. I used my intelligence to build a personality for myself. I was right about most things and it was important for me to prove that. I argued my corner passionately; others would loose patience and call me arrogant. Inside I was collapsing and the feelings of isolation were perpetuated.
Time Line Therapy for shame
My first experience of therapy came when I was 27 years old. Things were really getting on top of me at work and it was finally bad enough for me to ask for help. I went to see an NLP therapist and he explained that we were going to do ‘Time Line Therapy’ together. ‘Imagine that your whole life could be represented as a line of experiences, one after another’, he explained. ‘And that you can float up above that line all the way back to the first time that you ever experienced the emotion of shame.’ As he said the words it was as if I was being dragged back above my Time Line and down into the event at 13 that I had tried to block out for so long. It was intense and I started sobbing uncontrollably. ‘Float higher; float way up above’ came the instructions from my therapist and, with some difficulty, I did as I was told and the feelings became more distant. ‘And as you look down on the event you can learn whatever you need to learn that will allow you to let go of the shame easily and effortlessly’ he continued. I don’t remember exactly what I learned at this point but something seemed to be shifting deep inside. The next instruction was to float back further, to a point above and before the event had ever happened – and then to turn around and look back to now. As I did this and looked down on the memory of the event that had dominated my life the strangest thing happened: the shame that had been there disappeared. Completely gone. Even when I went back into the memory and looked through my own 13 year old eyes the feeling had evaporated and all that was left was a feeling of calmness and a new level of understanding. Somehow when I was up there I had done something that affected the 13 year old me down here. As I came back along my Time Line, back to now, things seemed to continue to clear and I was left with a profound sense of lightness and relief. I reacted in a different way to situations. I was a new person.
Connecting with my ‘Higher Self’
Much learning and therapy later it is me who is the therapist helping others to discover themselves. In the course of this study I have grappled with a number of spiritual philosophies which talk of the existence of a ‘Higher Self’. The Higher Self has been described as a ‘guardian spirit’ which is the source of insight and inspiration; a non-judgemental all-forgiving and absolute love that does not make mistakes and does not interfere with free will. This is an idea I have had a lot of trouble connecting with. Perhaps because it seemed like just a different name for the God that I had rejected as irrational so many years ago? Perhaps because my ego is still too arrogant to accept the existence of something higher?
But as I reflect on my experience of Time Line Therapy some new ideas are coming to me. The process was completed in my imagination and yet had a permanent real world effect. As I floated above the line and allowed learnings to come to me I was, in some sense, accessing a wisdom that I wasn’t able to when I was 13. It’s as if that 13 year old was able to accept the help of the me who was floating above the Time Line and was, in turn, able to access the wisdom that originally he could not. By accepting the help of this ‘Higher Self’ the 13 year old was able to resolve and let go of his feelings of shame in the moment and, in a parallel universe (!), the events of the rest of his life played out differently. Big ideas I know but this is how it helps me: I can now conceive of my Higher Self as an ‘older and wiser me’ who has come back in time to help my ‘younger self’ out. I can be grateful without being subservient. I can accept help without being indebted. By accepting his help, I, in turn help that higher me to resolve things in his reality. My Higher Self can be here with me always and I can turn to him and greet him with a humanHi!