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The Language of Time

The Language of Time
That leads us to language. Once you know a
person’s Time Line, i.e., once you know how someone organizes
his memories on a Time Line, you then can use temporal
language without Time Line. Right? You could say, “So as you go
out into the future, for example, if you were to do that now, and
look back upon now, if you go out into the future to that event
that you liked, that you wanted, remember that event we made
compelling earlier?
“What I’d like you to do is bring up that event we made
compelling earlier. If you could just stop and bring up that event
and go out one minute after that event and look back toward
now. Do you like the way you look, having made those changes?
What would it be like as you look back upon now, having made
those changes now? That you wanted to make, haven’t you. You
like the way you look, don’t you? Because that’s the you that’s
most compelling to you, isn’t it? And those are the things you
want to have. Now, don’t you? Good; what I’d like you to do is to
put that memory back in the future, make sure it’s just as
compelling and just as lower-lip-licking as it was before, and
float back to now.”
So what did I do? I shifted time (verb tense as to past, present
and future) in the language I used in a way that, in order for you
to make sense of what I was saying, required you to accept the
presuppositions inherent in the sentences. The language presup-
posed change. The temporal shifts were also based on your
experience on the Time Line.
Having in mind his Time Line, you can say, “Go out in the
future and look back toward now.” What does that mean? They
are going to do it, however. Under the right conditions, they can’t
help but do it. Temporal shifts like that will also put them in a
light trance, which assists the process of change. In addition,
there are certain other verb tense shifts that you can make. For
example, is there a difference between, “What is your problem?”
and “What was your problem?” Recognizing the difference,
notice that the first sentence assumes present and the second
assumes the past. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to say, “What
will your problem be?” unless there was a specific purpose.
By shifting the verb tense in the sentences you are using, you
can also make subtle shifts in your client’s internal representa-
tions. Now, verb tense shifts alone are usually not enough to
cause the entire change, but are usually sufficient to allow you to
gain closure at the end of a therapy, and future pace the client.
Also notice that the “-ing” suffix changes the internal representa-
tion. There is a big difference between, “What was the problem
you had?” and “What was the problem you were having?” The
former probably will cause a representation that is limited in
time, such as a slide. The latter will probably cause a representa-
tion that is ongoing in time, such as a movie. So, as you are using
temporal language with your client, you can form your sentences
so that they presuppose the problem being already completed,
cured.

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